The JUICE Media Podcast

We need to talk about the Fires | with Simon Holmes à Court

Episode Summary

Ep 8: In which I speak with Simon Holmes à Court about the state of renewables in Australia, our long history of shitfuckery with energy and climate policy, and the solutions that are right within our grasp to avoid epic climate change fail.

Episode Notes

Ep 8: In which I speak with Simon Holmes à Court about the state of renewables in Australia, our long history of shitfuckery with energy and climate policy, and the solutions that are right within our grasp to avoid epic climate change fail. 

This is Part 1 of our podcast companion to our latest Honest Government Ad about the fires. If you haven't seen the video, you can watch it here.

Simon's chosen call to action is the petition to support Independent MP Zali Steggall's bill for a Climate Change Act, please add your voice:

You can follow Simon Holmes à Court on Twitter here: @simonahac

And here are the links to other climate and energy communicators that Simon recommends following: 

Ketan Joshi: @KetanJ0 | Tim Baxter: @timinmitcham | Dylan Mcconnell: @dylanjmcconnell | Frank Jotzo: @frankjotzo

Make sure to catch Part 2 in which I speak with renowned climate scientist Michael E. Mann - coming soon!

Music featured in this podcast courtesy of Tom Day

If you enjoyed this podcast, subscribe and please recommend it to others! 

Help us to keep going in these ways
Visit our Juice Media store 
Follow us on Youtube | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram




Episode Transcription

Juice Media Episode 8

[00:00:00] Giordano: Hey, everyone Giordano here from the juice media here to bring you our podcast companion for our latest, honest government ad about the fires and our governments shitfuckery in dealing with the climate emergency. 

Lucy: Hello, 

I'm from the Australian government. Welcome to the Anthropocene! Fires, floods, bullshit.

Giordano: I'm splitting this podcast into two episodes because there's just so much to say on this topic. Which is the topic of the climate emergency. The other reason I'm dividing it into two sections is that I have two amazing guests, and rather than rush them and try and squeeze them into one episode, I thought we'd dedicate one podcast to each of them so we can get into more depth.

In the next episode, I'm going to be interviewing renowned climate scientists, Michael E. Mann, who is the director of the earth systems science center at Pennsylvania state university and is currently here in Australia on sabbatical. So yeah, we are going to be speaking to one of the world's leading experts on climate shit fuckery. 

But in this episode, we are going to be talking about some of the solutions that are available to us right now [00:01:00] to get ourselves out of this shit-show, mainly technological and economic solutions. I want to make that clear because there are also other solutions from a perspective of indigenous knowledge which we're not covering those in this podcast, but nevertheless, really this is for anyone who's wondering like, what is the state of renewables? 

How realistic is it that we can make a shift to a zero emissions economy and society before it's too late? This podcast is going to be really interesting for you and who better to take us through and help us understand the lay of the land.

Then our guest today, which is Simon Holmes A Court. Simon is a whole bunch of things. He's described as an energy transition specialist. He's an entrepreneur. He's a senior advisor to the energy transition hub at the University of Melbourne. He's been a pioneering force in the Australian community's power movement as the founding chair of Hepburn wind, the country's first community owned wind farm, which basically powers the whole town of Daylesford in central Victoria.

But apart from all that. He's also super active on Twitter, where he's constantly slaying trolls and helping to [00:02:00] decode the never ending stream of bullshit that comes out of our government relating to climate policy, energy, renewables, and all that. So welcome so much to the podcast, Simon please. Can you give us a sense of where are we at after the fires? 

Simon: Yeah. Well, since, since Christmas and I guess the lead up to Christmas, the interest in this area has just skyrocketed the amount of engagement I've had online. I mean, I leave, leave this, leave the satiety, you guys. but the, the, the response to your last video I think has been phenomenal. but I've, I've found such a receptive audience out there, people really wanting to know more. 

I think we're both, keying into, into something in common, quite powerful that I think pretty much everyone knows we're being lied to, but they don't quite know how, the levels of trust in the communication from, from government and those who are frustrating climate action, the levels of misinformation are, really high and it's

And it's pretty transparent to everyone. but not everyone knows how they're being lied to. [00:03:00] And I spent a lot of time fact-checking, putting, putting new facts out there or, or facts that people hadn't, haven't yet joined the dots, helping people join the dots on things. And the interest in that over the last, couple of months has been, for me to use that word, that we're hearing a lot right now.

It's, it's been unprecedented.

Giordano: I've been following your Twitter since we made a, an honest government about renewable energy. It was in, 2018. And, I came across your Twitter page and it was just the amount of information and, you know, it really helped me to get a lot of facts and stats that you've been thinking out and bringing out into the public arena.

And, since then your Twitter profile has grown and you've made a lot more friends and probably a lot more enemies along the way. But can you talk a little bit about that? Because I feel like there's a whole new job description out there that's being created, which is the communicator. 

We have climate scientists and we have engineers, but there is a gap between those people and the [00:04:00] general public, like climate scientists and engineers speak a language that the general public doesn't understand fully. There's a level of illiteracy, which is completely natural. But then now this role of communicators as intermediaries to basically take the science takes the take the complex stuff about climate science, emissions reduction, renewables, baseload power, all of these kind of like. 

