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Economic Opportunity

The Environment; Australia's greatest economic opportunity

John Hewison
Founder and Director
30 Jul 2019

I am not an environmental activist nor am I a global warming zealot. I try to be a pragmatic human being who looks for ways to improve the world where the opportunity exists. I am also a capitalist and don’t understand why the Australian government can’t see the economic opportunity of supporting the development of renewable energy producers, who will pay their taxes just like everyone else.

How tired are you of the continuous debate around global warming and its consequences? Well, I am because, in my view, it totally misses the point of the big picture. Whether the proponents of global warming are right, or the sceptics are wrong, means little in the overall scheme of things.

The issues of pollution reduction, maximising the benefits of renewable energy, preserving the planet and protecting the wellbeing of future generations are all completely valid and non-negotiable by every responsible person who resides on this planet.

So first, let us deal with the elephant in the room – greed!

Let’s agree that, in principle, everyone agrees with reducing pollution, as it’s a complete no-brainer – that is until it affects profits, taxes and wealth creation! Then the objectors jump to defend their convenient scepticism.

Personally, I don’t know if global warming is a threat or not and I don’t care to listen to the debate any more. But the recent revelations by BHP CEO Andrew McKenzie citing BHPs attitudes to the issue puts the argument beyond question in my view. BHPs commits to reduce emissions created from steel mills and power stations that burn its coal production globally.

In his speech, Mr McKenzie lauded the governments of the UK and Europe for their climate policies whilst conspicuously omitting Australia. All governments should have no doubt about the broader issues emanating from pollution and the continuous mining of resources, which will eventually be exhausted. In the meantime, irreparable damage is caused to the earth’s atmosphere and the future well-being of its population in all forms.

If a mining company that derives its revenue earnings from pollutant materials recognises the issues and invests heavily in rectification, why is it that governments don’t see it? Revenue, taxes and political lobbying, that’s why! 

Now I get it that switching off coal-fired generators today will cause havoc in terms of energy production and financial ruin. But surely there are excellent grounds for a plan to change in a finite time scale that will achieve the desired outcomes with some certainty?

My wife and I travel a lot and it amazes me when we travel to Europe and see the visible signs of the massive development of renewable energy sources – wind farms, solar panels and electric cars plugged into road-side power stations.

On a recent trip by ship from London to Norway, we witnessed hundreds of wind farms in the ocean off the UK shoreline. A few years ago, we visited Denmark and witnessed the same thing, hundreds of wind turbines in the sea and solar panels on nearly every structure.

How can it be that countries like Denmark can be solely self-sufficient using renewable energy and carbon-neutral whilst our pollies and commentators sit around arguing the point?  

But just as the buggy-whip manufacturers went broke with the advent of the motor car, renewable energy producers will profit from the demise of “old technology” power producers and those stuck in a world of denial and resistance to change.

From an economic point of view, it seems to me that the Australian government has an absolute stand-out opportunity to benefit from the growth of environmental industries. Economic revolutions will come from investing and encouraging private enterprise to take advantage of alternative renewable energy production, recycling waste into a marketable product, developing clean food production and the growth of the “Pacific Food Bowl.” 

The facts are well known that we can’t produce enough “clean” produce to satisfy the demand from Asia. Our ability to produce quality, clean food like seafood, meat, fruit and vegetables is one of our great economic strengths that we need to take greater advantage of.

How absurd is it that Chinese wholesalers are organising mass retail purchases of baby formula to export to China. Why doesn’t someone seize the opportunity to develop this market?  

Here’s another fact that is indisputable. We are the beneficiaries of FREE power sources – sun, wind, wave, river currents all of which can be utilised without hurting the atmosphere or destroying the earth. Harnessing this FREE energy is a massive opportunity for profit.

A friend of mine is a conservation consultant who specialises in advising industry in many ways. He tells me of rural communities throughout Australia who have achieved self-sufficiency just by placing a centrifuge in the local river to generate energy from the river’s current. How good is that?  How simple and logical is that?  How beneficial is that economically, environmentally, philosophically and humanitarianly?

Australia has relatively clean air, we have vast areas of unutilised land, hours of unutilised sunshine, surrounded by sea with continuous unutilised wave power all of which goes to waste every day. We are literally surrounded by economic and environmental opportunity.

The time for debate is over! I would encourage Australian governments at all levels to get together and start talking about the opportunities it must harness to make this nation great both environmentally and economically – for all our sakes.     

Hewison Private Wealth is a Melbourne based independent financial planning firm. Our financial advisers are highly qualified wealth managers and specialise in self managed super funds (SMSF), financial planning, retirement planning advice and investment portfolio management. If you would like to speak to a financial adviser on how you can secure your financial future please contact us 03 8548 4800, email info@hewison.com.au or visit www.hewison.com.auPlease note: The advice provided above is general information only and individuals should seek specialised advice from a qualified financial advisor. The views in this blog are those of the individual and may not represent the general opinion of the firm. Please contact Hewison Private Wealth for more information.