Australia's green delusions: A diesel in the shed

A Diesel in the Shed.
You can have your solar panels
            and your turbines on the hills;
You can use the warmth of sunshine
            to reduce your heating bills.

You can dream you’re self-sufficient
            as you weed your veggie bed;
As long as you make sure to keep
            A diesel in the shed.

When I was a kid on a dairy farm in Queensland, Australia, we relied on green energy.  Horses and human muscles provided motive power; firewood and beeswax candles supplied heat and light; windmills pumped water; and the sun provided solar energy for growing crops, veggies and pastures.  The only "non-green" energy used was a bit of kerosene for the kitchen lamp, and gas for a small Ford utility.

Our life changed dramatically when we put a diesel in the dairy shed.  This single-cylinder engine drove the milking machines, the cream separator, and an electricity generator, which charged 16 lead-acid 2-volt batteries sitting on the veranda.  This 32-volt D.C. system powered a modern marvel – bright light, at any time, in every room, at the touch of a switch.

There were no electric self-starters for diesels in those days – just a heavy crank handle.  But all those efforts, all that noise, and all those fumes were superseded when every house and dairy got connected to clean, silent "coal power by wire."  Suddenly, the trusty "Southern Cross" diesel engines disappeared from Australian sheds and dairies.

In just one lifetime, candles and kerosene were replaced by diesel, which was then replaced by clean, silent, ever ready electricity.

Today, after Aussies have enjoyed decades of abundant reliable cheap electricity from coal, green energy gambling has taken Australia back to the era that kept a diesel in the shed.

Tasmania is the greenest state in Australia.  It once had a vibrant economy that created mines, sawmills, farms, orchards, oil and metal refineries, dams, hydro-power, and railways.  It is now a green no-go land.  Greens have stopped new hydro developments, opposed mining, crippled the timber industry, prevented new wood chip developments, and will probably celebrate when the last refinery closes.

Tasmanians get their electricity mainly from hydro assets created long ago by their more productive ancestors.  But recently, a long drought caused a shortage of Tasmanian hydro-energy – they became reliant for up to 40% of their electricity needs on the Bass-link undersea cable bringing electricity from reliable coal-fired stations in Victoria and New South Wales.  However, the overloaded Bass-link cable failed, and an old gas-powered station was brought back into service (importing gas from Victoria) to keep the lights on.  Subsequently, their politicians hurriedly put 150 diesel generators in their shed (costing A$11 million per month).

South Australia is the next greenest state in Australia, hosting about 35% of Australia's wind turbines.  These were force-fed into existence by mandatory green energy targets and tax benefits.  In a burst of green destruction, they also closed their gas-fired power stations and demolished their coal-fired station.  However, wind power failed recently, and a storm tore down their lifeline-bringing reliable coal power from Victoria.  Now Premier Weatherill is planning to install up to 200 megawatts of diesel generators in his shed.  Many residents are following his lead.

As some wag said:

Question: "What did South Australians have before candles?"
Answer: "Electricity."

The U.K. has been badly infected by the green energy virus.  Engineers warned that this intermittent and unpredictable supply had increased the risk of blackouts, so the U.K. government offered subsidies for emergency backup power.  This subsidy, plus consumer concerns, put so many diesels in British sheds that they now provide a major backup capacity for U.K. electricity.

Many Spaniards found that a diesel in the shed was very profitable.  Their government had been drinking green ale and offered attractive subsidies for solar power produced.  The subsidy was very successful – so successful that someone eventually noticed that some suppliers were even producing "solar" power at night.  It was coming from diesels in their sheds.

Finally, our green media likes to feature some green energy enthusiast who is "off the grid."  But it usually emerges later in the show that there is a diesel in his shed, too.

Those who remember the days of relying on a noisy, smelly diesel in the shed have no wish to be dragged back there by green zealots.

Viv Forbes is a writer in Rosevale, Queensland, Australia and can be reached at this email:

Further Reading:

Tasmania’s Bass Link cable fails. Gas imports boom:

Tasmania puts some diesels in the shed:

South Australia demolishes their last coal power station:

South Australia puts some diesels in the shed:

UK offers subsidies to put some diesels in the shed:

The Sun in Spain shines better at night:

All about diesel back-up Generators:

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