Words that scare people, or at least don't mean much to people and put them in terms that people can understand.

And I see you as one of those communicators that has come out. Is that kind of how you see your role? Well, what is, how do you see your role? 

Simon: I think you've nailed it. One thing that really sticks out to me in Australia, people talk about the energy debate and there there is. Yeah, acknowledged there.

There's an energy debate that we see play out in the media. And we see it play out in Canberra. Every week there'll be one or two long form interviews on ABC with a politician talking about, about energy policy. there'll be front pages. It's been going on for, for most of the last decade, and almost every one of those is absolute bullshit.

Very few [00:05:00] commentators understand the topic material and pretty much no politicians, you know, with, with the exception of a very few, but certainly not the ones that you hear on the radio, understand, how the energy system works. and you would think that there is a great debate about whether or not we're going to go renewables in Australia.

Or, you know,  whether or not we're going to decarbonize. 

The facts on the ground are really different. We, you know, it's, it's not a matter now of if we're going to transition or when we, we, we have been transitioning, the, the energy sector, electricity sector, for nearly 20 years now and it's been accelerating.

We're making good progress. Where if the acceleration were to continue, we've be making great progress and what's going on on the ground is very different from what you hear in Canberra. So communicating that to people, explaining to them how the energy transition is going, what's likely to turn out. 

Why decisions being made by industry and really in a lot of ways why, why the government is not in the steering and, you know, then they're not in the driver's seat, on this. They certainly, have done many things in the [00:06:00] past to frustrate the development. Many things, there are many roadblocks that industry's trying to work through that government is well placed to remove.

But really the energy transition is being driven by economics, and technical advances. and, it's not, it's not something that will be decided by the outcome of some debate in parliament or on the front pages of the newspapers. 

Giordano: Well, that's really reassuring to hear that the economy is driving the transition.

But then. You wonder why the fuck aren't we the world leaders in renewable energy? And of course that's because our government has been putting the brakes and slowing down that transition and is a long, sorry, sorry history of shit fuckery. And I was wondering, perhaps you could give us a bit of an overview of that history of shit fuckery and where we are in renewables now and where we could be. 

Simon: Someone explained to me recently that investors run, run from uncertainty. so in, during the, during the last couple of decades, we had the renewable energy target in Australia, which set a very clear signal to investors on where the country was going. so it was to, [00:07:00] to lift renewables in Australia from eight to 20%, in, by, by 2020 

Giordano: And whose policy was that?


Simon: Ironically, it was, John Howard introduced in 2001 the, the mandatory renewable energy target, the aim of which was to lift renewables on Australia from 8% to 10%. So very small increment. and I was at a time when the energy system was expanding very quickly. so it wasn't seen as much of a threat at all.

The pie was growing larger and they're going to give a little bit more to renewables. So it wasn't seen as really being in competition and it wasn't a great threat to the coal industry. Around, the end of the two thousands. Our growth in energy started slowing down significantly. And, that when there was a lot of concern with the millennium drought, helped bring Kevin Rudd, in into power labor ran on the policy to lift it from the 10% to 20% target and there was strong bipartisan support for this.

Around 2013 it, it appeared, it [00:08:00] became apparent that we were going to hit that target really early, and we're actually on track to hit 28% by 2020. So Tony Abbott, commissioned a review to try to kill the target, and, and try to try to stop it in its tracks. unfortunately for him, the, the review found that renewables were the best way of bringing prices down that under the best, the best outcome for consumers was to, to leave, you know, to leave the target in place. 

He picked the middle position, they cut the target back. So we would, we would have a bigger industry, a big  renewables industry right now if it hadn't been for the very significant slashing back at the target in 2015.

Right. So we're now at about 22% renewable in Australia and on track within a couple, two to three years to be at 33%. So we're gonna make about as much progress in the next three years as we made in the last 13.

Giordano: Alongside the renewable energy target. There was also the emission trading scheme that, that labor [00:09:00] brought in under Gillard. 

Just correct me if I'm saying something wrong, and you tweeted something about if that had been in place right now, farmers would be reaping billions in profits from the emission trading scheme.

I think I've just paraphrased you, but . 

Simon: Part of the clean energy future package of, of the Gillard government was, was the, the carbon price, which were emissions trading scheme which had a three year fixed price at the beginning, which, which was called by, ultimately by the media and by politicians, a carbon tax.

It wasn't a carbon tax it was an emissions trading scheme, and it was set up to transition, to link to the European climate carbon trading scheme such that Australians could, buy and sell credits, in, into the European market. At that stage, it was thought that we would be buying credits from Europe.

Which going to be cheaper in Europe than Australia and now big polluters  would go to Europe to buy credits. To extinguish their liabilities here. [00:10:00] Interestingly, as things have panned out, the, the European credits have increased significantly in price. So way more than what it would cost us to make credits in Australia now to create credits in Australia we can do that through tree planting, biosphere restoration. Better burning regimes, all sorts of things we can do, to create high quality carbon credits. And we can do that cheaper than anyone in Europe can do it. So if the scheme had been left in place, our farmers would be in a position to be selling.

