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Hubris: Are we going to repeat the same mistakes as Germany?

For the Albanese government’s energy and climate czar, Chris Bowen, the green and renewable revolution is the “golden ticket” at the core of Australia becoming an industrial powerhouse, but is he refusing to acknowledge failed examples? Namely Germany, and the economic, industrial, and national security implications that have come as a result?

For the Albanese government’s energy and climate czar, Chris Bowen, the green and renewable revolution is the “golden ticket” at the core of Australia becoming an industrial powerhouse, but is he refusing to acknowledge failed examples? Namely Germany, and the economic, industrial, and national security implications that have come as a result?

“Hubris” (noun) is described as a personal quality of extreme or excessive pride or dangerous overconfidence, often in combination with arrogance”.

Politics aside, nowhere is there a clearer demonstration of hubris in the modern political and policymaking context than in the contemporary debate swirling around the so-called green revolution” and the transition towards a net zero economy.


At its base level, this revolution is characterised by the shift away from fossil fuels, namely coal, oil, and natural gas towards supposedly clean, cheap, plentiful, and most importantly, reliable energy sources like wind, solar, hydroelectricity and the still in development hydrogen future” backed up by extensive networks of batteries to continue our modern way of life.

Across the Western world, this shift has emerged as the great political and policy debate of our time as governments and multilateral organisations like the European Union, United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and even the World Health Organization are all advocating for this shift at increasingly accelerated timelines.

By far, the standout example has been Germany, long the true industrial power behind Europe’s post-Second World War and post-Cold War economic growth and prosperity and the driving force behind the creation of the European Union as a formidable economic and political bloc on the global stage.

Germany is an early adopter of the green revolution” and the shift towards clean energy”, particularly under former chancellor Angela Merkel, who famously declared, We have decided to raise the proportion of renewables in our overall energy consumption to 60 per cent by 2050. For electricity consumption, that figure is to be 80 per cent. That means we need to be establishing the right conditions now.

My government adapted our energy policy once again in view of what happened in Fukushima last year. That led to a consensus across German society on phasing out certain forms of energy, like nuclear power. The same level of consensus has not yet been reached with regard to the changes and infrastructure that will be necessary to make that a reality. We still have a long way to go yet, as it is clear that switching to the era of renewable energy implies a massive qualitative adjustment for energy supplies and the economy concerned.”

Former chancellor Merkel’s intense commitment to the green energy” future has since been reinforced by her successor, Olaf Scholz, who recently declared, Here in Germany, back at the beginning of this legislative term, we said that this decade would be the decade of transformation. The decade in which we lay the foundations for a carbon-neutral economy. In less than 25 years, by 2045, we want to be one of the first climate-neutral industrial countries ... We need to phase out coal, oil and gas – and go at it full throttle. So our motto is: try and stop us!”

Closer to home and in the Australian context, both the Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, and his Energy and Climate Minister, Chris Bowen, have declared an ambition to transform Australia’s economy and indeed, the nation, into a renewable energy superpower”.

Minister Bowen has stressed this point a number of times since becoming the minister, particularly on the global stage, most notably in Japan earlier this year, where he said, Our government is laying out the roadmap for our nation to become a renewable energy superpower. One of the first steps our government took when elected last year was enshrining in law of our country our ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution of 43 per cent emissions reduction by 2030, along with net zero by 2050 ... To get there, the Australian government has now committed more than $40 billion to our energy transformation and climate priorities.”

This was reinforced again by Minister Bowen over the weekend, when during ABC Insiders with David Speers, he categorically, and rather arrogantly shut down the Opposition’s push to debate nuclear power in the Australian context, when he said, in Australia’s context, nuclear for Australia is a fantasy wrapped in a delusion accompanied by a pipe dream. I mean it is not the right solution for Australia. And I’ve seen some reports about the role of nuclear in the COP discussions. Those reporters might be in different conversations to the one I’m in”.

It is important to acknowledge that this dramatic shift in national and multinational energy policy is undoubtedly a luxury belief” with a genesis in at best, a more optimistic, benevolent era in world history, namely the hubristic and heady days of the post-Cold War, guaranteed by the triumphant United States and its active enforcement of the “Pax Americana” or the American Peace”.

