A Free-Market Energy Blog

A Diesel in the Shed

By Viv Forbes -- April 24, 2017

You can have your solar panels … and your turbines on the hills;

You can use the warmth of sunshine … to reduce your heating bills.

You can dream you’re self-sufficient … as you weed your vegie bed;

As long as you make sure to keep …  a diesel in the shed.

When I was a kid on a dairy farm in Queensland, Australia, we relied on green energy: horses and human muscles for motive power; fire-wood and beeswax candles for heat and light; windmills to pump water; and the sun to grow crops, vegetables, and pastures.

The only “non-green” energy used was a bit of kerosene for the kitchen lamp, and petrol for a small Ford utility.

Our life changed dramatically when we put a diesel in the dairy shed. This single-cylinder engine drove the milking machines, the cream separator and an electricity generator, which charged 16 lead-acid 2 volt batteries sitting on the veranda. This 32 volt DC system powered a modern marvel – bright light, at any time, in every room, at the touch of a switch.

There were no electric self-starters for diesels in those days – just a heavy crank handle. But all that effort, noise and fumes were superseded when every house and dairy got connected to clean silent “coal power by wire”. Suddenly the trusty “Southern Cross” diesel engines disappeared from Australian sheds and dairies.

In just one life-time, candles and kerosene were replaced by diesel, which was then replaced by clean silent ever-ready electricity.

Today, after Aussies have enjoyed decades of abundant reliable cheap electricity from coal, green energy gambling has taken Australia back to the era which kept a diesel in the shed.

Tasmania is the greenest state in Australia. It once had a vibrant economy that created mines, saw-mills, farms, orchards, oil and metal refineries, dams, hydro-power and railways. It is now a green no-go land. Greens have stopped new hydro developments, opposed mining, crippled the timber industry, prevented new wood-chip developments and will probably celebrate when their last refinery closes.

Tasmanians get their electricity mainly from hydro assets created long ago by their more productive ancestors. But recently a long drought caused a shortage of Tasmanian hydro-energy – they became reliant for up to 40% of their electricity needs on the Bass-link undersea cable bringing electricity from reliable coal-fired stations in Victoria and NSW.

However the overloaded Bass Link cable failed, and an old gas-powered station was brought back into service (importing gas from Victoria) to keep the lights on. Subsequently their politicians hurriedly put 150 diesel generators in their shed (costing A$11 million per month).

South Australia is the next greenest state in Australia, hosting about 35% of Australia’s wind turbines. These were force-fed into existence by mandatory green energy targets and tax benefits. In a burst of green destruction they also closed their gas-fired power stations and demolished their coal-fired station.

However wind power failed recently and a storm tore down their life-line bringing reliable coal power from Victoria. Now Premier Weatherill is planning to install up to 200 megawatts of diesel generators in his shed. Many residents are following his lead.

Question: “What did South Australians have before candles?” Answer: “Electricity”.

The UK has been badly infected by the green energy virus. Engineers warned that this intermittent and unpredictable supply had increased the risk of blackouts, so the UK government offered subsidies for emergency backup power. This subsidy, plus consumer concerns, put so many diesels in British sheds that they now provide a major backup capacity for UK electricity.

Many Spaniards found a diesel in the shed was very profitable. Their government had been drinking green-ale and offered attractive subsidies for solar power produced. The subsidy was very successful – so successful that someone eventually noticed that some suppliers were even producing “solar” power at night. It was coming from diesels in their sheds.

Finally, our green media likes to feature some green energy enthusiast who is “off the grid”. But it usually emerges later in the show that there is a diesel in their shed too.

Those who remember the days of relying on a noisy smelly diesel in the shed have no wish to be dragged back there by green zealots using the powers of government.


Vic Forbes is the founder of The Carbon Sense Coalition, a voluntary group of people concerned about the extent to which carbon is wrongly vilified in Western societies, particularly in government, the media, and in business circles that aims to restore balance and reason to the carbon debate, and to explain and defend the key role of carbon in production of most of our energy for heat, light, and transportation, and all of our food.

Further Reading

Tasmania’s Bass Link cable fails. Gas imports boom: http://www.smh.com.au/business/energy/hit-from-basslink-power-cable-failure-560m-and-rising-energyquest-20160602-gp9mxg.html

Tasmania puts some diesels in the shed: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-08/hydro-tasmania-to-decommission-diesel-generators-basslink-fixed/7492078

South Australia demolishes their last coal power station: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/04/10/south-australia-demolishes-their-last-coal-power-station/comment-page-1/#comment-2473296

South Australia puts some diesels in the shed: http://www.danvhp.com.au/2017/03/jays-green-credentials-burned-by-diesel-generators/

UK offers subsidies to put some diesels in the shed: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/06/uk-energy-bill-subsidies-driving-boom-in-polluting-diesel-farms

The Sun in Spain shines better at night: http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/465409/spanish_nighttime_solar_energy_fraud_unlikely_in_uk.html

All about diesel back-up Generators: http://www.aip.com.au/pdf/Diesel_fuel_Back-up_Generation.pdf

One Comment for “A Diesel in the Shed”

  1. John W. Garrett  

    They are going to learn the way that most people learn— the hard way.

    Unfortunately, if things keep going the way they’re going, they’re going to force me to bear the cost of their education.


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