The writer is in Australia.
AS NET Zero strangles industry, Australia is becoming green, powerless and defenceless.
History holds lessons which we ignore at our peril.
In the 1930s Japan attacked China, Mussolini attacked Ethiopia and Hitler planned to avenge WWI in Europe. Britain’s PM Chamberlain negotiated with Hitler and proclaimed that he had achieved ‘peace in our time’.
In November 1938, just after the signing of the Munich Pact, John Curtin, leader of the Labor Party in the Australian Parliament (and Prime Minister from 1941), made this statement: ‘I say that any increase in defence expenditure appears to be an entirely unjustifiable and hysterical piece of panic propaganda.’ (Source: Hansard, November 2, 1938.) Ten months later, in September 1939, Germany attacked Poland.
On this side of the world, the Japanese built a large navy and air force. However the Americans, British and Dutch controlled Asian oil supplies needed for trucks, tanks, ships and planes. With Britain pre-occupied with Germany and Italy in Europe, Japan decided on a huge grab for land and resources.
In 1931 Japan occupied Manchuria and by 1937 Japanese troops were attacking Chinese soldiers outside Beijing. Japan invaded French Indochina in 1940 and a large Japanese force threatened the Philippines where US General Douglas MacArthur was based.
On December 7, 1941, Japanese aircraft attacked the large US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Three days later, the British warships Repulse and Prince of Wales were sunk by Japanese planes off Malaya. In the same month Hong Kong fell. Soon Japanese armies were rampaging through Asia towards Australia. By February 1942, the British fortress of Singapore had surrendered and Japanese bombs were falling on Darwin. (See this TCW article.) By September 1942 the Japanese army had slashed their way down the Kokoda Track across Papua New Guinea. They could see the lights of Port Moresby and were looking across Torres Strait to Australia.
Further south, five Japanese submarines were snooping in the seas off Sydney. Two midget submarines entered the harbour and one sub sank HMAS Kuttabul. The Japanese navy later bombarded Sydney and Newcastle.
By that time, most of Australia’s trained soldiers were fighting Rommel at Tobruk in North Africa or were in Japanese prison camps. Australian politicians discussed the infamous ‘Brisbane Line’ – surrender of Australia north of Brisbane.
Suddenly Australia was on its own and needed to defend itself with what we had here.
Armies need manpower, weapons, ammunition, vehicles, tanks, planes, ships, fuel and lubricants.
Australian coking coal was used to produce steel and thermal coal provided reliable electricity and powered locomotives. Coal production was often interrupted by bitter strikes in the early war years, but after Hitler invaded Soviet Russia in June 1941, the communists among the coal miners suddenly became more supportive of the war effort.
Motor oil was produced in limited quantities from oil shale at Glen Davis in central NSW, but petrol was in serious short supply, and had been rationed since 1940. With the fall of Singapore, this fuel shortage became severe, and charcoal burners suddenly appeared to keep cars and trucks moving. The demand for charcoal was so great that firewood was rationed. Kerosene was scarce so dusty carbide lights were recovered from sheds.
To conserve supplies for soldiers, rationing was introduced for tea, clothing, butter, sugar, meat and cigarettes. Australian farmers were forbidden to kill their own animals for meat (but many of them did anyhow).
A critical wartime shortage was copper for cartridge cases and communications – Australia had mines producing lead, zinc, silver, gold and iron, but little copper.
Fortuitously, just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, an exploration drill hole at Mount Isa in Queensland had struck rich copper ore. Mount Isa suspended their profitable silver/lead/zinc operations and converted all mining and treatment facilities to extracting copper.
The lead concentrator could be converted to treat copper ore, but the biggest problem was how to smelt the copper concentrates. Luckily the company had skilled engineers and metallurgists in the lead smelter. In a miracle of improvisation, scrap steel and spare parts were purchased and scavenged from old mines and smelters and cobbled into a workable copper smelter. In 1943 the first Mount Isa blister copper (partly purified copper) was produced. Production continued after the war when Mount Isa returned to extracting the then more profitable silver/lead/zinc. Later, new plant was built enabling both lead and copper to be produced from this fabulous mine.
This story of the importance of self-reliance has lessons for today especially at a time when the closure of the great Mount Isa copper mines has just been announced.
The war on carbon energy, Net Zero propaganda, the renewable energy targets, escalating electricity costs and the voices in Parliament calling for Emissions Trading Schemes have all unnerved our big users of carbon fuels and electricity.
Smelting and refining have become threatened industries in Australia. Already six major metal smelting/refining operations have closed in Australia this century and more are likely. The closures have affected copper, lead, zinc, steel and aluminium – the sinews of modern industry. Car manufacturing, with all its skills and tools, has gone. Local production and refining of oil is declining, while activists are trying to prevent domestic exploration and production of gas. More and more land and offshore waters are closed to exploration and mining, and heavy industry is scorned.
Australia has lost over half of its oil refining capacity and most of our
liquid fuel comes from foreign refineries. At normal rates of use, national reserves of diesel would last about three weeks and unleaded petrol about four weeks, but in the event of a panic for fuel, supplies would be cleaned out in days, maybe hours. Commercial aircraft would be grounded in a fortnight and our Air Force soon after.
We are losing the resources, skills and machinery needed for our own security. And we fritter our declining resources on green energy white elephants like the Snowy 2 pumped hydro project, green hydrogen, dream-time extension cables to transmit ‘green’ electricity from Darwin to Singapore, hydrogen electrolyser magic in Gladstone, massive power lines to collect piddling amounts of energy, and many other green dreams with net consumption of energy and metals.
These foolish green energy policies and the suicidal war on carbon fuels are killing real industry leaving us unskilled and defenceless. Another Asian tiger in Beijing is gazing south at the resources locked up in Red-Black-Green Australia. Its advance guards are already installed in academia and the media.
Imagine when our power, radar, internet, social media and electric engines are suddenly disabled, and the tankers carrying our fuel supplies from Asian refineries meet a torpedo or an armed drone.
Wake up, Australia.