On Thursday, the government's energy policy committee chair Craig Kelly suggested a link between renewable energy subsidies and deaths this winter.
Kelly told ABC's AM program, Australians will be unwilling to turn on their heaters this winter because of high power prices pushed up by government subsidies for renewable energy power sources.
"People will die," Kelly said. "We've seen reports only recently that one-in-four Australian households this winter will be frightened to turn the heater on because of the price of electricity."
It led to this gloomy headline from ABC News:
As Guardian Australia noted, an Abbott government review found the renewable energy target actually did the opposite to Kelly's assertion. That is, it put downward pressure on power prices.
Labor's energy and climate change spokesperson Mark Butler jumped on the remarks, tweeting: "No wonder Govt can't deliver energy policy."
It's not the first time Kelly has linked renewable energy to death.
It's not even the second time.
Last year, Kelly made a largely ignored speech to the House of Representatives about the number of child drownings in Australia.
Kelly's child drowning speech raised the issue of renewable energy policies. His argument went... power prices --> local swimming centres --> heating pools --> more expensive swimming lessons --> child drownings:
We cannot ignore that fact in this parliament that there are policies being put in by governments, both state and federal, that are increasing the costs of electricity, and by doing so we increase the cost of swimming lessons. That is a fact.
In the same speech, Kelly also linked housing policies to child drownings:
I think of my experience growing up in Peakhurst, just a middle class suburb in the south of Sydney, many neighbours had the simple backyard swimming pools, above the ground… and we learned to swim.
That opportunity will be denied to thousands and thousands of young kids because of the change of housing policy in this nation where more and more children will be growing up in high rise apartments.
A year earlier, Kelly stood to speak on a parliamentary adjournment and mounted the argument that renewable energy can lead to cancer.
The MP from Sydney said Labor's clean energy target would increase power prices, which would mean more people burning wood to heat their homes, increasing air pollution, more "particulate matter", and in turn a higher risk of lung cancer:
We need to think about the unintended consequences of our policies. Policies that the Labor Party is proposing, such as a 50 per cent renewable energy target, although they might fill some hearts with warmth and joy, will push up electricity prices. They will result in more people burning wood in Western Sydney, result in greater pollution and result in death. It is that serious. We need to do everything we can to lower electricity prices in Western Sydney, and we need to keep a close eye on our air pollution levels.
It's a popular argument from Kelly. He did the same, linking renewables to burning wood and causing "cancer in humans", in February 2016:
By focusing our guns on carbon dioxide, we have implemented policies that have pushed up the price of electricity. So when we think that all these renewables are wonderful — which actually push up the price of electricity — what do consumers do?
In western Sydney, in a cold winter, if a consumer finds that his electricity price is too high, he has options, and one of those options is to light a log fire—to simply burn wood...
... If we continue on the rate that we are going, as shown in this report, as the learned professors have said, and if we lift the level from that 6.7 average up to 10, we are going to get a 48 per cent increase in deaths from fine particulate matter, from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease, in Western Sydney.
Just to recap, Kelly will be a lead voice in the government's response to renewable energy recommendations in the second half of this year. He also thinks renewables are linked to death.
Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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