19 July 2016
Doctors have today described comments that renewable energy from solar and wind are causing the SA power “crisis” as disingenuous because they ignore the hefty costs of coal and gas to public health and to the health budget.
Medical advocacy group Doctors for the Environment Australia’s spokesperson Dr David Shearman says ignoring such costs is legal, but it is clearly misleading and unethical.
“What this stance says is: please keep power prices down by flooding the market with electricity generated from coal and gas at the same time as causing large costs to society from pollution which results in lung and heart disease, as well as strokes,” says Dr Shearman.
“Furthermore by continuing to pump carbon into our atmosphere, and generating more greenhouse gases that are responsible for driving climate change, we are undermining our health and wellbeing.
“What has happened to our ethical and moral responsibilities to put public health as our number one priority? Fossil-fueled power is bad public policy with far-reaching negative consequences which we ignore at our peril.”
The two main factors behind the high cost of power appear to be higher wholesale gas prices, and lack of competition within the sector rather than the renewable industry.
Power prices have led to the re-commissioning of a gas-fired power station in SA, as well as calls from Northern Territory chief minister Adam Giles to build a pipeline delivering NT gas to the state which Dr Shearman says is ironic considering expensive gas is driving up our energy bills.
“If we really want to talk jobs and the economy, the renewable energy technology and market is the most exciting growth and innovation opportunity we have had in years,” says Dr Shearman.
A new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has shown more than 8.1 million people around the world are now employed in renewable energy, up five per cent from last year.
” Yet the numbers in Australia fell,” says Dr Shearman. “Why aren’t we taking advantage of this bonanza? Australia with its plentiful supplies of solar and wind could be a world leader in renewable industries. “Imagine the benefits this could bring to our economy and to our health.”
Dr David Shearman AM FRACP is Hon Secretary of Doctors for the Environment Australia and Emeritus Professor of Medicine Adelaide University
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