Turnbull finally shows his hand on Australia's future

Malcolm Turnbull has had a busy few weeks making his presence felt and rolling out his new approach to government. But one issue he has been quiet on is the question of where he stands on the future of Australia’s energy sector.

Yesterday’s appointment of Dr Alan Finkel, a known advocate of nuclear energy, as Australia’s Chief Scientist raised the question of whether the government would again get behind the controversial energy source.

Dr Finkel said Australia should be considering the role nuclear energy could play in lowering Australia’s emissions, the ABC reports.

“It’s something that absolutely should be considered for a low emissions or a zero emissions future, but it’s not the only way forward,” he said.

However, it seems the prime minister and his Chief Scientist are already at odds on coal.

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At a media event this morning, he said, “My vision is for a country, a society, a world where we don’t use any coal, oil, or natural gas because we have zero-emissions electricity in huge abundance. But you can’t get there overnight.”

Mr Turnbull, on the other hand dismissed the idea that Australia would turn away from coal in the foreseeable future.

“Coal is a very important part, a very large part, the largest single part in fact, of the global energy mix, and likely to remain that way for a very long time,” Mr Turnbull said.

He believes “it would make not the blindest bit of difference to global emissions” if Australia stopped exporting coal because developing countries would source it from elsewhere and, most likely, of lesser quality.

This is the same “coal is cleaner” argument as his predecessor, however Mr Turnbull has stopped short of saying coal is “good for humanity” as Tony Abbott once did.

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Mr Turnbull said the government would adopt “whatever energy mix is appropriate” and that improving solar capabilities was crucial. He did not rule out nuclear energy, but acknowledged there were economic and environmental issues associated with nuclear technology.

John Howard’s government had an openly pro-nuclear stance when it lost the election in 2007.

How would you feel if the idea of nuclear power was raised again? Do you think it is a potential solution to climate change? What do you see as the risks or potential wins for Australia?