Billion, literally billions of dollars worth of credits to Europe. So we're, so ironically that, you know, the nationals who fought really hard against the carbon price have really cheated their constituency out of, out of the, out of a very, you know, what could be a very lucrative export market for Australia.

Giordano: I listened as you did to the podcast, Senator Matt Canavan and Barnaby Joyce have launched.

Weatherboard and iron. and you know, they go on this kind of very idyllic exploration of how they're looking after [00:11:00] working families and small business. And the best way to do that is to build the, this, you know, more coal mines.

And at one point I nearly spat my coffee cause Canavan says, you know, it's so great that we've got this Adani coal mine started because one day I'll take my son, and I'll show him the Carmichael mine and I'll say, son, you know, I did that. My feeling is that his son is going to want to punch him in the face cause everything will be dead around him.

Simon: Hopefully his son drags him to the barrier reef and said, yeah, what was, what was this dad?

Giordano: Barnaby Joyce, they make a really interesting point. He said, we've had this debate over and over about where the carbon, where the coal is profitable, where the coal mines are the best way to do it. And we've won that argument over and over since the 2010 election.

We keep winning that argument 

Simon: and I'm not sure that, I mean, I'm not sure they are, you ask, you ask any . Any expert on energy, and everybody knows that coal is no longer the cheapest way of creating energy. Now, when, one thing that a lot of people don't understand is that existing coal, if you've got a, if you've got a, a, a fully depreciated coal plant that you bought.

[00:12:00] So an example, vales point up in new South Wales cost its owner $1 million as part of, the Abbott governments. asset recycling program, government, state governments were strongly encouraged to sell off their sell off their assets. So new South Wales privatized their whole electricity system, sold vales point power station for $1 million.

Now that's an incredibly cheap asset that you just feed a bit of coal into it and out comes power. And if you don't have to pay more than whatever your costs, that million dollars was made less than the power station costs less than the average Sydney home. It's phenomenonal, right? now if you wanted to build that station from scratch, it would cost you 3 billion.

and if you pay 3 billion for the coal power station, you're never gonna make any money out of it. If you pay 1 million, you can make, you know, you make bank. And they are, ironically, we just heard this week that the government's about to give $11 million to that power station to extend its life, crazy times, crazy times we live in.

But no the economic case, old coal, 

Giordano: sorry,  just to, highlight the points. So it's not that coal is [00:13:00] profitable. It's some people are making money out of it because it's being propped up by government. But otherwise, it's completely, 

Simon: we're constantly being lied, lied to in, in this debate. You know, there's, there's a, there's some concept that we, that we need to build new coal power stations in Australia when we, when we go to the energy market operator and, ask them to tell us how the system is likely to develop.

and we do that every, every couple of years. The energy market operator puts out a document called the integrated system plan. It's pretty technical. They work, they work pretty hard to make it readable and, and it's getting, it's getting a lot better. But unless you're an energy geek, you're gonna fall asleep.

well, well before the two, 300 pages that it is and, and the 600 pages of appendices. But that document, it's the most rigorous study ever done of the Australian energy system. And what it tells us is that the cheapest path forward is going to be going to be put more in renewables and storage.

I think there's a lot of confusion around the storage. We don't need as much as some people think we [00:14:00] need and we don't need new advances in technology. We are ready to go. So ready to go. And that's, that's quite a dangerous frame. You'll hear the government talking a lot more about technology over the next few weeks.

They're about, they're putting together a roadmap, a technology roadmap, setting up a frame that, you know, climate action is good, but we need new technology to get there. And that technology hasn't been invented yet. So sit, sit, sit tight. Wait for us to wait, wait for us to deliver something. But no, we know.

We know that we have solutions right now, for about 70% of emissions. So we should be, you know, we, we are started, we, we have started, it's not whether we're gonna push the go button. The question is how, how fast we're going to do it and the government is, is, is not making any meaningful progress on helping, helping industry to do this.

Giordano: so in terms of being lied to and honestly being bullshitted. The government's, one of the, probably the top pick in this department is the government's claim that emissions are coming down, that we're [00:15:00] going to meet and beat out targets. We hear that mantra repeated constantly. What's the fact-check on that?

Simon: So in, in the electricity sector, emissions are coming down. Renewable energy is pushing coal out of the system. We've had 13 coal power stations close since 2012 in Australia, and we're not burning any more gas since then. and renewables have increased. So renewables have helped us very much, reduce the emissions in the electricity sector.

But the electricity sector is only one third of the economy and all the other sectors of the economy, pretty much, pretty much all of them are going in the wrong direction and, and negating what's happening there. So while it might be. True to say emissions are coming down in one sector in two thirds. The rest of the other two thirds of the economy, they are not.

