Category Archives: Coal mining

April 5,2006 – The orange-bellied parrot versus the wind farm…

On this day 11 years ago the then Environment Minister Ian Campbell rejected  the $220m 52-turbine  ‘Bald Hills’ Victorian wind farm which passed all planning hurdles.  James Prest, in an excellent edited volume called ‘Climate Law in Australia’ takes up the story.

Senator Campbell held a media conference in his home town of Perth to publicly announce the refusal of the Bald Hills wind farm. This was an unusual step in decision-making under the EPBC Act. The maximum publicity most EPBC decisions receive is a silent announcement on the departmental website. Campbell said:
I’ve announced this morning that I have decided not to approve the Bald Hills wind farm in Victoria. I have done so on the basis that the report commissioned by my department has said that the Orange-bellied Parrot, which is threatened and is in a very precarious situation as a species, can’t really stand any further potential impacts. The wind farm proposed could have such an impact and hasten the extinction of that species.
(Prest, 2007: 232)

This was complete tosh, and the decision was later overturned. Campbell did not last much longer in his job…  All part of the unrelenting hostility to renewables, eh?

See also: Hogan, J. 2006. Fury over wind farm decision. The Age, 5 April.

and http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2006/s1610250.htm

 

Also on this day – 

2005  COAL21’s first conference

2011 Greenhouse 2011 in Cairns, with a speech by Greg Combet

2011 exp-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd defending himself on climate change policy on ABC TV’s Monday night “Q&A”. See Bob Carr on this– Carr argues Rudd could have used GGAS model after Turnbull was overthrown and the CPRS therefore stuffed…

2 April 1978 – Australian Coal Association starts having conferences…

On this day 39 years ago, the first Australian Coal Conference began in Surfers Paradise, Queensland.  2 – 6 April 1978.

These shindigs, which happened every second year, would continue until 2000.  Climate change got a super-brief mention in 1988 (the conference happened in April) and a heckuva lot more coverage in 1990 (with the usual mix of denial and technology will fix it). The conferences hosted scientific luminaries like Fred Singer and Pat Michaels too. The industry, which saw these conferences as a chance to sniff out deals and schmooze, finally got fed up with a (to them) excessive focus on climate policy after the 2000 conference, and the Australian Coal Association stopped having a conference.  Other outfits (Coaltrans for example) took up the slack a bit…  But that’s for another day…

 

Also on this day –

In 2001, a day after John Howard sent a ‘good on you mate’ letter to George ‘hanging chad’ Bush, his Federal cabinet went ‘heh heh, yeah, me too’.

“A string of federal ministers, led by Prime Minister John Howard, voiced support for the US position following the March 29 announcement by Washington that it would not support the Kyoto Protocol. Federal cabinet decided on April 2 to support the US decision. The government declared that it will not ratify the Kyoto Protocol unless the US does.”

https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/canberra-covers-bush-greenhouse

Meanwhile, The April 2 Age 2001 printed an article by Ray Evans from the Lavoisier Group, in which he stated: “President Bush has shown courage and provided world leadership by announcing that the United States will not support the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gas emissions. What is baffling, however, is that some senior members of the Australian government do not seem prepared to immediately lend support to Bush. In the interests of good policy and good science, they should do so.”

March 30, 2000 – Environment Minister attacks industry over emissions

People who know about these things say Robert Hill was a lone voice of reason in the Cabinet of John Howard.  As Environment Minister from 1996 to late 2001, Hill did the best he could with the cards he was dealt.  He lost all of the big battles, of course, but that doesn’t reflect on him so much as on the Howard cabinet and the lack of prolonged noisy pressure from ‘Joe and Jane Public’… so it goes.  Anyway, on this day in 2000 Hill served a dish of complaint to (un-named) Australian companies.

Industry has been slammed by Environment Minister Senator Robert Hill for its slowness to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I’m not inclined to reward those companies who make Australia’s emission reduction task more difficult,” Senator Hill said yesterday.

The blunt message came at The Australian Financial Review’s Third Annual Emissions Forum, being held in Sydney. But industry wants the government to provide better incentives to reduce emissions.

Hordern, N. 2000. Hill attacks industry over gas emissions. The Australian Financial Review, 31 March, p27.

 

Also on this day- 

George Bush Jnr had withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol negotiations in late March 2001.  This caused ructions –

The Prime Minister and his Environment Minister seemed at odds yesterday over the United States’s dumping of the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gas emissions.

2001 Clennell, A. and Kerr, J. 2001. Greenhouse Stand Puts Libs At Odds. Sydney Morning Herald, 31 March, p11.

By 2007, climate change was seriously on the agenda –

IN THE sometimes icy world of climate change politics, there appears to be a quiet hum of agreement about the desirability of an emissions trading scheme.

The visiting climate change economist, Sir Nicholas Stern, supports the idea.

