Why Fuelling a Resilient Australia Needs More Than Coal Alone


If you’ve been paying attention to events in Australia this last month then you should be well aware of the litany of mis-steps by the Australian Government and in particular the Prime Minister Tony Abbott with regards to Australia’s renewable energy target (RET)

The Australian Prime Minister’s comments regarding wind power during a radio interview, revealed that his negative attitudes on wind turbines come from his experience near one single wind turbine located on Rottnest Island – off the coast of Perth, Western Australia.

Mr Abbott said changes before the Federal Parliament to reduce the RET were designed to prevent wind farms from further spreading across the Australian landscape.

"I would frankly have liked to reduce the number a lot more but we got the best deal we could out of the Senate," he said.

"And if we hadn't had a deal, (…) we would have been stuck with even more of these things.

With regard to disaster-proofing any country or any economy, not solely Australia, any level headed risk manager, business continuity manager or economist will tell you that placing all your eggs in one basket is a recipe for trouble.

Whether that trouble affects the country in question physically, such as a cyclone or earthquake, or war or something less tangible such as an economic downturn. A resilient approach ensures other pillars upon which to lean if one is weakened.

In a previous article I stated. “If we want a truly resilient Australia; one that can withstand the ravages of natural disasters or the outbreak of major international conflict then we need to diversify our singular reliance upon fossil fuels for power generation. We must consider other energy sources such as wind, solar, tidal and yes, even nuclear. Our current government has withdrawn funding for alternative energies and also ceased funding of research into technologies that will advance Australia’s competitive edge in this field.”

As the world’s ninth-largest energy producer, Australia has ample renewable and non-renewable energy resources to spread its reliance.  Yet despite these resources, we rely heavily on imported refined petroleum products and crude oil to meet our fuel demand. Alarmingly, our import dependency has increased in recent years. An interruption to our supply chain would significantly impact Australia’s ability to continue ‘business as usual’.

In 2013 Air Vice-Marshal John Blackburn AO (Retd) a consultant in the fields of Defence and National Security put forward a report for NRMA Motoring and Services in which how analysed Australia’s liquid fuel security.

In short, Australia has reduced the amount of liquid fuel supplies (primarily diesel) held in reserve. Successive Governments have considered that the supply lines from the Middle East via Singapore are regular and reliable due to world stability and also due to the modernisation of shipping and navigation etc.

This liquid fuel reserve reduction is at Australia’s peril if there is an economic blockade or international conflict that affects the region. As tensions rise at present between Asian neighbours in the South China Sea and the world watching closely as the United States and China face off against one another, one can assume that reliability of shipping lanes and freedom of passage may not always be guaranteed.

Diversification of energy sources is a security matter as well. Our military requires energy to operate. Aircraft require aviation fuel, armoured personnel carriers require diesel and every military installation requires power to function just the same as the commercial sector.

Throughout the Obama administration, the US Military has implemented aggressive plans to significantly expand its use of clean, renewable energy. The US Department of Defence (DOD) mandate, title 10 USC 2911, that requires 25 percent of total facility energy consumption to come from renewable energy sources by 2025. This is in recognition of the ‘security’ that is derived from energy diversification.

The Australian Government has a laser-like focus on protecting our borders by hook or by crook to ensure our security and protect us from terrorists (and yes those supposedly illegal boat refugees as well) yet the very mechanism that the Government relies upon for the protection of the country is itself out on a limb if our energy sources are compromised.

Prime Minister Abbott himself said “There is no greater responsibility – on me – on the government – than keeping you safe.” Yet it would seem that energy security for those forces that provide physical security is not on the radar.

To ensure continued energy generation for all Australians, military, commercial, industrial and citizens, we require resilient sources of energy supplies. To devote Australia’s efforts into one energy source at the expense of others is placing the security and prosperity of our country at severe risk.

Both sides of politics in Australia need to take a good look at themselves right now.