In fact, our emissions have been stagnant for the last, well since, since, since we had a change of government, our emissions have been stagnant and they are expected. The government's own numbers show that there'll be no material change between now and 2030 so we're not reducing [00:16:00] emissions and the government has no plan to do it now as whether we will meet our Paris targets, the government's own numbers that they released just before Christmas show that, no, we won't, we won't get the 26% reduction. We'll get more like a 12% reduction between now and 2030. and the way they take it to the same, they hit the target is to use these Kyoto credits. All right.

Giordano: Sorry. Who negotiated the Kyoto credits? Where did that, where did that bullshit come out of? 

Simon: Well, the original Kyoto credits, the Kyoto protocol was, was, was negotiated back in 1997. So it's ancient history. The Australian negotiators. I know someone who was there, and, and, and she'll carry to the grave her guilt for what the Australian government made her do.

Australia held those talks in Kyoto to ransom. We said we would only agree to the Kyoto protocol if Australia was allowed to increase their emissions. So we, there's a special clause in the Kyoto protocol, which people call the Australia clause, where Australia's [00:17:00] target was 108%. We were allowed to increase our emissions.

Wow. and just adding an insult injury. Once the agreement was negotiated, we then refused to sign it. So, it wasn't until 2007 just after that was one of Kevin Rudd's 

Giordano: This is the definition of shit fuckery. 

Simon: Right. That is shit fuckery that we said to people, we're not going to sign it. We will scuttle this international agreement unless we can increase our emissions.

So we set a really high baseline for Australia. And then when we, and that baseline was set based on a year when land clearing was out of control in Queensland. and, and that, that's a certain amount of shit fuckery we hadt here too. We used that as our baseline, that worst possible year, and we negotiated 108% from it.

And then we refuse to sign the agreement. So when we came in slightly below that. We claimed 

Giordano: we need to make an honest government, like a retrospective. We just, we know we said it in 1999 and we make, because that's, 

Simon: you could make that exactly. This, this is, this is some of the [00:18:00] biggest shit fuckery that Australia, that Australia has done.

so, so, so the global, you know, the global, community. Thought it was better that we were in the agreement. Then we were, we were outside trying to tear it down, but we were one of the only countries not to sign the Kyoto agreement. and it wasn't until 2007 that we did. Now, when we did better than our worst year, we, we were given credits.

Right. so those, you know, you could, you could say there. Yeah. They're fake, they're fake credits. Right? It's not that we, it's not that we did anything to earn them. What we did was negotiate really hard in 1997 that was our crowning climate achievement for this year, from 1997 to. 2020 a crowning achievement, internationally, was to negotiate a high target and then do nothing and sit back and earn the credits.

Now, as far as using those credits in the Paris agreement, there is no framework to do so. We in fact, that was one of the biggest sticking points [00:19:00] in Madrid. The, the, the climate conference. Last December where, the rules of the, of the Paris agreement, the final, the market rules are still being negotiated.

Australia was the only country saying, we want to use Kyoto credits. and we're going, you know, we, we intend to do less than other countries because we have all these credits from a previous game. But there's no legal framework to do so. And certainly, yeah, they're, there's very strong opposition from a large number of countries for Australia to cheat.

Giordano: so, I mean, as a historian, because what you've just given us is a history of policy, foreign policy in terms of, Australia's involvement in, in these climate talks, which. We'll define really this the century for humanity, but also the sort of domestic policy with, you know, emission trading schemes and those sort of things.

And, you know, as a historian, I just, you know, I just feel like this is why I said we [00:20:00] need to go back and make a video about this, is that if you don't understand the role that Australia has played in the past in terms of setting up these very unfair, immoral, basically, game, you don't understand why.

Now claiming these credits now is kind of like, you could say, look, yes, we were. There was shit fuckery in the past. But now we clean. Now we're going to do it. But the fact that we're claiming those credits is basically repeating that 

Simon: and we're trying to claim those credits that there's no agreement, 

so at the Madrid conference at, at the end of every day, the, all the NGOs get together and have an award ceremony. Fossil of the day, they award a fossil to, to the country that has done the most during that day to undermine progress. And Australia won fossil of the day five times a, which was more than any other country.

And that's not atypical at these things. 

Giordano: I mean, we saw it at the Pacific forum. I mean, we literally reduced people to tears. That is the frustration that this, That our government, I mean, like, you know, we have to kind of, we can't always externalize it. [00:21:00] It kind of like they them kind of thing. This is, this is who we voted in collectively.

You know, it's, it's a collective shame really, that, that everyone should, should feel, and take to the next election. But on the point of this fossil award, I wanted to take us onto the next point, which is something else that you've written about the mantra that often gets repeated, that we only contribute 1.3% of global emissions.

And therefore, I mean, this argument was really popularized very powerfully. By Alan Jones with his bowl of rice, a sort of visual metaphor, which was obviously a very powerful, image because it, it affected a lot of people. and you've kind of unpack that 

a little bit. 

Simon: Australia is responsible for 1.3% of.

The current warming, that's not good. That's the bad news. We are responsible for 1.3%. The good news is we only are responsible for 1.3% of the solution. Like we don't have to carry the whole world on it. We've, we've got, we're responsible for a slice and we can fix our slice. Now we're actually in a position where we're a wealthy country.

