Chalk up another one, via Phil Coorey:
The Turnbull government will almost certainly settle on a clean energy target, but one that will classify so-called clean coal as a low-emissions energy source in a bid to win the support of a bitterly divided party room.
Senior Coalition sources said this was now the only realistic option if the government was going to persist with the scheme in an attempt to restore stability and certainty to the energy market, meet the Paris climate change commitments, and not tear the Coalition apart.
But it will struggle to pass Parliament with Labor, which is prepared to compromise and negotiate a CET, drawing the line at letting coal be classified as a low-emissions source.
Although Labor, like the the rest of the energy sector, believes no one will again build a coal-fired power station, even supporting coal in theory as a low-emissions source will expose the party to an attack from the left by the Greens.
“The definition of clean energy to include new coal-fired power stations just to placate Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce, that would make a complete mockery of the serious process the Chief Scientist and his panel followed over months,” said shadow climate change minister Mark Butler.
This fight is over the baseline chosen for what is included as a low emission source. “Clean coal” would need a benchmark of at least 0.75 tonnes to qualify for the new scheme. 0.7 would enable coal with carbon capture. Of course it should even lower, Finkel himself said:
Finkel was asked about a campaign by the resources sector to set the baseline for the CET sufficiently high to allow high-efficiency coal to be eligible for certificates.
He said his report modelled a scheme where the CET threshold was set at 0.6 tonnes of CO2 per megawatt hour. “I don’t have a strong view about where it should be set: 0.5, 0.6, 0.7 would be the sorts of numbers that are reasonable”.
Finkel seemed perplexed by a push to have the threshold set at 0.7 to favour coal. “It’s not going to be transformational, unless the threshold was set remarkably higher.
“Your guess is as good as mine as to whether governments would ever set the threshold remarkably higher.”
Sadly, as expected, this looks like another dead report offering no greater certainty on anything. We can change the names, the numbers and the modelling but in the end nothing will be done until Tony Abbott is bulldozed out of the way.
Unfortunately, by year end, he (or his crony) is more likely to be in charge.