The Prime Minister, after years of disinterest, has given it a tentative tick of approval by commissioning a task group on emissions trading, which will report at the end of May. And the state governments have set up their own emissions trading taskforce.

Even the big polluters – Qantas, Alumina, BHP – all endorse it in submissions to the two inquiries. But there are serious divisions about how an emissions trading scheme might work.

Saulwick, J. 2007. Climate change debate warms up in corporate world.  Sydney Morning Herald, 30 March.

In 2012 Nikki Williams of the Australian Coal Association gave a speech in Beijing extolling the virtues of carbon capture and storage.

“Having Carbon Capture and Storage technology at commercial scale deployed widely around the globe, is absolutely critical to ensure a sustainable future for fossil fuels in a restructuring global energy economy.”

Oddly, it was  8 long years after  O’Neill, M. (2004) Coal industry’s plans to clean up its act should not be lightly dismissed Canberra Times 30th March

And since CCS hasn’t happened, and won’t happen, what does that mean, given that it was ‘absolutely critical’…

March 28, 2010 – Protest flotilla aims to block coal ships in Newcastle port

On this day in 2010,  “A flotilla of 60 rafts, kayaks and a yacht try to blockade coal ship movement into the port of Newcastle. Newcastle is the port through which the rapidly expanding coal mines in the Hunter Valley are being exported. “We’re not willing to accept the massive expansion of the coal industry in New South Wales and coal is Australia’s major contributor to climate change and it’s also the fastest growing,” said Rising Tide spokesperson, Naomi Hodgson.”

Source:  sourcewatch

Here’s the ABC take – Protesters trying to block Newcastle’s coal port

Also on this day-

In 1994, with the carbon tax/levy battle still ahead, the Australian Conservation Foundation tried to salvage something from the wreckage, urging “substantial rises in taxation and a jobs levy, to fund environmental and conservation measures and to reduce next year’s Budget deficit by between $1 billion and $1.5 billion.”

Ellis, S. 1994. Consensus emerges among lobbyists. The Australian Financial Review, 29 March, p.4.

In 2015 the “Setting Australia’s post-2020 target for greenhouse gas emissions” Issues Paper was released: The paper raised questions about what Australia’s post-  2020 emission reduction target should be, and how that target would affect the nation.

March 27, 2008 – James Hansen writes to Kevin Rudd. For all the good it did.

On this day in 2008, an open letter from climate scientist James Hansen arrived in the new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s inbox.  Rudd had taken office the previous November, and was enjoying stratospherically high approval ratings.

2008 03 27 hansen letterIt’s a letter that came shortly after Ross Garnaut’s first interim report was produced, and careful observers could see which way the wind was blowing.  Hansen’s letter is well worth a read.  Here’s a taste.

Yet there are plans for continuing mining of coal, export of coal, and construction of new coal-fired power plants around the world, including in Australia, plants that would have a lifetime of half a century or more. Your leadership in halting these plans could seed a transition that is needed to solve the global warming problem.

Yeah.

 

Also on this day-

In 1999 the ABC’s Radio National ran a programme on Greenhouse Emissions Trading, since the Australian Greenhouse Office was busy trying to get it up the policy agenda.

 

And in 2001  Senator Bob Brown tried to get parliamentarians roused to get their own house in order. Yeah, good luck with that.

Senator BROWN (2:43 PM) —Madam President, my question is directed to you. I refer to the government’s $3.9 million greenhouse advertising program headed up by Don Burke and ask: have you been approached by anybody, the Prime Minister or the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, to implement that program in Parliament House? If so, how is it going? If not, is it true that there are some 500 television sets which could be turned off at the wall each night in Parliament House but which may not be? Is it true that there are some 300 shower heads in Parliament House which are not AAA shower heads, though householders around Australia have been asked to put AAA shower heads into their showers? Are there 500 or more fridges in Parliament House which could be turned up one degree, which, according to the advertising, would save 50 kilograms of greenhouse gases for each fridge? That is about 25,000 kilograms of greenhouse gases per annum.

 

March 26, 2007 – Nobody loves CCS

On this day in 2007 the Brisbane Courier-Mail published an article which attempted to pour cold water on the hot hype around “Carbon Capture and Storage.”

With the startlingly innovative headline  Clean coal is all hot air” and written by  Dr Alex Robson, who at the time  lectured in economics at the Australian National University (is now at Griffith)

It begins thus-

Last month Federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd announced Labor’s National Clean Coal Initiative.

Roughly speaking, the term clean coal refers to various technologies for removing carbon dioxide from coal when it is used to generate electricity, both before and after combustion occurs. The term encompasses carbon capture and storage technologies.

Rudd’s policy commits $500 million of taxpayer funds on the development of these technologies, with the proviso that each taxpayer dollar must be matched by two private sector dollars.

Rudd also proclaimed that Labor would establish an emissions trading scheme, set renewable energy targets, develop plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, convene a summit on climate change and ratify the Kyoto protocol.