We're great technology developers. there's an opportunity for us [00:22:00] to, play a much bigger role for that and not. Not withstanding, all of the coal, the, that, that we export right now is, is increasing emissions in all sorts of other countries. So you could, if we took ownership for those, you could say we're responsible for four to 5% of global emissions for coal and gas.

We export. Where, where we could be exporting a whole lot of technology and green hydrogen, green ammonia that could reduce emissions, around the world. 

Giordano: What would that actually look like? Because when people talk about we could export renewable energy, I think a lot of people go with, well, how do you export solar?

Cause everyone gets like people who have no idea what does that actually mean? Like how do you, how do you explore renewable? 

Simon: So there are three ways that we can explore renewable energy. 

The first one is that we can, we can export energy and goods. we currently export a lot of energy in the form of, of, of aluminum ingots, aluminum.

some people have called in the past congealed energy. It takes an immense amount of energy. To, to create aluminum. And it's one way that energy, is moved from parts of the world that have surplus energy to parts that, that don't have enough. So, there are other [00:23:00] goods like zinc and to some extent steel is, is, is energy intensive goods.

Cause we can put our clean energy into those materials and export them around the world. So. Transformed  goods. Value adding raw goods is one way. 

Another way is, is cables. And now, a little while ago, it seemed absolutely fanciful. But, there's a fascinating project at the moment, that  so it was just announced a couple of months ago, sun cable, backed by Mike Cannon-Brookes and Twiggy Forest 

Giordano: that's for powering Singapore.

Simon: That's for it. It'll create, I think, if I'm right, about 15% of the power that Singapore uses. 


Giordano: Singapore, 

With an underwater 


Simon: Yeah. Cable. It'll be the world's largest if it were built now, it'd be the world's largest solar farm near near Tennant Creek and the world's largest battery, by a long way. Cable would go up to Darwin and through Indonesian waters up to Singapore and provide about 15% of power in Singapore and do so for a lower cost.

Then, then doing the same trip with, with [00:24:00] the LNG that, you know, extracting the gas, compressing it into liquid form, sending it to Singapore, decompressing it, running it through gas turbines, they, they're confident that we can. We can send it to Singapore on a sub sea cable. So that's one way we can, we can export it.

But the third way is to create a, is to create fuel or hydrogen based fuels that we can ship. So whether that's liquid hydrogen or ammonia, which is a very, a much more convenient way of transmitting hydrogen or transporting hydrogen, we can do that. and, and, and the, you know, the economics for that, are shoring up very, very rapidly.

I was recently in, in Germany and Japan. Talking about, I'm talking with people about hydrogen. I met a steel mill, to a Krupps, steel mill, just, in Duisburg, in, in the, in the Ruhr Valley, about 15,000 people in a, in a 20th century steel mill. That's very coal-dependent. they've made a commitment that within 30 years, they, the, the whole company will be zero carbon.

and I think, 30% reduction by 2030, which for a [00:25:00] steel mill is a very challenging thing to do. It's one of the, the steel industry is responsible for that 7% of global emissions. it's thought to be one of the most difficult areas to decarbonize, but they have, they have a project well underway.

They did their first test just in, in November of using hydrogen and a blast furnace rather than coal. and they, they're, they're on track. They know exactly how they, you know, what, what, how are they going to approach the problem? they're investing many, many millions into the project, but they said to me like, we know all this, but we just don't know where a hydrogen is going to come from.

That's, you know, I put up my hand and said, that's, that's us. That's Australia's job. And Singapore, sorry. In, in Japan. I was, I was there last month. And I met with a major Japanese shipping company. And they, they know that they've got to decarbonize there. They committed to decarbonizing by 2050.

it's not like, you know, they're wondering whether to do it and like, you know, the Australian conversation, they are absolutely committed to decarbonizing shipping. How do you do it? well, hydrogen based fuel is, is, is, is one of one of the work streams of, of, of doing [00:26:00] this. And, and ammonia is probably the product they'll use for that.

And again, they asked, where are we going to get the hydrogen from and the answer is Australia. We, we, we are in a position to, to create this ammonia, which we, the, the way that we will almost certainly do it. and the, and the way they are interested in, that they don't want to buy hydrogen that comes from fossil fuels.

that defeats the whole purpose. We will produce the hydrogen with wind and solar energy. Going to electrolyzers, which basically you stick a couple of wires in, in, in, in, in, in water, in probably a lot of people do this in physics, in school. it's more sophisticated than that now. But with electricity and water, we can make hydrogen and an oxygen is a byproduct.

but the hydrogen, we can then mix that with nitrogen, which comes from the air, make ammonium. And we can ship that relatively easily, to, to markets such as Japan and Germany. And. Are the other industrial countries, which, which are big on industry. Large population is needed for ammonia. We can, we can use ammonia.

it's, [00:27:00] it's very flexible. We can extract, the CSRO have some great technology that will allow us to run it past a membrane and pull hydrogen often. we can also, you can burn it a lot. Like . Lot like diesel, you can, it can be run into a modified diesel engine. It can be put into a gas turbine 

without an emissions or CO2 

without any CO2.

