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Wind turbines at an Australian wind farm. Photo: Martin Ollman/Getty Images

U.S. critics of renewable energy and other climate-friendly policy often cite Australia’s woes — expensive and sometimes unreliable electricity — as evidence their arguments are sound. That ignores one of America's most important natural resources.

Driving the news: At a Capitol Hill event Wednesday opposing the Green New Deal, Rep. Paul Gosar (R.-Ariz.), said "Aussies' obsession with renewables has destroyed their electric grid. … Let's learn from Australia’s mistakes, not repeat them."

Reality check: Gosar is inaccurate to place all blame on renewables — and America almost certainly wouldn't be subject to similar issues because of its wealth of natural gas as a source of electricity.

  • America's domestic market for natural gas, particularly in electricity, is far larger than the market in Australia, which exports most of its gas and remains overwhelmingly dependent upon coal for electricity. Domestic natural gas prices down under have risen sharply — another factor driving power prices up there.
  • The large amount of natural gas, which recently surpassed coal as America's dominant electricity source, entering the U.S. electricity system over the last several years acts as a sort of pillow for variable wind and solar resources.
  • Those variable wind and solar resources are just one factor contributing to Australia’s high electricity prices and reliability problems, according to experts and an Australian government agency report completed last summer. Others include expensive transmission networks, lack of sustained investment in new electricity capacity and inconsistent government policy. In fact, transmission networks is the dominant cause, per that report.
  • Gosar said in a statement to Axios that the Green New Deal, a progressive policy aimed at drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions, would eliminate natural gas use in America and that increases to Australian's electricity bills from environmental costs are unsustainable and a bad model for America. 

What they're saying: "The U.S. got lucky with shale natural gas. Because it managed to unearth this enormous low-cost resource, you’ve managed to avoid all the problems that Australia has encountered," according to Kobad Bhavnagri, an Australia-based BloombergNEF expert, whom I spoke with by phone during a recent trip there.

  • "By increasing the amount of gas in the system, it’s also made the system more compatible for higher amount of renewables because gas generation is more flexible, much more flexible than coal."
  • "It suits a system where it can reliably work and continue to make money in a system where there's a lot more renewables, while coal is much more difficult."

Go deeper:

Note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Kobad Bhavnagri's last name and include his company's new name.

Go deeper

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Kellyanne Conway's parting power pointers

Kellyanne Conway addresses the 2020 Republican National Convention. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Kellyanne Conway has seen power exercised as a pollster, campaign manager and senior counselor to President Trump. Now that his term in office has concluded, she shared her thoughts with Axios.

Why it matters: If there's a currency in this town, it's power, so we've asked several former Washington power brokers to share their best advice as a new administration and new Congress settle in.

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GOP holdouts press on with plans to crush Cheney

Screenshot of emails to a member of Congress from individuals who signed an Americans for Limited Government petition against Rep. Liz Cheney. Photo obtained by Axios

Pro-Trump holdouts in the House are forging ahead with an uphill campaign to oust Rep. Liz Cheney as head of the chamber's Republican caucus even though Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told them to back down.

Why it matters: What happens next will be a test of McCarthy's party control and the sincerity of his opposition to the movement. Cheney (R-Wyo.) is seen as a potential leadership rival to the California Republican.

Democrats aim to punish House GOP for Capitol riot

Speaker Nancy Pelosi passes through a newly installed metal detector at the House floor entrance Thursday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Democrats plan to take advantage of corporate efforts to cut funding for Republicans who opposed certifying the 2020 election results, with a plan to target vulnerable members in the pivotal 2022 midterms for their role in the Jan. 6 violence.

Why it matters: It's unclear whether the Democrats' strategy will manifest itself in ads or earned media in the targeted races or just be a stunt to raise money for themselves. But the Capitol violence will be central to the party's messaging as it seeks to maintain its narrow majorities in Congress.