What Is Your 2020 Vision ?

Kevin Rudd has taken the unusual, but I think admirable (and seemingly popular), step of convening a national summit to map out Australia's long term future and is looking for ideas on a range of issues that will be impacted by peak oil (particularly population, sustainability, climate change and water and security and international relations).

A website will soon be established allowing all Australians to make submissions on each of the policy areas, so I thought I'd open it up for suggestions - what would (or will) you propose in a submission ?

My top 5 suggestions :

* increase the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) to 30%
* introduce a carbon tax, starting off a low base and increasing until coal fired power has a similar cost to wind or concentrated solar power today
* increase fuel efficiency standards for vehicles
* rebuild / expand the national rail system for freight haulage
* modernise and expand public transport systems in major cities

KEVIN RUDD will ask 1000 of the "best and brightest brains" to map out a strategy for Australia's long-term future in areas ranging from the economy and the environment to the arts and health.

The Prime Minister said yesterday a two-day Australia 2020 summit in Parliament House in April would bring together talented people from outside government to look beyond the usual short-term focus of politics and policymaking. The aim would be to come up with policies to help meet challenges Australia faced over the next decade and beyond. "For too long Australian policymaking has been focused on short-term outcomes dictated by the electoral cycle," Mr Rudd said. "If Australia is to effectively confront the challenges of the future, we need to develop an agreed national direction that looks at the next 10 years and beyond." ...

The Government has identified 10 areas it will ask the summit to tackle. These are: directions for the economy; infrastructure; environmental issues including population, sustainability, climate change and water; rural Australia; national health strategy; strengthening communities; indigenous Australia; the arts; the future of government; and Australia's security and international relations.

Mr Rudd said Australia's three-year electoral cycle meant policymaking usually focused too much on the short term. He wanted to generate a focus on the longer term and to bring people from outside politics and government into national planning and policy formulation. "Government, irrespective of its political persuasion, does not have a monopoly on policy wisdom," he said. "To thrive and prosper in the future we need to draw on the range of talents, ideas and energy from across the Australian community."

The summit will be asked to produce policy options. The Government will announce by the end of the year which ones it accepts.

More at The Australian (who seem surprisingly supportive).

Alas I fear this will degenerate into a rabble shouting over each other, based on the example of TV shows like SBS Insight. Nerdy peak oilers will be ignored in favour of the parochial and charismatic, say Soccer Mums Who Need Big Four Wheel Drives.

We can only hope the moderator brings the assembled visionaries back to earth. I'd keep asking awkward questions to see if the vision holds up, for example;
What if there were no La Nina?
What if there were no mining boom?


I think your suggestions are eminently sensible if somewhat controversial and difficult for any government, even this one, to implement. The opportunity of this summit for the Peak Oil community is however one of paradigm shifting within the thinkers an shapers of society. Until we can break the assumptions of cheap and plentiful energy in perpetuity, the ideas presented and adopted by governments will continue to be misguided and ultimately destructive.

Gav you just won't get much of a say - there is nothing about ENERGY

You won't get in under"-
ECONOMY, as your suggestions would hurt the economy, or
So see what you can do under Security and International Relations!!!!

So what do you do about the single most important issue facing the nation - EASY - IGNORE IT..!!

Even easier- if you havn't a clue what to do: have a meeting. And it looks like you are doing something.

I would have thought both sustainability and climate change would count as proxies for peak oil.

And its obviously one aspect influencing security and international relations...

I'd go for something similar, though emphasise that all fossil fuels burned would attract the carbon tax. Otherwise the coal-fired stations will just turn into gas-fired ones. I would also have it that all funds raised by this carbon tax go into the renewable energy, the freight rail and public transport.

I'd set the MRET at 100% - no new coal, natural gas or oil-fired stations.

I wouldn't worry about the fuel efficiency, that makes transport cheaper and so people just drive or fly more and it more than overwhelms the efficiency gains. For example, the airline industry improved fuel efficiency by 25% from 1985 to 2005, but patronage went up 67%, so...

In place of the fuel efficiency I'd have forestation.

This is a 2020 target don't forget - I'd like 100% renewables too, but I think 30% (of all power generation, not just new plants) is pushing the limits of the practical in 10 years.

Agreed about carbon taxes - they must apply to all carbon emissions.

I'll talk about gas later in the week...

Yes Yes. Talk fests are all very easy to mock.

But as one letter writer in the Age quipped, at least it's a step up from just ringing George and asking him what to do!

Personally I find this disdain for such meetings suggestive of undue respect (or desire) for authoritarian solutions from Ein Leader.

Classic comment from The Age :-)

I agree about not mocking the meeting - its a vast improvement on the previous regime, and I'd rather Rudd listen to community opiniopn in areas where the new government hasn't yet come to firm policy decisions.

Its not like a lot of these important issues had any airtime during the election campaign...

I broadly agree with Gav's top 5 suggestions, but when it comes to reducing Australia's carbon emissions I believe there is far too much emphasis put on the residential and transport sectors, while the biggest emitters (heavy industry) escape attention.

The residential and transport sectors account for just ~30 percent of Australia's emissions (and any increase in residential electricity and fuel prices will hurt pretty much everyone). On the other hand a few heavy industries such as alminium smelting, electrolysis, metal working, brick firing and cement manufacture account for a much larger percentage of Australia's emissions and are often supplied with cut-price electricity from very dirty sources such as brown coal. These industries employ relatively few people and a tiny fraction of Australia's GDP.

So the smart politician would start by imposing higher energy costs on heavy industry first. The economic and electoral damage would be minimal.

Well - the proposed MRET target and carbon tax would hit heavy industry just as hard (or perhaps not so hard) as it hits residential and transport.