Some work has to be done to deal with the , nitrous oxides. But that's, that's all doable. And they've got pathways to do that. but it's, it's an incredibly flexible. Fuel. We could turn our sunshine and our wind in Australia into liquid. and rather than exporting LNG where, you know, I guess just like aluminum is congealed energy, ammonia is congealed wind and solar.

Giordano: Earlier you described yourself as an energy geek, and I can just see as you're talking about all this, you've got this glint in your eye like, you can see that you've really sort of like, 

Simon: what's really exciting to me is that. is that we now have pathways for so much. So there's, [00:28:00] people often say, how are we going to energy transition.

I get the idea we have to decarbonize, but how do we do it? Well, the two simplest things you need to know is electrify everything. And then use renewables for the electricity. And that gets us to 70%. Decarbonized. there  some other processes. I've been spending a lot of work, a lot of, lot of my research time on those other industries, steel and cement.

And I visited the steel mill that's planned to go zero emissions and visited a cement plant that's planning to go zero, zero emissions. And I, and. Five, 10 years ago, people had no idea how these were going to happen. But the introduction of the European, climate, know climate policies have created a lot of innovation there.

What a proud and sad moment is in, I visited in Belgium a, a summit works that's developed a technology to decarbonize cement and summits about. Three to 5% of global emissions. So it's a pretty, pretty big, a pretty significant, and it's as, as the world [00:29:00] urbanizes, there's a lot more construction that has to go on and submit.

So cement will be around and probably increasing through this century. So it's a, it's a, it's a big problem with solving a visited a plant in Belgium that's addressing this. The technology. it comes from Australia. The company, did the development in back of smash, just, you know, on the edge of Melbourne.

and they moved to Europe. To develop this based on a 12 million Euro grant. So we, we added this great technology developed in Australia. 

Giordano: That's less money or just about the same amount of money that we're paying to AGL to 

Simon: for the vales point plant. 

Not AGL, but yeah. , different plant. But yeah, we're, we're spending more to help a coal plant extend its life.


Giordano: Developing the technology that's going to save us. Yep.

You mentioned you wanted to say something else about the 1.3. 


Simon: the one point, 

the argument that Australia should do nothing because we're a rounding error, right? That we are only 1.3%. I [00:30:00] see that, you know, as, as, as both morally and intellectually bankrupt. As an argument and I'm not sure that anyone who used that argument really believes it.

I think they just think they've got a very clever rhetorical trick. People who say that are basically saying that one, 1.3% is basically nothing.  So why bother? And then of course, if you were to stop paying, paying taxes, I'm guessing that you are less than 1.3% of Australia's tax base, then then, you know, the argument is like, what would it matter if you stopped paying?

And of course everybody knows if you're. If your five year old asked you, you're like, why should I stop doing this? everyone else is doing it. You would very quickly give them a moral correction, that, that that's just not the way, that's not our value. And everyone knows when they go to vote that they're only one small voice. We all know that we have civic duties to go forward. And a great example is world war one. Diggers made up about 1% of the British Imperial forces. but we, you know, Australia has always been proud of what those [00:31:00] diggers did. and that we, we, we stepped up. 

We're not normally a nation of Shirkers, or at least this is a relatively new, a new thing for Australia.

Certainly started in 1997. Back at that Kyoto conference, we became a nation of Shirkers when it came to climate policy. And one thing to keep in mind, we are 1.3% of emissions, but we're only 0.3% of global population. So the average Australian. Is using about four times the average citizen of the planet.

In fact, among among major countries, we are the highest emitting country. Our power system is dirtier than China's. We're responsible about two to three times as much emissions as the average, Chinese far more than average Indian citizen. so we are among the worst and also among the most exposed to countries to climate change. 

Giordano: That's right. 

What more do you want? Like this is like two such good reasons to take action 

Simon: if you're, if you are working in the interests of Australians. [00:32:00] You are going around the world doing, using every bit of soft power we have to try to convince countries to to do, to be more ambitious on climate change.

The Paris agreement as it currently stands, is setting us on target for at least three degrees warming. Now we've seen what one degree looks like. 

Two degrees we don't have a reef left. 

Three degrees. Many of our, institutions, many of many things that the bedrock, many of the bedrocks of civilization such as, food, clean food and water and, you know, being able to work outside and sport and all these things, they fall apart.

Well before three degrees, we're on that track with the Paris agreement. 

Giordano: We don't even know what three degrees is cause we don't cause they could be, it could be far worse than that. We don't know what the feedback cycles could be. 

Simon: Absolutely. 

Giordano: But that's kind of what we think at the moment. That would look like.

Simon: Absolutely. That's, that's something that a few climate scientists have explained to me recently that when, when IPC says three degrees warming, they have not yet [00:33:00] included the climate feedbacks. the things that. Yeah. where we, we pass tipping points where, say the, the, the methane that's coming out of the Tundra and in, in, in the Arctic circle.

that's not counted in. So, yeah. So it, the IPCC estimates,  predictions, et cetera, very conservative. The Paris agreement, the whole structure is that let's agree to something and then we'll ratchet it up. So we're expected to increase our ambition this year. And then in a couple more years from now, increase it again and gradually everyone ratchets it up.

