It’s becoming increasingly clear that the US is not the only place where the internet is being used for dressing up fake news as fact and spreading propaganda.
The site doesn’t describe what its goal or ambition is, but a quick scroll through the posts make it immediately clear: promote coal fired energy and spread myths and misconceptions about renewable energy.
If you ever wanted an example of “fake news” loaded with myths masquerading as facts, this is it is. Some of its videos are outrageous and embarrassing, even by fossil fuel lobbyist standards.
What’s intriguing is this – the site says it is authorised by “Queensland Liberal MP” Matt McEachan MP, Member for Redlands and Shadow Assistant Minister to the Leader of the Opposition.
It turns out that the first and major myth on these sites is the status of McEachan – he is no longer an MP, having lost his seat in last November’s election to Labor. He is a former staffer for ex-premier Campbell Newman, and describes himself elsewhere as a “consultant” to the LNP.
Why does his status matter? Well, for a start he is supposedly responsible for its content, and like many others I assume when I came across the site and looked at the back ground the fact that it was authorised by a Queensland MP might have given it some weight and a sense of legitimacy.
The site has already gained notoriety for posts that feed in, and off, mainstream media and Coalition talking points about energy issues.
One was the surge in electricity prices in Victoria and South Australia on January 18, which the Energy in Australia website, and later energy minister Josh Frydenberg and many in the Murdoch media, blamed on renewables.
They forgot to mention that the prices surged after the Loy Yang A coal generator tripped and 530MW was suddenly lost from the grid.
Another post that brought the Facebook page to our attention was titled “Toxic Leak from Storage Battery – 1 Person Injured”.
It goes on to say:
“WARNING: The four batteries installed at the Royal Adelaide Hospital have ruptured, spraying 80 litres of sulphuric acid and contaminating areas within the hospital. The acid from the batteries – which were installed by the SA State Government to meet emissions standards – have already come into contact with one person. The contaminated individual needed assistance at the scene. LIKE and SHARE to warn other South Australians of the impacts of battery storage! South Australians must look for safe alternatives to provide cheap and reliable energy like high efficiency, low emissions power.”
To add to the alarm, they used a completely unrelated image (see below) of Firefighters in full hazmat suits decontaminating themselves and a photo of a Lithium battery (that doesn’t actually contain acid).
His claim was the leak “contaminated areas within the hospital”. Really? The article cited said “The spill was contained to the (generator) room”.
McEachan’s statement implies that a hospital full of patients was affected when in fact that was not the case – it was an area purpose built for generators and batteries and designed to safely contain such an incident and protect the greater hospital from any potential risk.
He also claimed the batteries “ruptured, spraying 80 litres of sulphuric acid,” although the MFS said in the article “they leaked the corrosive acid”. More scaremongering.
And to round it out, he said “South Australians must look for safe alternatives to provide cheap and reliable energy like high efficiency, low emissions power”. His alternative for safe and low emissions power?
Coal fired energy!
Post after post after post cites misinformation about renewables and the benefits of “high efficiency, low emissions” or HELE as the future of Australia. (Interestingly, ABC TV’s 4 Corners shared the video of its May 2017 “Power failure” report directly onto Energy In Australia’s FB page. See image below.)
Energy In Australia also directly perpetuates the myth of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) claiming a coal fired power plant using Carbon Capture and storage reduces emissions by 90% and that “around the world 800 HELE stations in operation or under construction”.
Almost every energy body in Australia has dispelled the notion of CCS as impractical, in the very early stages of demonstration and even the Coal lobby admits adding CCS makes coal fired power utterly uncompetitive.
I couldn’t find any evidence that 800 HELE plants are in operation – as claimed by this Energy In Australia post shared and endorsed last October by Liberal MP George Christensen – but note in their video – which was also shared on the same day (October 10, 2017) by another Liberal MP, Ken O’Dowd – the claim shifts to “planned, under construction or in operation”.
To top it off the video explainer that heads up the Facebook page gives the tantalising headline: “Here’s a helpful video explaining why our power bills keep going up and what the answer is!”
And what does McEachan cite as “Reason 1” for increasing electricity bills? “Subsidies for renewable energy”.
An outrageous, misleading and deceptive lie, no less. Renewable subsidies are not the major reason electricity prices are increasing as demonstrated again and again and again even by the Liberal Government’s own reviews.
I am outraged and incensed that a former Member of Parliament is allowed to get away with spreading lies, misconceptions and alarmist anti-renewable propaganda, let alone that he is allowed to clearly infer that he is a legitimate MP, despite this not being the case.
(Note: Attempts to contact McEachan through phone, email and Facebook were not successful)