Pitt Digs In (Again) On Coal Mining ..And Burning

Minister for Resources Keith Pitt - Australian Coal

For the second time this week, Minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt has issued a media release defending Australia’s coal industry and use.

This appears to have been brought on by a couple of things – one was a study indicating pretty much all of Australia’s remaining coal reserves will need to remain unmined to help give the world a fighting chance on reining in temperature increase. The other event was a UN special adviser calling on the Australian Government to adopt more ambitious emissions reduction goals and rapidly phase out coal.

Minister Pitt is pretty proud of Australia’s association with the problematic black (and brown) rock that is increasingly creating misery for others and ourselves. After a missive on Monday indicating Australian policy would not be dictated by pesky foreigners trying to prevent (even more) climate change related disasters, yesterday he boasted:

“Australia accounts for approximately 8 per cent of the world’s thermal and metallurgical coal production, which is exported to over 25 countries including the UK, Germany and New Zealand.”

I’ll just change a couple of words.

“Australia accounts for approximately 8 per cent of the world’s crystal meth production, which is exported to etc…”

Would that be something to be proud of? Or to put it another way using pandemic parlance, being a super-spreader of emissions isn’t something we should being crowing about given the perilous climate situation.

Coal Power And CCS

On coal-fired power generation in Australia, Minister Pitt said:

“Coal-fired power still provides around 65 per cent of Australia’s electricity and remains the most reliable form of power generation.”

Same deal on the first bit and as for the second bit, well, Callide. But Callide isn’t the only coal burner to have shat itself at some point this year. Other units have too – just not as spectacularly or with such impacts. Coal plant failures in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland have been on the increase, even with renewables such as wind and solar power helping to take some of the load off these emissions-spewing clunkers.

But Minister Pitt is also looking towards technologies such as carbon capture and storage contributing to a reduction in coal-fired power station emissions “by 90 per cent or more”.

A bunch of taxpayer bucks have been committed to develop CCS technologies over a long period and we’re yet to see any working reliably and economically at scale here – or anywhere in the world for that matter. Case in point: Chevron Australia’s Gorgon LNG facility CCS project in Western Australia.

Elsewhere, a CCS plant that literally sucks has getting some attention this week, but it and other CCS technologies – even if successful to some degree – do not make for real solutions given the myriad problems associated with coal power other than greenhouse gas emissions.

But it seems we’re now going to throw even more money at CCS via the Australian Renewable Energy1 Agency (ARENA) thanks to Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor fiddling with regulations that control how the agency spends its cash.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That prevention lies in renewable energy backed by storage – what millions of Australian households and businesses are doing already with their solar power systems, and increasingly will in the future with solar battery storage.

Given the Australian Government’s current attitude, UN climate talks in Glasgow in November are going to be interesting and perhaps a little uncomfortable at times.

Footnotes

  1. You spotted it too huh?
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. Brilliant Blog Michael,

    I feel that politicians that want to burn coal, should Daily go into the hospitals to attend to the victims of coal related diseases.
    If they expect nurses to do it , they should too,
    And they should live near the coal burners.

    • Hi,

      Not coal burning, but I have noticed that in Geelong, since nearly all the polluting major industries have gone, the air is much cleaner. If I go to Corio, there is no more throat tickling, cough inducing, atmosphere, or smell. Shell, now Viva, seems much cleaner too. Doubt they’ll be there much longer either.

      I’m sure most residents of coal burning areas too would notice a big change for the better

      Travelling through the Latrobe Valley, seems much better from what I remember in years past.

      dRdoS7

  2. George Kaplan says

    “Australia’s remaining coal reserves will need to remain unmined to help give the world a fighting chance on reining in temperature increase”?

    So ignore the fact that China is the biggest polluter in the world (1/3 of all emissions), ignore the fact that Australia is 135th out of 185 nations for CO2 emissions per square mile, all that matters is destroying the Australian economy because whatever. Remember coal is currently selling for more than twice that of iron ore thanks to China’s trade war against Australia, and mining remains a critical element of the economy.

    Equating coal with dangerous drugs is unreasonable. One provides life saving electricity, the other kills.

    Coal power does indeed remain Australia’s most reliable form of power, however the plants are mostly 20 to 40 years old and as they age they are growing less reliable. New coal plants with modern technology would provide more reliable power with even smaller environmental side effects, except nobody will invest in such an option while governments remain wobbly about the future, let alone when governments are privileging green approved options.

    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Fine, but what do we wish to cure? And does a pound of pain supersede an ounce of problem? Given how expensive battery storage is at present, and how unreliable solar or wind are, are they really viable let alone economic as a primary power option?

    On a good day, I feed something like 6x my usage into the grid. On a bad day, as occurs during winter, I don’t even cover my basic usage. Assuming a ‘national solar grid’ worked likewise then either a lot of power would be rejected as excess to demand, or high demand industries e.g. aluminium smelters, would only be able to run during high production times e.g. summer.

    Coal doesn’t care about weather it simply matches demand. With the exception of nuclear power, is there another alternative that will provide safe, reliable energy?

    Kind regards
    A Solar Skeptic 🙂

    • George Kaplan,
      You stated on Jun 23:

      I reject climate change scare claims so the notion of Earth turning into Venus, or humanity and animal species going extinct, strikes me as pure fantasy.

      https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/solar-wind-coal-land/#comment-1102697

      It’s clear to me you continue to deny/misrepresent the overwhelming scientific evidence/data, rehashing all the old, tired and baseless arguments, diversions and distractions.

      You state: “Equating coal with dangerous drugs is unreasonable.

      IMO, it’s a perfectly reasonable analogy – see my comments at: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/iea-global-emissions-mb2085/#comment-1154308

      You ask: “Fine, but what do we wish to cure?

      For the umpteenth time: To avoid the Earth System getting anywhere near reaching the +3 °C global mean warming threshold (relative to the Holocene Epoch pre-industrial age). That would be very, very bad for business and humanity overall.

      Indicates are that global mean warming (12-month average) in three of the last five years were above +1.2 °C.
      See Figure 2 in: https://mailchi.mp/caa/july-temperature-update-faustian-payment-comes-due

    • Chris Thaler says

      This contributor is well known on another conversation site for their many long winded & silly but well off target responses. Consistent spewing of diatribes with very dubious points of view. Then again we are all still allowed, currently, to vent our stuff to all and sundry

  3. Michael Bloch,
    You state: “Given the Australian Government’s current attitude, UN climate talks in Glasgow in November are going to be interesting and perhaps a little uncomfortable at times.

    An op-ed published Sep 13 in the AFR by Adrian Blundell-Wignall headlined Why Australia is a bigger carbon pariah than we think, that looks at Scope 1, 2 and 3 GHG emissions that Australia contributes, and it includes:

    Calculated this way, Australia is responsible for a total of 3320 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2019, roughly five times the official Scope I and II number.

    Instead of 1.15 per cent of global carbon dioxide, Australia would be responsible for 9.4 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide, third place globally.

    https://www.afr.com/policy/economy/why-australia-is-a-bigger-carbon-pariah-than-we-think-20210912-p58r07

    Is that any surprise? Australia is the world’s:
    * Largest exporter of iron ore – fossil fuels are required to extract and transport them to steelmakers;
    * Largest exporter of LNG – fossil fuels are required to compress and refrigerate the LNG, transport it to consumers, and then for combustion;
    * Largest exporter of metallurgical coal – fossil fuels are required to extract, transport and then be used for steelmaking;
    * Second largest exporter of thermal coal – fossil fuels are required to extract, transport and then be used for steam generation.

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