Now Australia should be there ratcheting every other country up as much as they can, to protect us as the front line on climate change. But also the thing that I bang on about is, is in a carbon constraint, global economy, Australia wins. We are really well placed to, we have these boundless Plains in our poetry.

They're wind swept, they're sun drenched. We have the technology now. 


Giordano: The world capital of sun porn. 

Simon: Yep. and, and we [00:34:00] have relatively stable government. we have. Financial institutions that that are well placed to grab, the benefits of these resources and produce this liquid, clean energy that gets shipped around the world, that helps other countries decarbonize. 

Few countries you can imagine are better placed than Australia

so much to talk about. 

I've talked to that 

Giordano: and maybe, you know, the best thing really is to, wrap it up and ask you to come back another time so we can talk about the other stuff. Because there is really so much to talk about. And I mean, this is one of the things that. I've been thinking about a lot.

You know that climate and I use it, I use that as an umbrella for like, you know, renewables, climate policies or government policy and economy requires its own kind of spin off of the honest government ad series. And I've been really kind of thinking lately of maybe. Creating a separate department that is like a department of climate shit fuckery that can really focus on [00:35:00] these things so that we can help to counter the narrative.

Because one of the things we haven't spoken about in this whole thing, and this is, you know, we can talk about this another time, but basically there was a huge misinformation campaign going on from news corporate. We saw it in the, in the Murdoch media really firing on all cylinders with, with that in January during the fires.

With, you know, bullshit about arsonists and greens and backburning. 

Simon: Fortunately, I think a lot of that didn't stick right. I think, I think, you know, most sane people realize that you know,  most sane people do recognize things have changed. And I don't think that arsonist narrative really.

Really ended up sticking 

Giordano: because there was a really good response. I mean, the, the fire chiefs responded, the police countered. I mean, it was great. People actually said, hang on, that's bullshit, you know? And that's kind of what needs to happen on a, on a, on a regular basis. And, you know, I feel like in the middle of an emergency with all the fires, there was a real incentive to counter it, but otherwise it just goes unchecked, you know, kind of thing.

So, you know, and [00:36:00] that's what, what I really want to do this year is to try and really check those liars as they come out. Yeah. Not just from Murdoch, but from the government itself. And it's also of course, what you do on Twitter. Well, you already do it. And 

Simon: it's interesting, I think cause, cause the, the, the truth is really complex.

Right. And my one thing I try to do it, you know, read these complex reports and synthesize them to make, to make it so that someone who's fairly engaged, can, can understand it quickly. and then at one level you've, I mean, the honest government ads, take these complex ideas and make them. Two orders of magnitude simpler.

Again, so they can fit into two minutes. And it sounds like you're talking about the middle, which is like a, yeah. A bit more meat, your delving a little bit deeper. might be a little bit more specialized interests, but helping people understand, yeah. Helping people navigate. And you've got

Got so much bullshit out there, 

Giordano: and we've got to 

increase people's literacy about that, these arguments so that they can do this themselves [00:37:00] eventually cause there's no point constantly responding to the bullshit. It's actually, the idea is let's help people become literate in the terminology, in the words.

Then when they see the bullshit, they can recognize that, they've got a better chance of recognizing it themselves because they understand. That would be a, an amazing thing to take into the election, which is 

Simon: perhaps it's been over complicated there. Right. What we know from, you know, from academia and everyone has looked at this thing, and the solution is, as I said before, electrify everything, here's renewables to do it.

We have the technologies already. to do all that, it's, and it's already happening and to a large extent, government needs to get out of the way, but create consistent rules and remove barriers in order to accelerate this. 

Giordano: Remove barriers. Even having a level playing field would be wonderful. Like stop propping up.

Simon: Yeah. It would be crazy.We've got to the point electricity system that, you know, as the coal plants disappear, they're replaced by renewables. [00:38:00] So anything the government does to prop up coal as they've, you know, it's, it's been leaked that there's about to give money to the vales point power station to kick it on.

It's absolute crazy talk. but that, that uncertainty. That delays everything, but it also, the investors go, screw this. We're outta here. 

Like the Australian cement company that I mentioned that's gone to Europe because it's just, yeah, you sit around here and listen to the radio or watch the news, read the newspaper, and you see that our government is not, is not yet committed.

To decarbonization, so just go somewhere where it is. 

Giordano: Yeah. So actually we need the government just to kind of get out of the way. As Barnaby said, I don't want the government in my life, you know? Great. 

Yes, we agree. 

Simon: We don't want the government to pick winners. Yeah.  So, set the guardrails. Say. We, we, we, we haven't talked about Zali's bill, but you know, that'd be my call to action is, the independent for Warringah has put forward a private members bill for, and it's, it's very simple, [00:39:00] basically, that we should adopt a zero emissions by 2050 target and have five year plans to get there.