Despite this, the world we find ourselves in today faces a myriad of economic, political, and importantly, strategic security challenges that directly challenge the prevailing narrative and the foundations of the argument being used by many national leaders, including our own, to justify the transition towards the clean energy future”.

Now what does all of this have to do with national security, national resilience, and economic prosperity? Well, look no further than Germany.

Deindustrialising a titan

For almost the entirety of its contemporary history, Germany has had to carefully walk a tight rope between its foreign and strategic relations and its access to the critical resources that feed its economic and industrial might, often bringing the industrial power into conflict on two fronts, mainly with Britain, France, and of course, Russia.

Hilariously, many will recall the offer made by former US president Donald Trump to help Germany mitigate its dependence on Russian energy repeatedly during his term in office, where he was met with sniggering pontification, arrogance, and sheer denial that the world could ever devolve into state versus state violence.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, Germany has borne the brunt of the economic warfare conducted by Putin’s Russia and the Western sanctions that have been enforced against the pariah state’s key exports, namely, liquid natural gas and oil.

Now the chickens have come home to roost.

This economic warfare, coupled with the nation’s domestic energy policy and strict, almost dogmatic adherence to the net zero and clean energy agenda, particularly its favouring of new coal fired power plants over nuclear energy, is now reaping disastrous results.

The result of this hubris? The unmitigated deindustrialisation of one of the world’s great industrial and economic powers and the resulting collapse of wealth, prosperity, and living standards for the German people.

Highlighting this, David McHugh, writing for AP News, states, For most of this century, Germany racked up one economic success after another, dominating global markets for high-end products like luxury cars and industrial machinery, selling so much to the rest of the world that half the economy ran on exports...

No longer. Now, Germany is the world’s worst-performing major developed economy, with both the International Monetary Fund and European Union expecting it to shrink this year ... Germany risks ‘deindustrialisation’ as high energy costs and government inaction on other chronic problems threaten to send new factories and high-paying jobs elsewhere, said Christian Kullmann, CEO of major German chemical company Evonik Industries AG.”

Further reinforcing this is Matthew Karnitschnig writing for Politico, who explains, “Suddenly, a perfect storm is brewing over the former European powerhouse, signalling that its current recession isn’t just “technical,” as policymakers pray, but rather a harbinger of a fundamental reversal in economic fortunes that threatens to send tremors across Europe ... Put simply, the formula that made Germany Europe’s industrial powerhouse – a highly skilled workforce and innovative companies powered by cheap energy – has come undone...

“The country’s green transformation, the so-called Energiewende, has only made matters worse. Just as it was losing access to Russian gas, the country switched off all nuclear power. And even after nearly a quarter century of subsidising the expansion of renewable energy, Germany still doesn’t have nearly enough wind turbines and solar panels to sate demand – leaving Germans paying three times the international average for electricity,” Karnitschnig explains.

It now has to be asked, what is the common denominator precipitating Germany’s economic and industrial decline? Well, simply put, the high costs of energy and unreliability of so called reliable clean energy”, alongside an ideological refusal to accept nuclear energy as a viable alternative.

Now yes, there will inevitably be those who argue that correlation doesn’t mean causation, but in this case, the proof really is in the pudding.

Nuclear to the rescue? Not in the Australian context, at least not yet

Not everyone has been as clearly ideologically blinkered as Germany, and even Australia has been, when it comes to responding to the energy and energy security challenges of the 21st century, despite their best attempts *cough* Inflation Reduction Act *cough*.

To this end, ahead of the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), a number of the world’s leading nations have publicly embraced the nuclear option, so to speak, as a means of reducing their carbon footprints and providing, cheap, reliable, clean energy to maintain their economic and industrial growth at a time of heightened geopolitical and strategic competition.

Indeed, the United States and United Kingdom are leading the global charge to embrace nuclear energy as a viable means for delivering the next generation of nuclear power to the global market.

Highlighting this is John Ainger, Rachel Morison, and Akshat Rathi writing for Bloomberg, stating, “The US will lead a push at the COP28 climate summit to triple the amount of installed nuclear power capacity globally by 2050, marking a major turnaround for the controversial technology at the climate negotiations.

The declaration will call on the World Bank and other international financial institutions to include nuclear energy in their lending policies ... The US will likely be joined by the UK, France, Sweden, Finland and South Korea in the pledge to be signed December 1 in Dubai, according to people familiar with the matter,” the trio detail.

