Tag Archives: coal exports

Baillieu’s Coaltopia puts Victorians in danger

The Victorian State Government is currently considering a plan to offer mining licenses for large reserves of brown coal, with the aim of kick-starting a brown coal export industry in Victoria. They are also considering a taxpayer funded public relations campaign, on behalf of the coal companies, to convince Victorians that brown coal is great.

Mining companies are already lining up to bid for the right to dig up billions of tonnes of brown coal, in some of Victoria’s most productive agricultural regions.

This comes on top of the Baillieu Government’s destruction of the wind energy industry and is occurring alongside their destruction of the solar energy industry (they aim to get rid of the solar feed-in tariff for rooftop solar).

Under any reasonable analysis, this plan is indefensible. The only beneficiaries are the coal companies, who happen to donate money to the Liberal and National Parties.

There is a lot of misinformation and corporate propaganda flying around on this issue, so Yarra Climate Action Now wants to clear the air with a few key points:

1. There’s no such thing as “clean coal”.

Brown coal is the dirtiest and most polluting fossil fuel used in Australia. Some of the “new” technologies proposed for treating the brown coal (which the coal lobby deceptively refers to as “clean” or “pristine” coal) will only reduce brown coal’s greenhouse gas emissions to the level of black coal, or at best, fossil gas. This is far from clean and nowhere near the zero emissions status of renewable energy.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) which is also sometimes referred to as “clean coal” doesn’t exist, and is still only theoretical. Even its most enthusiastic proponents say it will not be ready for at least another 20 years, by which time renewable energy will be far cheaper anyway.

“Clean” coal is nothing but a delay strategy put forward by the coal lobby to slow down the roll-out of renewable energy and ensure they can keep making obscene profits for a little while longer.

2. Baillieu’s plan will increase electricity prices.

Baillieu’s destruction of the wind energy industry already means that Victorians will be paying billions more for our electricity than we otherwise would be. A brown coal export industry will expose Victorians to international pricing for coal, something we are shielded from since brown coal is not currently exported. This will increase domestic coal prices and increase the cost of electricity production in Victoria.

3. Brown coal development will kill jobs.

If you invest your money in one thing, then you don’t have money to invest in another. Money going into brown coal development will reduce the amount of money going into renewable energy technologies. And guess what! Renewable energy is far more jobs-rich than fossil fuel technologies are.

The Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan calculated that if we transitioned our whole economy to one that is run by 100% renewable energy, 40,000 permanent jobs would be created, and 20,000 jobs would be lost. That is, for every job lost in the fossil fuel sector, 2 jobs would be created in the renewable energy sector due to its higher labour needs.

If the money going into brown coal was shifted to building renewable energy and establishing a renewable energy components manufacturing industry, then far more jobs would be created, and they would be sustainable for the long term too.

4. Investing in coal is bad for the Victorian economy.

Lobbyist Dan Cass outlines the economic stupidity of  investing in brown coal in his article on the ABC website. He says:

Premier Ted Baillieu’s plan to expand Victoria’s brown coal sector is a blow to our economic credibility.

“The world is switching to renewable energy and brown coal, the dirtiest, least efficient way to generate energy, will be left for dead.

“China is the biggest coal consumer in the world, but it is planning to cap coal imports in 2015. That is only three years away. Victoria’s new brown coal mines will not even be a hole in the ground by then, let alone a viable export industry.

“India is another big coal customer that is turning to renewable energy, because it is more economically viable. The Indian government put an industry plan in place to bring the cost of solar below the cost of coal, by 2022. A review of this ‘Grid Parity’ by KPMG found that it was likely to be reached five years earlier, by 2017!

“The USA is still the economic powerhouse and it sets the global energy agenda. It also has an industry plan like India’s, which will get solar cheaper than brown coal by 2020. That is only eight years away.

To summarise – the world is shifting away from coal and we will be left with stranded assets and a product no one wants to buy. We should be putting our money into the energy technologies of the present and future, not the 19th Century.

5. A brown coal export industry is a climate disaster.

The climate science is clear. There is already too much carbon in the atmosphere to prevent catastrophic climate change. We need to get to zero emissions and start removing the excess carbon we have been adding to the atmosphere as quickly as is humanly possible.

Brown coal is currently not exported due to its unstable nature. If left at room temperature it can spontaneously combust, making it too dangerous to transport long distances. If the coal companies get their way and they can develop technologies to make brown coal suitable for export, then more coal will be exported, making coal more accessible to countries currently deciding their energy futures and thereby delaying the urgent and necessary transition to zero-emissions technologies.

Coal mine destroying agricultural land in NSW. Photo: Jeremy Buckingham MLC

6. This brown coal plan will reduce our food security.

Coal mines are planned for Bacchus Marsh and many other areas in Victoria, particularly Gippsland. These are some of the most agriculturally productive regions in Victoria, supplying Melbourne and many other places with fresh fruits, vegetables, grain and dairy products. With the impacts of the climate crisis, including droughts, floods and heatwaves, reducing our ability to produce food globally, the productive land we do have is becoming more and more precious.