Yeah, it's not, it's not enough. But like the Paris agreement, it's a place to start and then ratchet up over time as we become comfortable. I think it's the best idea in Australian climate politics right now. And it's really interesting. It's coming from an independent, so it is a, and Zali was speaking at the climate emergency summit just passed about.

One way to get this through is for it to be adopted as a conscience vote. like we had on marriage equality. we, it, it seems like that both parties can't, you know, can't commit to this as parties, but as individuals. I think that moment has come way with certainly the public is on board and, and the MPS ready to listen if they are freed from party politics and given a conscience vote.

So please my plug, go to and lend your voice about 25,000 people [00:40:00] have signed up already. And it's a very easy way to send a message to your MP telling them you want climate action now with a very simple. Nonpolitical policy response. and one of the best things is it's a model that has been introduced by conservatives in the UK.

And it works. So let's do it. 



Giordano: we'll put that in the show notes so people can find it. and it's great because as Jean Hinchcliffe, one of the student strike organizers said at the climate summit, I was following the live stream. She said, the reality is that politicians often don't lead.

They follow. So, you know, if there is this kind of individual kind of push, it will encourage. And on that note, is that bill, does it have a chance of passing? What are the numbers looking like? 

Simon: Labor hasn't declared what they're doing on it yet. If they scuttle it. Then it's then it's dead.

So, please, if you're in a, if you're in a labor seat then let people run right to your MP, and that website gives you a way of doing so very easily, you can, you can do a form letter or please take the time to put [00:41:00] your own words in because they will a hundred times more, more power, but get it in. And when people often ask me like, what's, what's, what can I do?

Well. Do that and get your friends to do that and tell your friends why. And you'll probably have more impact then any other consumer decisions you make this week. We've got to get progress, at a federal level. And, this, this is one way of doing so.

Giordano: Well, that's a great place to end for today. But thanks so much, Simon, for joining us and I've learned a lot and I could probably write a couple of honest government ads based on some of the things that you just said, so, so thanks for that and thanks for all the work that you do on Twitter. Like I know that you have fun, you can tell that you enjoy doing it, but it's also such a great service that you provide and it's great to see that.

And that note, is there anyone in the energy/AuspolTwitter that you find also really helpful to you and that you think [00:42:00] would be good for people to follow. 

Simon: I get a lot from Ketan Joshi,he's been communicating on this for more than a decade. That's @ketanJ0.

Giordano: He's great. 

Simon: Yeah, he's fantastic. 

Giordano: again, he's just got a real net for communicating things in an engaging way. Sometimes finding a little bit of humor, but it's just really clear and just really easy to follow and yeah. 

Simon: Yeah. I see him as a, as, as a. Yeah. As a next generation, dr Carl, and he knows how to get complex science ideas and simplify them down.

So, he's great. And on climate policy and climate accounting, issues, I follow Tim Baxter, that's a, and he's team in Mitcham and, yeah, he works for the climate council and I've learned a lot from him over the years. Any, anything technical. My coworker at Melbourne university, Dylan McConnell, Dylan, J McConnell is his Twitter handle.

And, he posts really interesting insights. He really understands the electricity market so much, and I've learnt so much from him, over over the three years I've been working with him. And [00:43:00] lastly, Frank Otzo, also at the ANU, Frank's with the Crawford school of government up there, and a very great communicator.

I've learnt a lot from Frank to. @Frankjotzo.


Giordano: Well, there are some great recommendations and of course Simon's handle on Twitter if you aren't already following him. 

Simon: @Simonahac 

okay, great. 

Giordano: Thanks so much Simon. and yeah, we'll be back soon with a, another honest government ad.

So thanks for tuning in. 

Simon: good luck editing that into something short and cogent. 

Giordano: Well, 

I dunno if I'm going to bother editing that much because it's just so relevant and I feel like for people, I'll cut it here and there, but I think I'm. I'll keep most of it cause it's just also, it's just a lot of work editing and I'm like, fuck, let's just put it there, you know?


awesome. Thanks so much.  Take care. Thanks. See ya.

Giordano: And that brings us to the end of this episode of the juice media podcast. I did end up editing it quite a bit, cause we had a massive conversation, but I didn't, I'd want to keep, a lot of it. Cause [00:44:00] it's so important. And the detail really matters. A reminder that this is just the first half of our podcast relating to the honest government ad on the fires.

So stay tuned because our next episode dropping really soon is going to feature a conversation with distinguished professor Michael E Mann, one of the world's leading climate scientists and therefore expert on climate policy shit fuckery. If you enjoyed the podcast, please, the best thing you can do is recommend it to your friends and family and pets.

yeah, and I'm not really promoting it. It's really word of mouth. So if you liked it, if you value the podcast, yeah, recommend it. As always, a reminder that all of this, the honest government ads, the podcast, the fact that I can have time to do this, it's made possible by our patrons. If you're not a patron and you love the work that we do. Head to and sign up. Otherwise, that's all for me. You've been listening to Giordano and the juice media podcast. We'll be back really soon with part two of this podcast and with another honest government ad. [00:45:00] Until then, take care.