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Australians ignore the sun: The insane end of ARENA

The 2014 budget is axing ARENA, the Australian Renewable ENergy Agency, and it’s the worst budget-saving measure since the Native Americans sold Manhattan. But with greater potential loss for the future.

Treasurer Joe Hockey explains that dismantling the agency will save the budget 1.3 billion dollars. You might think this is like burning your rent cheques to save on your heating bill, but you’d be wrong. With Australia’s perfect positioning for renewable energy, it’s more like killing the goose that lays the golden eggs to save on bird food.

Never mind the 7.7 billion dollars worth of projects which will now be forced to move overseas, according to ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht, because a mere factor six is nothing compared to consequences of this decision.

Renewable energy is simply more important than money. Energy is one of the main things we use money for. Renewable energy won’t just save money, and the environment, it could reverse the polarity of one of the greatest expenses in any budget by turning it into pure profit.

Until humanity builds much bigger space stations, there will never be a nation as perfect for solar power. Australia is already a gigantic solar panel just waiting to be plugged in. Vast swathes of land don’t even have many plants using it, never mind farms or cities.

It’s also the perfect test bed. Distributing power to remote settlements has always been an engineering problem. Renewable energy stations can make these areas self-sustaining, saving the expense and ecological damage of importing fuel. These locations are the perfect ground for developing distributed power systems at the same time.

For most countries, the sheer deserted area required to power a small town is prohibitive. For Australia it’s the reason we need to power that town. Cutting the ARENA budget is just another way the government reveals that they think of remote communities as a rounding error.

Renewable energy is the wave of the future. Whether that wave is one a country’s industries ride to record profits, or its beaches are drowned under by sea level rises, is up to the government. And the government’s idea seems to be burying their head in the sand and pretending not to notice how hot all the free solar energy is making their upturned asses.

The engineering challenge for solar power is storage and transportation. We can harvest as much as we want, but the problem is storing it for later and carrying it elsewhere. But as we’re not stuck with batteries which can only be used once and catch fire in the process, we’ll be fine, because that’s what gasoline already is – an extraordinarily inefficient chemical battery.

It takes millions of years to form, we can’t make any more, and it’s currently filling the sky with materials slightly incompatible with the kind of sky that’ll keep us all alive.

Australia is perfectly placed to become a world leader in the technology of the future. Instead, the government has abandoned their promise to provide solar power to an extra million homes, and even removed the ‘Clean’ from the ‘Clean Energy Supplement’.

They’ve also cut ten million dollars from the Bureau of Meteorology’s budget, and 111 million from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Maybe they’re hoping nobody will notice when Australia starts shrinking into the sea. More likely, they’re hoping that they won’t be around to pay for their shortsightedness. Which is unfortunately the one thing they got right in this whole catastrophe.

About the author

Luke McKinney is a columnist for Cracked.com, CBS, and RETRO magazine, and a gun for hire.

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