In late September, South Australia (SA) suffered a state-wide power blackout amid what’s being described as one of the worst storms in 50 years. The Turnbull government immediately linked the blackout to SA’s high reliance on renewable energy and the closure of the Port Augusta coal plant.
But industry experts soon dispelled these claims by showing that the damage done to some twenty-two transmission towers triggered a system-wide failsafe. This was the main cause of the loss of power.
Labor, who are in power at a state level in SA, defended its energy policy but neither of the major parties have been honest enough to say that the cause and severity of the storm is ultimately linked to rising global temperatures and climate change.
The Turnbull government has argued that renewable energy is costlier, leads to more job losses and more energy insecurity than fossil fuels. This propaganda is only used to make ordinary people fearful of change and to ensure energy corporations maintain their profitability.
SA’s power network was privatised during the 1990s, and this privatisation has been linked to the rise in prices, both in SA and other states that have seen privatisation. Fossil fuels appear cheaper than renewables only because they are subsidised and the costs of the damage they do are not taken into account.
Capitalism has created climate change, but it offers no solutions as to how to address it. Parties like the Greens at least fully acknowledge the problem, but seem to think that the for-profit system will act, if only to save itself, before the effects of climate change truly devastate the world.
But we only have to look at the 2008 financial crisis to see that capitalism is a blind system that will go to extreme lengths in the pursuit of profits. The alternative to capitalist chaos is a democratic socialist system that would work in the interests of people.
The starting point would be bringing the energy industry into public hands and then enacting a speedy transition to 100% renewable energy, while protecting jobs and local communities. Reversing the causes of climate change before weather patterns become even more devastating, deadly and frequent is an urgent task.
By Oliver Marras