No matter what the coal industry says, we can’t eat coal. Food security is more important than the profits of mining companies.

7. We don’t even need coal anyway.

We already have the renewable energy technology to get to 100% renewable energy and replace the baseload power we get from coal and gas. Renewable energy is rapidly dropping in price, and the more we build it, the cheaper it gets. Contrast this to coal and gas prices which are set to become even more volatile and will just keep going up in the long term. We don’t need coal anymore to produce our electricity.

 

The Greens have already come out and rightly condemned this plan, saying they will fight it. As has the Bass Coast Shire Council (Wonthaggi) and even the state Liberal Member of Parliament for that area, Ken Smith. The Federal Labor Party has continued its usual support of the fossil fuel lobby by saying they will allow a brown coal export industry to be developed, while the State Labor Party maintains an unprincipled silence (we have contacted our two state members of parliament, Bronwyn Pike and Richard Wynne, and await their responses).

To help stop this insane proposal please sign the petition here. If you want to get more actively involved (and unless more people do, then this will go ahead) please contact us or Quit Coal.

Battles against fossil fuel developments heat up in Victoria

There are a number of key battles being fought in Victoria right now against fossil fuel development. I have briefly outlined them below and provided links to further information. Please consider helping out in one or some of these campaigns. Allowing further development of fossil fuels considering the climate crisis we face is insanity and they cannot be allowed to go ahead.

 

Coal Seam Gas

Coal seam gas has been in the news quite a lot lately, with a massive groundswell of opposition to its development arising in rural QLD and NSW, where the industry has already begun extraction of gas from prime agricultural land, mostly against the wishes of the land owner. Apart from producing a highly greenhouse gas emitting fuel, coal seam gas extraction is dangerous and dirty – it pollutes groundwater, air and land in some of Australia’s most productive food growing areas. One company (Dart Energy) is even trying to drill for gas in the middle of Sydney!

Here in Victoria we don’t yet have a coal seam gas industry but there are exploration licenses covering huge areas of the state, from Gippsland out to the west. It’s only a matter of time before projects start to happen – so the industry needs to be stopped before it can do irreparable damage to our climate, air, land and water.

To find out more about coal seam gas, come along to hear Drew Hutton from Lock the Gate Alliance in QLD speak on Friday 7 October, 7.30pm, New Council Chambers at Trades Hall, cnr Lygon & Victoria Streets, Carlton.  Drew is an excellent speaker not to be missed. For more information on this even click here.

And please sign the petition to ban coal seam gas extraction in Victoria.

For more information on coal seam gas see the Lock the Gate Alliance and Gasland.

 

Bacchus Marsh brown coal mine and export industry

Shaun from the Switch Off Coal collective stops drilling for brown coal at Bacchus Marsh, 19 Sep 2011

Brown coal is the dirtiest of all fossil fuels and currently cannot be exported because it spontaneously combusts. However, Mantle Mining, together with their financial backers Cygnet Capital want to start a brown coal export industry in Victoria, starting with a coal mine in Bacchus Marsh and then drying the coal to stabilise it before exporting to India. The locals in Bacchus Marsh, including the affected land owners, do not want a coal mine ruining their land, and we don’t want more of our precious farmland containing the market gardens that grow our veggies ruined while a new fossil fuel industry is created.

Not only that, but India’s energy system is currently at a crossroads. If they cannot get their hands on cheap coal, then they will start the shift to renewable energy. This project is a key part of keeping alive their coal addiction.

Take Action! Email Cygnet Capital and demand that they pull their financing from this projectdj@cygnetcapital.com.au

 

HRL – a new coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley

The HRL project has been on the cards for many years. It is a brown coal-fired power station that uses new technology to make it as polluting as a black coal-fired power station. It was approved by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) this year and both the State and Federal Governments have committed taxpayer money to the project.

However, the Federal Government has yet to release its $100 million and may yet be convinced to pull the plug. Without federal money it will not go ahead. A petition is currently being put together (hard copy signatures only). Download it from here and get signing!

Environment Victoria and Doctors for the Environment are also taking the EPA and HRL to court, questioning the legality of the environmental approval. The case will start on 24 October.

For more information see the video below and click here.

 

 

Anglesea Coal Mine

For decades now, Alcoa has operated a coal mine right near Anglesea in order to obtain coal to power its aluminium smelter. Alcoa is now looking to extend its mining lease for 50 years past the current 2016 expiry. This will mean expanding the mine. Anglesea Primary School is about 1km from the open cut coal mine, and no independent monitoring of air quality has been done to date. The Alcoa power station fed by the mine emits 1161% more particulate matter than all of Hazelwood Power Station.

The residents of Anglesea want clean air and we want Alcoa to develop renewable energy sources for its smelter. We call on the State Government not to renew Alcoa’s lease.

For more information and to sign the petition click here.

Gillard Government already disappoints on climate

Unfortunately, the Gillard Prime Ministership has gotten off to a very bad start.

Within 24 hours of her swearing in, the Federal Government was signing a deal to export brown coal – the world’s dirtiest, most greenhouse gas intensive fuel – to Vietnam.

