Australian coal climate - Feb 12
Interested Australians are a bit agog over the weeks coverage of climate and coal. FYI, Australia exported 231Mt or 30% of the international trade in coal, double the next largest exporter Indonesia at 108Mt (World Coal Institute). With such dominance in the export market, what if Australia required importers to cap & trade their emissions down before we'd supply? Stranger things have happened: until Greens Party Leader Bob Brown advocated planning to phase out the coal industry less than a week ago I don’t think any Australian politician had ever publicly called for such a thing, now we have the economics editor of a major newspaper defending the idea! -LJ
Stop coal exports within 3 years, Brown says
"I'm talking about a plan within one term of government for the phasing out of coal and we do need extreme measures compared to what's happened in the past, but the extremists here are the Howard Government," [Green Party Leader Bob Brown] said.
Senator Brown says new jobs can be created in the renewable energy sector and he believes phasing out coal exports must be part of Australia's answer to the challenge of climate change.
"We have to get a plan that's going to get the endorsement of the country into play within a period of government or we're being negligent, and the Howard Government should have done that 10 years ago," he said. "It won't look at it, the challenge is now to Rudd Labor - will you endorse us coming up with a plan within three years to phase out the export of coal."
(9 Feb 2007)
See here for Browns side. He has been misconstrued as saying he wants to shut down the coal industry within three years starting now, which isn’t exactly what he said (but may be what he thinks). See Coal ban would crush economy if unclear where the government stands.-LJ
Howard talks nonsense about miners' jobs
Ross Gittins, The Age
JOHN HOWARD can't give us economic policy without mixing it up with tricky politics. He's put a new spin on the response to global warming by pledging that protecting coalminers' jobs will be paramount.
He says he has no intention of introducing measures that would undermine Australia's competitive advantage in fossil fuels.
"We are not going to sacrifice the jobs of coal miners in pursuit of some kind of knee-jerk reaction," he insists. It's hard to know whether he's trying to wedge his Labor opponents, trying to cover his embarrassing U-turn on climate change or whether he just doesn't get it.
But one thing's certain: in carrying on about the potential threat to miners' jobs he's talking economic nonsense. The national emissions trading scheme we're contemplating would do little to adversely affect our coal industry. ..
He's a double hypocrite. He claims to believe in protecting jobs when he doesn't. And he's promising to protect jobs that don't need protecting.
The broader point, however, is that the whole purpose in adopting an emissions trading scheme - or a carbon tax, for that matter - is to bring about structural change in the economy. It's to shift resources (including labour) from high-emitting activities to low-emitting activities and do it in a way that minimises the loss of economic activity overall and avoids distorting resource allocation.
In all the ill-considered rabbiting on about competitiveness there seems to be a fear that, if we're too tough on our coal industry, coal production will simply move to other countries where governments are lax.
But this reveals an ignorance of coal. Production of manufactures may move around the world in pursuit of the cheapest labour, but coal production gravitates to where the coal deposits are highest quality and most easily mined. ..
(12 Feb 2007)
New Anvil Hill coalmine likely to get go ahead
Lindy Kerin, ABC Radio Transcript
ELIZABETH JACKSON: In a week when global warming and climate change has dominated the political agenda, and the environmental impacts of the coal industry have sparked emotive debate, a proposed coalmine in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales has moved a step closer towards approval.
If it gets the go ahead, the Anvil Hill project would produce up to 10 million tonnes of coal a year for domestic and export markets.
High-profile environmentalist, Professor Tim Flannery and Greens Senator Bob Brown, have both called for the coal export industry to be shut down to help reduce greenhouse gases. That's despite the fact that coal is the nation's biggest commodity export, worth more than $23 billion last year.
Lindy Kerin reports.
LINDY KERIN: The Hunter Valley in New South Wales has the largest number of coalmines in Australia, and it looks set to get another one. ..
The Greens Leader Bob Brown says Australia should stop exporting the product to help combat climate change.
BOB BROWN: We have to have a plan that's going to get the endorsement of the country into play, within a period of government, or we're being negligent.
LINDY KERIN: The Prime Minister John Howard says Australia must respond to the problem of global warming, but in a practical way that minimises the economic effects.
The mining industry has dismissed the idea of phasing out coal exports as ridiculous. ..
(10 Feb 2007)
Saving precious water at the flick of a switch
Tim Flannery, The Age
What is the best way to save water? You might be surprised to learn that turning off the light can help. It takes enormous quantities of water to generate Australia's electricity.
That's because we're so dependent on old-fashioned coal-fired power stations. For every megawatt of power they generate, they take two tonnes of water (and produce one to 11/2 tonnes of carbon dioxide and lesser amounts of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide).
For a city such as Sydney, so great is the power demand that a fifth of the city's water needs is consumed by electricity generation. That water is used in steam generation and cooling. ..
There are, of course, technologies that can generate electricity using less water than conventional coal, or no water at all. The newest two of Queensland's coal-fired power plants are air-cooled, so while they still generate greenhouse gases, they don't use precious water. Modern gas-fired power plants use just one tonne of water for each megawatt of electricity generated, and far less carbon dioxide than coal, so switching to them is a great step forward. ..
In future, the rising price of water, and the need to resort to technologies such as desalination, must drive up the price of the electricity generated using this technology, which will make the renewables more competitive. This means that the old-fashioned, coal-fired power plants are being caught in a pincer movement that must inevitably hasten their decommissioning.
Given the enormous problems we face in managing water, and in combating climate change, it may be best to face the issue of their decommissioning now, rather than wait until the ever-drier heavens forces the issue.
(12 Feb 2007)