In Australian politics we don’t expect the Conservatives and the Greens to see eye to eye on many topics, least of all renewable energy. Our recent change in leadership, however, has spurred on speculation as to the future of climate action in Australia.
When it comes to renewable energy, a change to a more moderate Prime Minister is not at all the reason why a conservative shift in the energy sector should be happening.
In fact, according to traditional conservative ideology, the more conservative an individual is, the greater their support should be for a renewable energy revolution. As even US conservatives move to support renewable energy growth the in the market, leaving Australia lagging behind in both action and ideology.
So why should Australian conservatives care?
Exacerbating an already shameful situation, Australia was rated by the Climate Change Authority as the highest carbon emitter per capita. This, however, matter’s less to conservative politicians, many of them climate sceptics, than the core values of conservative free-market ideology that is central to the Australian Coalition’s policies. So, climate change aside, conservatives still have vital cause to care about renewable energy in terms of their economic values. Here are the three reasons why conservatives should care about renewable energy:
1. The Free Market
According to conservative economics, free and open markets are essential to natural competition and the self-regulation of markets. This, according to conservatives, naturally avoids monopolisation of industries and takes power away from big business who can then manipulate prices and other market conditions. Individuals now have the power to install their own solar panels, rather than answering to big utilities with mass control of the market.
2. Boost to industry
The rise of renewable energy, particularly solar power, is a conservative economist’s idea of a perfect new industry boosting process. Trends, new technologies and innovation leads to buzz and growth in any industry. This positively effects and boosts not only the industry it’s in, but the economy as a whole – economics being a core focus of conservative governments.
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3. More Jobs
Growth in industry then creates more jobs in many sectors within and surrounding a growing market. Tesla has gone from employing 500 people to 11,000 in five years. A timely reminder of innovation driving jobs, feeding into an even more robust economy.
Do we Need an Australian Green Tea Party?
One of the last groups that spring to mind when considering the words ‘green’ and ‘renewable’ would have to be America’s Tea Party Movement.
However, considering conservative economic values, America’s most right wing movement could fit the bill more. Debbie Dooley is one of 22 founders of the US Tea Party movement. She is on the board of directors of the Tea Party Patriots and is the Georgia Tea Party Patriots state coordinator.
Most interestingly, however, she is the founder and leader of the Green Tea Coalition, a group designed to protect consumer access to solar power. Dooley’s initiative has been such a success, it now includes a coalition of environmentalists and Tea Party activists seeking common ground on energy solutions in America. As a strong believer that a renewable energy revolution is coming, Dooley has become a spokeswoman for conservative action on renewable energy issues.
She implores her conservative counterparts, who believe in the free market to re-examine the way we produce energy.
“Giant utility monopolies deserve at least some competition, and consumers should have a choice. It’s that simple, and it’s consistent with the free-market principles that have been a core value of the Tea Party since we began” said Dooley.
“I have a message for Republicans. If you are protecting monopolies, you are violating free market principles” she added
Why Don’t Australian Conservatives Support Renewable Energy?
As trivial as it sounds, much of Australian conservative thought against renewable energy is simply a skewed ideology. Matt Grudnoff, senior economist at The Australia Institute, says “Australian politicians have got it in their heads that renewable energy is a crazy, left wing idea.” Politics have obstructed logical thought, as the Australian Coalition has felt it has to reject the idea because it has been supported by the left so strongly. Coal lobbyists have cemented this ideology by making coal and fossil fuels a national identity in Australia, an identity renewable energy is undermining.
2. Connections with Big Business
Unlike in the US, the Australian Government is closely tied to the big business through taxes and long held economic relationships. The biggest business in Australia the coal industry, giving a conservative government good reason to protect its investments and economic ties.
Will Turnbull Change the Game for the Energy Industry?
If the ideology of the Prime Minister dictates party ideology in any way, however, our recent change in leadership could bring a positive focus on renewable energy to Australia’s shores. Unlike his heavily right wing predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull is known for a moderate political orientation and even more as a fan of renewable energy in general.
In a recent trip to the US, Turnbull raved about the new Tesla technology as the way of the future.
“Batteries have the potential to revolutionise the energy market, reducing peaking power requirements, optimising grid utilisation of renewables and in some cases enabling consumers to go off the grid altogether,” said Turnbull in January this year.
Matt Grudnoff even suggested during Tony Abbott’s Prime Ministership that Turnbull would bring a relatively immediate change to Australia’s approach to renewable energy.
“If Malcolm Turnbull was PM now instead of Tony Abbott, we’d be having a very different discussion on RET right now” he said.
Now that Turnbull is Prime Minister, it seems the time for serious action on renewable energy has come.