Life’s a complete bitch sometimes. Like when you’ve gotta choose between doing what’s best for you or being cool to everyone else. What sort of choice is that? Are you gonna do the right thing, or the bright thing? Either way you lose: you either feel guilty, or you shaft yourself. Lame.
Happily enough, when it comes to deciding whether or not to go solar, you don’t have to make this choice. The option that leaves you with shitloads more $$$$$$ in your pocket is also the one that slashes your recurrent carbon emissions. How’s that for a good news story? Pretty fucking wonderful I’d have thought. So maybe someone can share it with the mouthbreathers behind the Solar Scorecard website that’s been doing the rounds on social media.
The premise behind this website is simple enough but the message behind it – that government needs to do more to support photovoltaics – couldn’t be more retarded. For fuck’s sake guys. Do you even solar?
Let me be very clear about something: businesses and homeowners considering an investment in photovoltaics don’t need the government to come in and sweeten the deal. The deal is already more sugary than the snacks my housemate pushes into his face when he’s baked and watching cartoons. What we need are more potential customers getting in touch with businesses like mine so they can actually get to the stage where they’re looking at costings and savings projections and seeing just how well they can do. This is exactly the point where these eco-warriors have decided to piss all over everyone.
If Australians keep being bashed over the head with this message that “The government needs to do xyz to support solar in this country” then sooner or later they might start to believe it. No doubt it’s just reinforcing something many people already believe, and the fact that nothing could be further from the truth won’t make this message any less effective. After all, talking people into sitting on their arses and doing nothing is a pretty easy sell. Those Australians who take this message at face value are inevitably going to say to themselves “Oh well, I guess the government isn’t doing enough right now, so let’s keep running our shit on brown coal until they do”. The fact that the numbers behind this decision are so goddamn bad won’t even matter, because they’re not going to get to the stage of really look at them. When dealing with models of a transition to a renewable future and such, you can posit a world where all people are the rational actors of university textbooks, people whose behaviour is a continual exercise in maximising utility, but over here on Planet Earth you’ll find that the humans who inhabit it have the potential to be pretty damn influenced by the messages they hear as they go through their day. And the message they’re hearing from Solar Scorecard is fucking awful. It’s kind of fair enough that a lot of Aussies are still yet to get their head around just how many thousand bucks they’re gonna be down if they don’t embrace photovoltaics, because this situation is still so new – but if you’re going to launch a website about solar power in Australia then I don’t think it’s too much to ask that maybe you might wanna know something about the topic. Have any of the people behind this site actually looked at how much it costs to buy every last kilowatt-hour from the grid right now? Seriously guys, fuck you.
This message gets worse once you start to consider the recent history of government action to roll out solar. The story of solar in this country is in no small part a story of government policy settings creating perverse incentives that lead to shitty outcomes. Consider how many pissweak systems are up on rooftops because of the Howard government’s eight grand handout. A defender of this scheme might point out that a wussy 1kW system is still more solar than they had on their roof before. It’s technically true that 1 is a larger number than 0, but it’s also less than 5 – and a whole lot of these guys would have bought the 5 or 6kW system that they actually need, if only they hadn’t been induced to enter the market a few years too early. It’s taken us years to finally reach a set of policy settings that are halfway rational. Do we have to turn it all upside down once more? Can’t we just enjoy this moment in the sun for a bit? Maybe get some real capacity installed?
If these guys were honestly motivated by a desire to promote the uptake of solar in this country, then the contents of the site would be very different. Instead of talking about candidates for public office, they would be making it explicitly clear to electricity users just how far they will be left behind if they keep being indecisive about generating their own electricity. You could appeal to people’s good nature, concern for the environment and sense of civic responsibility – and there’s nothing wrong with these qualities – but there’s also an unanswerably strong appeal to self-interest to make that shouldn’t be left behind.
The observant reader would note that with this alternate message I’m proposing, the site wouldn’t even be an electioneering effort anymore. It would be a sales pitch. Given that the fate of Aussie solar is not hanging in the balance in this election, and that what we need right now is action from the private sector rather than the government, this seems about right.
It’s a little facetious of me to offer this suggestion as I know it’s going to fall on deaf ears. When you look at the 100% renewables group behind this website and then look through the various local groups behind it, you see “action network” this and “collective” that, and it isn’t too hard to guess that maybe they’re not too interested in any narrative that doesn’t involve having an impact on election results and punishing MPs for holding The Wrong Views. The idea that government has the settings pretty right and that right now it’s the private sector that needs to catch up probably doesn’t occur to them. If something isn’t working right then it’s always the government that needs to come and fix it. I’m also gonna throw out there that a number of them are probably university socialists and their fellow travellers, people with nothing but distrust and contempt for the profit motive, people whose worldviews offer no room for the idea that a little bit of merciless, swashbuckling, take-no-prisoners, cockslap-to-the-face raw market capitalism might be just the ticket. They’re far more interested in repeating stale and lazy mantras with no regard to or interest in what’s actually going on in the world they inhabit.
In a robust democratic country everyone gets to put in their two cents on the issues of the day. These dweebs have the right to have their say, even if what they have to say is just plain dumb. I get that. Why not do it with some regard to things like truth, honesty, relevance and a connection to the real world? If all you’ve got to offer is a set of vapid, useless and irritating slogans based on a set of premises that would dissolve into nothing if you’d only spend a few seconds considering them, then just get it over with and join the fucking Liberal Party.