Globally, politics has never been more divided, and in so sector is this more epitomized than in the energy industry. Across the world political parties are duking it out over climate change and carbon emissions, fossil fuels and renewables. This week, that division is being highlighted to extreme extent as we witness potentially game-changing elections in some of the world’s biggest players in the global energy industry.
In the same week, both Australia and India face major elections that are guaranteed to have a lasting impact on their own national energy policies that are certain to make waves felt around the world. Australia, one of the largest energy exporters in the world, re-elected its pro-fossil fuel Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a shocking upset on Saturday. Later this this week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also projected to maintain his seat at the head of one of the world’s largest energy consumers and importers at the helm of his emissions-conscious Bharatiya Janata Party.
The two nations have more in common than the timing of their major elections–they share a long history together when it comes to their respective energy industries–India is a significant importer of the Australian coal that the latter nation’s economy presently depends on. On top of India’s connection to Australia via coal imports, India even has a direct hand in the Australian coal industry through the Gujarati company Adani Enterprises Ltd., which operates Australia’s Carmichael coal mine.
Adani’s Carmichael coal mine is an apt example of not just the intimate energy industry relationship between India and Australia, but also of how divisive the issue of fossil fuels is in both nations and around the world. The controversial mine has been the recipient of major public protest. “Indian miner Adani has faced a massive backlash from the public and the Queensland state government as it attempts to develop the Carmichael thermal coal mega-mine in Queensland,” reports The Sydney Morning Herald, “while many Australian banks are now refusing to provide loans to develop new thermal coal mines in Australia.”
Despite all of the public outcry against emissions-heavy coal in Australia and a long and hefty lead in the polls for the leftists, Morrison’s Saturday re-elected was a definitive and surprising win for fossil fuels in the land down under. As the Wall Street Journal summed it up: “The opposition center-left Labor Party had led in the polls for months but lost as voters rejected its move left on taxes, spending and above all on climate change.” it also could mean that the Carmichael mine project now can count on having much-needed friends in high places.
But they shouldn’t get too cocky, says David Fickling in a Bloomberg Opinion column. “The politics of this remain treacherous. Though much has been made of some heavy swings toward the government in seats close to the Carmichael project, the real risk for the opposition Labor party lies not in those constituencies (where it’s only rarely won election victories) but in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney.”
Meanwhile, India is facing an opposite circumstance in their energy policy. There, Modi is on track to be re-elected on a platform that promises to clean up India’s smog-choked air and lean into renewables. Again, Fickling says that this dynamic is another one to be taken with a grain of salt. “While both [Modi’s] Bharatiya Janata Party and the opposition Congress have both voiced support for renewable energy and plans to reduce the country’s choking air pollution, Congress hasn’t matched Modi’s specific promise to install almost 100 gigawatts of additional renewables by 2022.”
Fickling chalks it up to an old, but essential question: “Who decides the future of energy – the producers, or the consumers?” Time will tell us the answer in the cases of both India and Australia, but it’s a question to which the answer will have far-reaching consequences for countries around the globe and all of us living in them. How much say do we as constituents really have when it comes to the source of our energy and the quality of the air? It’s time to pay attention.
By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com