<a href="https://www.greenlifestylemag.com.au/blogs/leon#">The Business of Green</a>

The Business of Green

Money matters in the green world, by Leon Gettler.

Reducing our coal dependence

Coal

Credit: Coal is dirty business...and Australia relies very heavily on it.

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According to the coal industry, greenhouse gases generated from coal through such activities as mining and power generation globally contribute around 25 per cent to the enhanced greenhouse effect. In Australia, around 90 per cent of coal's greenhouse gas emissions arise from power generation.

This is why Australia’s dependence on coal is alarming - a dependence that was highlighted earlier this week.

First, in New South Wales, we have the state government giving the green light to two 2000- megawatt power stations at Mount Piper, near Lithgow, and Bayswater, near Muswellbrook in the Hunter. This has raised concerns about an even bigger increase in greenhouse gas emissions, especially if coal is used. Even if both power stations use gas, emissions will rise by about 13 million tonnes, a 20 per cent increase. There are claims that this will ruin the state’s renewable energy industry.

There is a similar situation in Victoria, where brown-coal-fired electricity is to continue operating for decades with the announcement of a long-term power deal for Alcoa's controversial aluminium smelters. The implications for greenhouse gas emissions and the future of the renewable energy industry are immense. As Environment Victoria spokesman Mark Wakeham told the Sydney Morning Herald:
“In a time of climate change it is insane to power aluminum smelters with brown coal. Locking this behaviour in until 2036 defies belief.”

Both developments highlight Australia’s dependence on greenhouse-gas-emitting coal. Cabinet documents from 1979, released earlier this year, show that the then Fraser government set in place initiatives that locked Australia into coal.

The thinking at the time was to wean us off oil and not have us at the mercy of the Middle East. The World Wildlife Fund suggests a clean energy future is possible to wean us off coal, and Greenpeace says we need to invest more in renewable energy, but other commentators argue that it will take renewable energy industries years to develop to compete with coal because they are coming off such a low base. This is the argument that the nuclear lobby is using.

So what should we do to reduce our dependence on coal?