Quarterly Essay: Quarry Vision


Quarry Vision

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Product name: Quarterly Essay: Quarry Vision – Coal, Climate Change and the End of the Resources Boom

Reviewer: Kate Arneman

Author: Guy Pearse

Publisher: Black Inc

Price: $16.95

G Rating:


In February 2006, Guy Pearse, former member of the Liberal Party and speech writer for then environment minister Robert Hill, went public with allegations about the "greenhouse mafia" on ABC's Four Corners program, revealing the alarming extent of influence the mining industries held on the development of greenhouse gas emissions policy under the Howard government.

The situation had come to Pearse's attention as he carried out research for his PhD, and he felt compelled to blow the whistle on the corruption he considered to be jeopardising Australia's future. His findings were published in High & Dry in late 2007. (Check out our review here.)

Eighteen months on, Pearse is now a member of the Australian Greens and has rebranded himself as an environmental advocate and author.

In his essay Quarry Vision, Pearse picks up the story of the so-called carbon lobby's infiltration of the new political order and turns his blowtorch on the Garnaut report recommendations and the Rudd government's failure to provide leadership on climate change.

The stumbling block, he argues, is "quarry vision" - the deep-rooted belief that Australia's greatest economic asset is our coal reserves.

It is, to his mind, an outdated, unfounded and ultimately dangerous delusion that has positioned the "lucky country" as "the greenhouse ghetto of the developed world...stuck with one of the dirtiest electricity systems in the world at the worst possible time."

As a result of this blind faith in the neccessity of business as usual, the proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will require the coal industry to pay for roughly only one in five tonnes of carbon dioxide generated, the remainder being subsidised by taxpayers.

There will be no limits to the amount of carbon credits that may be purchased from overseas - so that in effect, the Australian commitment to attaining the 2020 Kyoto targets will be attainable by buying up large tracts of rainforest in developing countries such as Indonesia and Papua New Guinea - what Pearse refers to as carbon colonialism.

This quick fix may help us balance the nation's carbon account in the short-term, but it postpones the inevitable structural changes - investment in renewables, retraining workers for green collar jobs - that will be vital for long-term growth and stability in a carbon-constrained future.

As Pearse outlines how the importance of coal to our economy has been repeatedly drastically overstated, and considers Australia's moral responsibility as one of the largest coal exporters in the world, he comes to the highly controversial conclusion that: "In the global war on climate change, Australia's biggest contribution to an effective response would be to exit the coal trade."

This boldly argued essay provides a blistering analysis of the revolving door between industry and politics but runs out of steam somewhat when it comes to a vision for a coal-free future.

Printed on PEFC-certified paper.

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