A Diesel in the Shed

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

A Diesel in the Shed

By Viv Forbes
13 April 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, we relied on green energy – horses and human muscles provided motive power; fire-wood and beeswax candles supplied heat and light; windmills pumped water and the sun provided solar energy for growing crops, vegies 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 But all that effort, noise and fumes were superseded when every house and dairy got connected to clean silent “coal power by wire”.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.

As some wag said:
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.

Viv Forbes
Rosevale   Qld Australia

Further Reading

Tasmania’s Bass Link cable fails. Gas imports boom:

Tasmania puts some diesels in the shed:

South Australia demolishes their last coal power station:

South Australia puts some diesels in the shed:

UK offers subsidies to put some diesels in the shed:

The Sun in Spain shines better at night:


All about diesel back-up Generators:


4 thoughts on “A Diesel in the Shed”

  1. How about the UK diesel powered cars are greener than petrol.

    Because of the Government subsidy offered plus the dishonest software debacle diesel powered vehicles formed a significant part of the vehicle fleet.

    Problem was the emissions from diesels reduce CO2 by an insignificant amount while at the same time emit particulates we spent a generation removing from power station exhausts in order to clean up the air.

    The result in the UK has been deteriorating air quality in cities all thanks to green zealots who advocate stupidity.

    Who in their right mind thinks diesel powered vehicles are cleaner ?

    And don’t even mention switching a power station from burning local coal to burning forests imported from the US as pellets !

    The green zealots are basically mentally disturbed if they think these bizarre schemes are “clean”.

  2. South Australia has lost one very large diesel in the shed.
    When the electrical power is short for any reason in Tasmania or South Australia both states rely on backup coal fired cabled power from the state of Victoria.
    The short sighted Victorian government have chosen to make one of the the largest coal fired plants not financially viable by the implementation of green taxes and anti coal policy. Jus two weeks ago this massive coal fired plant was shut down.
    This plant was largely responsible to provide backup power to the the other states via networked cables in the event of breakdowns.

  3. actually the old single or double cylinder gennies dont really stink that badly and they can use a wide variety of fuel sources as well
    theyre rather a pleasant sound off in the shed thumping n humming away
    i am hunting one myself still a few pretty decent condition ones around
    the hardest bit is beating the rabid collectors
    fair enough they DO save them
    but they also have many -dont usually use them for anything but static displays at shows n club events.
    all well n good but people like me want them for backup to run my only source of firefighting water from my bore when the powers down and fires likely.
    im approaching 60 and i and many others would still have memories of the 10pm lights out call;-)
    and the slow fade down of the interior house lights as the generator was shut down for the night.
    in 1969 in Adelaide city we were still using an ice chest for food and using kero lanterns inside because we couldnt afford to put the power on.deserted mums with kids got no help from any govt handouts/support or charities back then. you made do or went without.
    A whole new spoilt snowflake gen might be about to come in contact with harsher reality sometime soon.
    It might just be the making of them!

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