I'd rather have a truly level playing field for all instead of trying to whack particular sectors.

The ideal outcome is that as we scale up wind and CSP usage the price trends towards that of coal anyway (especially once the initial investments are amortised away).

Well - the proposed MRET target and carbon tax would hit heavy industry just as hard (or perhaps not so hard) as it hits residential and transport.

True, but what annoys me is all the focus on residential/transport solutions (rooftop solar PV and hotwater, home insulation, energy efficient lighting, hybrid cars, public transport etc) when all of these gains could be achieved by shutting down a few smelters. Would anyone miss them? Not me!(yes I know they'd probably just move to China)

I'd rather have a truly level playing field for all instead of trying to whack particular sectors

Of course that's the ideal, but I'm trying to come up with something that's politically possible, and I don't believe an across-the-board carbon tax that actually hurts consumers (read electors) to the point where they start conserving is politically possible.

Whacking heavy industry OTOH doesn't lose you many votes and has very little economic impact. They should at the very least get rid of the subsidised electricity to heavy industry.

BTW, did you see Robert Rapier has given up all hope of any real action on global warming?

In fact, I have become convinced that we are not going to address Global Warming at all, because we don't care to pay the price.

Whacking heavy industry would provoke just as much bad press as a carbon tax - the same people will wail.

If you offset carbon tax with income tax cuts then the consumer isn't hurt - and they get to feel good about themselves too.

What subsidies to the smelters get ? I thought they just had long term forward sales contracts...

I hadn't seen RR's comment (I don't have time to track all the comments in Drumbeat - or even the first one sometimes :-). I hope he is wrong.

Whacking heavy industry would provoke just as much bad press as a carbon tax - the same people will wail.

Huh?! How can a carbon tax that raises electricity and fuel prices for everyone possibly have the same impact as closing smelter or two? That's like saying Rudd raising the fuel excise by 10c/L would have the same impact as Mitsubishi closing. No-one really cares about Mitsubishi apart from the people who lost their jobs, but you'd have 10 million irate motorists if petrol jumped 10c/L because of a new tax.

If you offset carbon tax with income tax cuts then the consumer isn't hurt - and they get to feel good about themselves too.

I agree, I think a well thought out income-to-carbon tax switch could have very little impact on most consumers. However, I doubt we'll find a politician with the courage to try it. After all, Howard almost lost the GST election in 1998 after winning a landslide two years before.

What subsidies to the smelters get ?

They get electricity at a much cheaper rate than most industry, and a fraction of the residential rate. They'd all be off to China in a flash if they were asked to pay anything like the residential rate.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is politicians are desperate to come up with a way to reduce carbon emissions without any electoral damage. I caught Tony Blair on CNN at Davos saying this in a roundabout way a few nights ago. They know in their heart-of-hearts a carbon tax is the right thing to do, but they also know it will probably get them kicked out of office.

So, in the extraordinarily unlikely event that Kevin invites me to his summit, my suggestion to him would be hit heavy industry with higher energy prices. If they fold, or go to China, then he can wipe a few megatonnes of CO2 off Australia's slate. If they can afford the extra cost (like the miners) then we might see some conservation.

I believe that ALCOA is responsible for ~20% of Victoria's electricity consumption... I think.

Transport is an issue.The gravy train of highway construction has got to end (to mix some metaphors). Every dollar sunk into more roads is also a huge maintenance commitment for each and every year thereafter.
Perhaps Gavs Carbon tax, coupled with at least the threat of or actual reduction in diesel fuel rebates for trucking firms, might see the emergence of interest in the national rail network. Here, perhaps government could maintain ownership of the network while private interests run the services, renting competing routes, the rent used to maintain, upgrade and expand the system.

Otherwise we have the Telstra Scenario. Where competitors are renting (bits of) the network from their main rival.

Aluminium smelters are usually the largest single power consumer in a region, so your Alcoa factoid is probably true.

I agree about government owned railway tracks and private services operating on them - the network is just another natural monopoly that there are few benefits in privatising and lots of risks...

The gravy train of highway construction has got to end (to mix some metaphors).

I dunno, I think today's highways will serve as transport corridors well into the future. Whenever I'm driving on a shiny new freeway I imagine light rail on one side and horse-and-cart on the other :)

When I look out the window of the train that runs along the freeway I imagine that a whole lane for push bikes or electric bikes would be handy if energy got really expensive. Come to think of it, that's how my great-grandad got to work during towards the end of the depression.

Forcing polluting industries out of this country to pollute elsewhere makes no sense.

After picking the low hanging fruit of efficiency gains we just have to consume less. Why not impose a tax or restrictions on advertising? In my time in business we could double sales for a period after an advertising campaign. Who of us hasn't at some time purchased something unnecessary because of slick advertising?

Forcing polluting industries out of this country to pollute elsewhere makes no sense

Of course it doesn't, but neither does exporting your entire manufacturing sector to China, but we still count that in our "greenhouse accounting" :)

There's just no friggin' way any politician is going to significantly raise energy prices, ban advertising, or try to reduce consumption and/or economic activity. Kevin will be looking for suggestions that are politically possible. Got any?

Kevin will be looking for suggestions that are politically possible. Got any?


Reduced economic activity (i.e. recession) is politically unacceptable, but ultimately necessary to reduce emissions.

We either find a way to manage a controlled decline or we suffer uncontrolled decline whether from climate change or energy or resource shortage. Choose from war, pestilence, famine...

I cannot find a solution within the capitalist system and the capitalist system seems to be the only one that suits our human nature.

I guess that makes me a doomer.

My Viridian rantings clearly aren't having any impact on anyone whatsoever...