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OPINION: Whos got the energy?

Nation passes the crossroads and there’s catching up to do by ‘leaders’


Any transport company with premises should have an interest in national energy policy, just as much as any parent, or anybody for that matter. After all, energy is a cost on existence for the individual, family and company in the modern world.

Like water, it is so fundamental that mucking the whole thing up is just too stupid for words.

Australians are mostly a resourceful mob, no pun intended, but it is apt.

During the so-called Millennium Drought, many Melbourne dwellers took a leaf out of their country cousins’ books and set up rainwater tanks. This was partly to offset bans on using mains water for their gardens and partly because, should the drought continue, and that fear was widespread, they knew prices would spike and intermittent supply might be enforced, or dry up completely.

This was a while before Cape Town came closest of all major cities to the latter fate.

So, more than a slight echo, without the threat of a complete halt, could be discerned when electricity companies decided for several reasons to upgrade the power infrastructure for a reality that would be better, but essentially unchanged in concept for more than half a century.

Was there any understanding anywhere that, lumped with increasing costs foisted upon them, the populace, stung by its weakness, would take advantage of subsidies and a universally developing technology to go solar?

Empowering, literally.

And that business owners with a vehicle shed or distribution centre, with all that expanse of roof, were also going to accept the undeniable logic. Why wouldn’t they?

The global dash to decarbonise will be a bitter pill for those left behind, but it has a relentless momentum.

Opinion: The path to safer trucks and trailers. Read more, here

What has been seen, even into this decade, is that the transport ‘fuel of the future’ – gas – is being skipped over by a world spinning faster still. Such a pity for a country with so much of it that it can indulge in selling its own and importing someone else’s.

And it is really very hard seeing households yearning to escape exploitation of the sort they are getting third- or fourth-hand from aspects of “infrastructure recycling”, looking unkindly on their hard-earned money going to support coal-fired power plants or fearsomely expensive nuclear options, both having been skipped over as well.

In the face of such unedifying outcomes wrought by multiple failures of big business and the political class, some major voices are calling for aid, understanding and action, particularly in freight transport.

In this edition are calls to government to make investing in new trucks so attractive that it can’t be ignored and for a regulatory approach fit for the four-fifths of the 21st century still to come, rather than the product of a mindset barely changed in the two centuries past.

Elsewhere are pleas to ease the path of the local electric vehicle industry and boost take-up, including of commercial vehicles. So, a trifecta of future-looking policy options are on various agendas.

The first and the last involve traditional remedies reliant on taxpayer largesse. While this column has a certain sympathy for the goals, the financial cost to government will be contested by treasuries big and small and base inertia will likely do down what’s left unless decision-makers take their jobs seriously.

Speaking of inertia, while diesel engines will still roar in the country for decades, they will do so increasingly further away from cities and in ageing trucks, while new diesels will cease being supplied in significant numbers. As technology takers, Australians would do well to be prepared for such a time, but they should rely on themselves to do it. Interesting, then, that there are noises from big business about doing just that after being confronted by a decade of political failure in energy policy.

The central plea for new regulatory thinking on freight relies on clear conceptions and innovative ideas, even if the call for a “Road Transport Accord” is redolent of the 1980s. But then, civilised negotiation towards common goals and having as many reasonable wins for as many sides as is possible is the only path to success. Just ask the Venezuelans.


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