Apart from ratifying an obsolete international treaty and organising yet another Canberra talkfest, Labor’s policy of subsidising corporations, making grandiose plans and setting impressive-sounding targets is eerily similar to existing Government policy.

 

The Lavoisier Group liked it so much they slapped the whole thing on their website.

Also on this day- 

In 2010  an answer was given in parliament about the size of the Australian delegation to the failed climate talks at Copenhagen. It was a lot of people-

“The final Australian Delegation to COP15 comprised 98 people, which included 30 observers from State and Territory Governments and non-government organisations. The name, title and agency for each member of the Official Australian Delegation is attached to this answer. The names of Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers providing protection to the Prime Minister have not been provided. The AFP does not comment on security or issues that may disclose methodology associated with security matters”

 

March 24, 2004 – “Coal 21” plan launched

On this day in 2004 the Coal21 national plan was launched

It had been knocking about for a bit – see this

Hennessy, C. 2003. Future Of Coal Looks `cleaner’. The Newcastle Herald,13 September

ANY “sunset” scenario for the Hunter’s coal industry would be a cleaner one, industry leaders said yesterday.

Using Coal21, a paper put together by the state and federal governments as a starting point, panellists looked at whether the billion dollar industry had a use-by date a “sunset”.

NSW Minerals Council executive director John Tucker said many in the industry believed the move to more diverse energy sources would start to occur in big numbers in 40 to 50 years.

and was part of the whole “technology will fix it, if it is in fact a problem” mentality which is still alive and quivering in 2017, at least in the more scientifically illiterate corners of the Coalition parties and its cultural supporters.

The plan itself, which talked about a voluntary levy on coal exports to fund research into ‘clean coal’, was attacked

Day, A. 2004 Coal research `just a hand-out. Australian Financial Review, 25 March.

Taxpayers will fund half the coal industry’s initial research into greenhouse gas reduction in a move environmentalists and opposition parties say is “corporate welfare” that focuses too much on non-renewable energy sources.

Federal resources minister Ian Macfarlane said the government would pay $500,000 to the coal industry’s research into lower-cost sequestration the storage of waste carbon dioxide in saturated underground rock and other methods….

Democrats leader Andrew Bartlett said the decision to subsidise coal industry emission research as part of the government’s COAL21 project was corporate hand-out at the expense of regulatory and market-based measures.

“Low-emission coal technology cannot achieve the deep cuts that are necessary to ensure Australia is able to shoulder its share of the burden for reducing the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases,” he said.

The ALP and Greens also condemned the plan as unbalanced and undermining renewable energy solutions.

and then defended

O’Neill, M. 2004. Coal industry’s plans to clean up its act should not be lightly dismissed. Canberra Times, 30 March.

And only two years later, when climate change “burst” onto the Australian public policy did that levy kick in. And even then… ah, but this is for another day…

 

Also on this day- 

1990 Federal Election – climate barely mentioned, but Libs did have stronger policy.  Not that it did them any good…

“The backlash against environmentalists began very publicly on election night. Peter Walsh launched a bitter attack on them from the tally room, attempting to deny any influence they might have had on the outcome. He was joined in later weeks and months by a number of Cabinet ministers, largely but not exclusively from the economic portfolios, but careful evaluation of that election result makes Walsh’s assertion untenable.

Malcolm Mackerras (The Australian, March 1, 1993) summarises the result well: on the primaries, the Coalition had 43.5 per cent to Labor’s 39.4 per cent, the Democrats 11.3 and others 5.8 per cent.

However, Labor’s environment second-preference strategy was so successful that the two-way party preferred vote became 50.1 per cent for the Coalition and 49.9 per cent for Labor (which just fell over the line to win in seats).”

Toyne, P. 1993. Environment forgotten in the race to the Lodge. Canberra Times, 8 March p. 11.

1995  The Australian  published (page 10) a story by Julian Cribb with the title  Greenhouse theory ‘still uncertain’. It began –

AUSTRALIA’S top science bodies say much uncertainty remains over greenhouse warming predictions despite claims by Argentinian researchers that Antarctica’s ice shelf has begun cracking up.

Current increases in global temperature cannot be linked with certainty to human action, the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering caution in a joint report released yesterday.

That report?  Simon Grose of the Canberra Times reported the following day

Grose, S. (1995) Industry seeking energy solutions Canberra Times Sunday 26 March

 

The report has the backing of a steering committee with representatives from a wide range of organisations including the Institution of Engineers and the World WideFund for Nature, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Business Council of Australia, BHP and the Department of Environment Sport and Territories.

I have a copy somewhere. Doubtless depressing-with-the-benefit-of-hindsight stuff… Oh well…

2011 legislation was “introduced for a carbon offset to create incentives for carbon avoidance projects in the land sector: The Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011 creates the Carbon Farming Initiative which is the first scheme of its kind globally.”