The greenwash was coming in thick and fast from the Trade Minister Simon Crean, who said the technology used in this export deal would clean up the brown coal – when in fact it will make it as polluting as black coal – still a disaster in terms of emissions produced.

So far, Victoria has avoided the coal export curse, with all its associated health and environment impacts, which affects NSW and QLD. This deal is a step in the wrong direction. Australia is the world’s biggest coal exporter and this makes us one of the biggest pushers of the fossil fuel drug which is causing global warming.

We must stop exporting coal as well as burning it within our own shores. Not only will this help avoid catastrophic climate change, a transition to renewable energy will create more jobs than it destroys and in the medium and long term provide a massive boost to the Australian economy.

Luckily this grubby deal did not go unnoticed. A group of people gathered at the Southbank hotel where the deal was signed, after being given only a few hours notice. The media coverage can be see here – The Age, ABC

It is crucial that the Australian public cuts through the spin coming from the Labor Party and judges Julia Gillard on her policies.

The children of the Khapi Community in Bolivia, where glacier retreat has robbed the community of its water and its livelihood.

An urgent message from Bolivia

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Steve and Naomi from Rising Tide reporting from Bolivia

Some countries around the world are feeling the effects of climate change more than others, yet most of us are unaware of these struggles. Australia is doing relatively well coping with the current effects of climate change for now, at least compared to some low lying island nations or communities reliant on the melt waters from glaciers.

This was made amazingly clear at the Bolivian hosted World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, April 2010. Throughout the conference, people spoke about losing human rights due to water shortages. Glacier-fed drinking water disappearing as global warming melts the snowy peaks away.

We learned that one of the glaciers in the Andes mountain chain, Chacaltaya was once a popular ski field, but has completely disappeared, years earlier than scientists predicted. And according to these same scientists, in the next 20-30 years most of the glaciers right across the Andes will go, affecting access to water for 70 million people.

One woman was very direct when talking us. “What can we do to stop this?

We considered Australia’s contribution to these climate problems. In Australia, we mine and burn coal as our number one energy source. We have some of the world’s largest per person carbon emissions due to our dirty energy supply. Even this seems insignificant compared to the coal we mine and export, releasing more CO2 than all of our domestic emissions combined.

Australia is the world’s biggest coal exporter, and state and federal governments are planning to expand this deadly industry, building roads and railways so we can send the coal to the ports faster, and pushing for new mines to be opened. That is, unless we stop them.

After a little scratching of our heads we turned back to the woman, “We could paint a banner with a glacier-fed community that reads, Please Stop Mining Coal, Climate Change is Taking Our Water”.

There was no going back now. This woman’s question set us on a path high into the Andes Mountains in search of an appropriate community. We found ourselves in the meeting room of local NGO Aqua Sustentable (Water Sustainability) explaining our odd sounding idea to strangers we hoped could help us in our quest to share this message with Australians back home.

Our enthusiasm caught on and days later we took off further up the mountains with their team. Within three hours we arrived at the Khapi community, passing seemingly endless fields of fresh growing food along the way. We learned the Khapi community is made up of about 40 families, all working together to grow their food, live in mud brick homes and use the glacier-fed water supply that literally flows right past their houses.

Upon arriving at the community, we were greeted by 30 smiling faces at the primary school. To begin, we gave a short presentation about Australia (and our world famous kangaroos) the coal industry, renewable alternatives and our climate change work back home. We spoke in English, another woman translated into Spanish, and then another young man spoke in the local Aymara language. Luckily, the photographs projected up onto the wall told most of the story.

It wasn’t a fun story to tell. Photos from near our home in the Hunter Valley NSW, showed open cut coal mining. Tiny spots in the dark hole were revealed to be enormous trucks hauling tones upon tones of coal. Huge smoke stacks spewing dark clouds of pollution. The more we told the story, the more the reality of what is going on really hit us.

The children seemed glued to the slides, including the photos of Australian banners. When we explained our banner idea they all cheered with excitement. They now had a chance to paint their own.

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The kids loved it. We were very impressed with the way they concentrated to make the banner the best it could be. They were obviously very proud of their hard work, parading the banner around the community above their heads, laughing and carrying on.

They soon reached a special lookout where we could see the towering glacier in all its glory. Illimani.

After the laughter and joy we shared with the kids, it was sobering to hear the words of community leader Severino Cortez Bilbao. “Recently we’ve started thinking about our Illimani. Before it was pure white, right down to there. In the last 5 or 6 years it’s suffered badly, it’s all black. Some people don’t think about it, but we are thinking about it, we’re thinking about our children, those who will come after, because we’re already getting on, we may not see what happens later on. If Illimani dries up, there’ll be no water and no life, no life.

This experience turned out to be far more than a banner painting exercise. It was life changing. We knew a little of warming events in mountainous regions of the world, but it was something else to visit a community where their glacier and water supply is disappearing before their eyes.

The challenge to support climate affected communities and to encourage action against climate change and coal mining is a large one, but the smiles of those children with the most to loose will stick with us for a while yet.

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