In addition to these nations, it is also expected that Japan, Romania, and the United Arab Emirates will also sign the pledge to triple baseload nuclear power generation globally from its 2020 levels by the middle of this century.

This approach was further endorsed by the US special presidential envoy for climate, John Kerry, who said, Nuclear is 100 per cent part of the solution. It’s clean energy.”

Going further, Ainger, Morison, and Rathi state, The countries recognise ‘the key role of nuclear energy in achieving global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions/carbon neutrality by or around mid-century,’ a draft of the declaration says. ‘Nuclear energy is already the second-largest source of clean dispatchable baseload power, with benefits for energy security’.”

This approach has also gained support from the American Nuclear Society, a not-for-profit of academics and industry professionals who advocate for atomic energy in the public interest, who told the Huffington Post, “Tripling the world’s nuclear energy supplies by 2050 is the catalyst required to halt rising temperatures and achieve a sustainable future. A large-scale build-out of new nuclear energy can only happen with the crafting of nuclear-inclusive lending policies by financial institutions like the World Bank.”

This costly decision only gains less credibility the more one investigates the opportunity costs and the benefits provided by nuclear power in the modern context, something the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) articulates when it states, “The use of nuclear power has avoided the equivalent of around 70 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over the last half century. Nuclear power already provides the bulk of clean energy in several countries. In the future, nuclear power can help to decarbonise hard to abate sectors such as transportation and industry and play a significant role in 2050 carbon neutrality, including by producing low-carbon hydrogen.

“In addition to providing 24/7 electricity supply, nuclear power is one indispensable low carbon, large-scale heat source able to replace or decarbonise fossil fuels for industrial heat and hydrogen production,” the IAEA explains.

Going further and digging into the realms of individual costs, national security and national resilience, the IAEA explains, “Nuclear power can ensure a secure, reliable and resilient energy supply. Operating on demand, irrespective of weather, nuclear power can stabilise the grid in systems with high shares of variable generation, while contributing to security of energy supply.

“Nuclear power can underpin an affordable, low-carbon energy system by minimising the amount of energy generation that exceeds demand and the need for expensive flexibility and storage infrastructure,” the IAEA further articulates.

Yet despite the growing consensus amongst the international community and the tick of approval from the world’s “experts”, our own energy czar has his approach coloured by a tinge of hubris as he refuses to learn the lessons of our international neighbours.

Rather, he seems intent on condemning generations of Australians to unreliable power and costly electricity prices and placing us at the mercy of Beijing’s growing manufacturing might, regardless the economic, political or strategic ramifications.

Hardly the makings of a “renewable energy superpower” if you ask me, but I will let you be the judge.

Final thoughts

We have to accept that while the world is increasingly becoming “multipolar”, the Indo-Pacific, in particular, is rapidly becoming the most hotly contested region in the world.

This is underpinned by the emerging economic, political, and strategic might of powers like China, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, and the established and re-emerging capability of both South Korea and Japan, in particular, are serving to create a hotbed of competition on our doorstep.

In order to survive and thrive in this modern era of multipolar and great power competition, Australia is going to require every competitive edge it can get, particularly as the world of globalisation and constrained supply chains drive the phenomenon of reshoring” and homeland economics” to the fore among the populations.

Recognising this array of challenges and opportunities, both the Australian public and its policymakers need to look beyond the myopic lens that has traditionally dominated our diplomatic, strategic, and economic policy making since Federation.

Ultimately, we need to see Australia begin to play the long game to fully capitalise on the opportunities transforming the Indo-Pacific.

The most important questions now become, when will we see a more detailed analysis and response to the challenges and opportunities facing Australia and when will we see both a narrative and strategy that better helps industry and the Australian public understand the challenges faced and opportunities we have presented before us?

As events continue to unfold throughout the region and China continues to throw its economic, political, and strategic weight around, can Australia afford to remain a secondary power, or does it need to embrace a larger, more independent role in an era of increasing great power competition?

Get involved with the discussion and let us know your thoughts on Australia’s future role and position in the Indo-Pacific region and what you would like to see from Australia’s political leaders in terms of partisan and bipartisan agenda setting in the comments section below or get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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