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By 1petermcc

Lately in coal markets around the world, there has been an increase of exposure of cases where the industry has found compliant partners happy to rort the system of energy generation for personal gain. Usually folk with ties to government. It’s not that there is any more corruption than usual, just that the economics of coal no longer make it a viable product, so new deals get examined more closely, and exposure is more likely. This has led to cancelled supply contracts, cancelled financial support for projects, and plenty of court time

There is no greater example of how dire the situation is for coal than the US. Even with Trump making positive comments and wildly ridiculous claims, the fact of the situation is the product is no longer economic, less employment is on offer, and financiers are not prepared to stump up capital on such a high risk venture. Even with Trump urging them to do so.

In this recent South African case we see yet another example of corruption between government connected people and the coal Industry. Trying to prop up a dying industry requires desperate measures and the hunt is on for pollies open to “incentives” to promote their product.

Australia finds itself in exactly this position and personally, I want to see a Federal ICAC in place to deal with the growing influence being exerted by the Coal industry because things are only going to get worse. Clearly the product is already too expensive and smoke appears to be seeping out from under under the door leading to the Coalition Party Room. I’m sure there’s a fire in there somewhere.

The sooner the ICAC is established, the sooner we can start investigating individuals, and the less damage we suffer economically, not withstanding the usual Morrison claims like “we don’t need a banking inquiry”. We already have a problem just looking at Morrison himself and his public display of affection for a lump of coal in the House, and it’s only going to get more shrill as the death throws continue.

We may not be able to incarcerate the offenders, but we can remove them from the public purse, and perhaps we can limit their ill gotten gains if we act quickly. Once we remove these road blocks, we can get on with transitioning to our new low carbon economy and stop dragging it out for as long as possible.

Back in the days of Tony Abbott, dragging things out on energy matters was a profitable political advantage, but times have changed. Instead of it simply being an environmental matter, it’s now an economic and environmental matter, and it’s destroying the party without them noticing the discussion has moved forward.


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This article was originally published on Advances in Renewables.

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  1. New England Cocky

    Does anybody know the location of the Faculty of Coal Chemistry in any Australian university?

    There are many useful and valuable products to be extracted from coal, if somebody would just do the necessary research. But government has concentrated on royalties rather than R&D, coal executives have followed their class instinct and avoided anything that looked entrepreneurial and the voters just keep getting ripped off by vested interests.

  2. Florence Howarth

    They seem to have missed it is no longer about the environment or carbon emissions. It is about economics.

  3. Florence Howarth

    Should not the coal industry be responsible for research into coal? Why should the taxpayer pay?

  4. Kronomex

    “Does anybody know the location of the Faculty of Coal Chemistry in any Australian university?” It’s in the basement. Just go down the stairs and follow the pall of coal dust to the tunnels to where the coal is being extracted…I mean studied.

  5. David Bruce

    The Australian Coal Industry Research Labs (ACIRL) at Ipswich used to do some excellent work!

    I wonder when Scumo and his scumbags will get the message “we don’t trust you!”?

  6. whatever

    Coal executives have apparently been ordered to ‘spread the gospel’ on TalkBack radio.
    They are on 2HD Newcastle all the time, pretending to be everyday people.

  7. peter mccarthy

    Fed University have a campus here in Gippsland and I went to a 1 day event featuring future uses of Coal, of which there are several. The key problem though, is how to extract it without causing Carbon emissions. This was readily recognised by the companies involved which included some US ones.

    Since that time, a couple of Carbon capture test sites have closed with the general consensus seeming to be it is far too expensive. The most generous estimates (based on improving the Clean Coal tech) have Coal power generation costing roughly 4 times that of Solar and the Renewables costs are still falling.

    Most interesting of all was that none of the participants was pushing for using Coal to produce energy and that is simply because it’s not economic any longer. The rising concern of health issues is making it even less likely.

    That really only leaves “personal financial incentives” as the last card to play with current technological limits.

    Perhaps in the future techniques will evolve to make extraction less polluting, but the industry is disinclined to wait until they can operate in a more socially acceptable manner.

  8. jaq

    What? No Trish Corry? It seems only Kaye’s blood she likes baying for.

  9. Paul Davis

    Saw report that Japanese consortium “very keen” to extract hydrogen gas from Victorian brown coal deposits to fuel their power stations. They will invest billions in the necessary infrastructure ie extraction plant, pipeline, port facilities, tankers, etc…… and as the process will generate mega tonnes of carbon dioxide (many times the amount of hydrogen) they plan to pump it out and ‘bury’ it deep in the southern ocean. All very sciency and practical … what could go wrong?

  10. Diannaart

    Very sciency, Paul.

    Sequestering carbon in the cold of southern oceans is a proposal which looks good on paper, but

    In order to combat climate change, geoengineering* techniques to store CO2 artificially in the ocean carbon sink are under consideration. The scientific community is rather concerned because negative consequences of potential disequilibrium have not been explored yet. However, the concept of carbon sink is very controversial. The carbon cycle is rather complex as it is associated with other cycles which favour global warming. Consequently, storing CO2 also releases steam water, which plays an important part in the greenhouse effect. In addition, because of the increase in greenhouse gas concentration, the water temperature and its acidity are changing. This modifies physical, chemical and biological equilibriums and may affect the ocean pump. All of this data should encourage us to think about the future of marine ecosystems. This uncertainty should encourage us to be more careful and to preserve marine ecosystems.

    The Ocean, a carbon sink

    Greenhouse gas-induced warming of the ocean
    Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, trap heat in the atmosphere and direct part of this back toward the surface. This heat cannot penetrate into the ocean itself, but it does warm the cool skin layer, and the level of this warming ultimately controls the temperature gradient in the layer.

    Increased warming of the cool skin layer (via increased greenhouse gases) lowers its temperature gradient (that is the temperature difference between the top and bottom of the layer), and this reduces the rate at which heat flows out of the ocean to the atmosphere. One way to think about this is to compare the gradient (steepness) of a flowing river – water flows faster the steeper the river becomes, but slows as the steepness decreases.

    The same concept applies to the cool skin layer – warm the top of the layer and the gradient across it decreases, therefore reducing heat flowing out of the ocean.

    The ever-present effect of the cool skin layer.
    An important point not be be glossed over here, is that changing the temperature gradient in the cool skin layer by way of greenhouse gas warming is a worldwide phenomenon. Once the gradient has changed, all heat leaving the ocean thereafter has to negotiate its way through the layer. With the gradient lowered, the ocean is able to steal away a little bit more from heat headed for the atmosphere. It is in this ever-present mechanism that oceans are able to undergo long-term warming (or cooling).

    Therefore, as ocean levels of CO2 are increasing due to climate change, do we take the risk of adding more via carbon sequestration?

  11. Paul Davis

    Absolutely frightening scenario. Thanks for the research.

    However i’m sure Craig Kelly would be excited about the Japan plan and the IPA climate and ocean experts could produce plenty of sciency reports questioning all that scary stuff you mention about rising acidity and those other things he wouldnt bother to read about … this is cutting edge technology here, the Japanese really know their stuff, after all haven’t they perfected low emission coal, we spent a lotta dough on those clever little advertorials on teev, to show it was kosher. And, what are we gonna do with tonnes of brown coal? We can’t just leave this valuable resource in the ground and let those towns die, what about jobs and stuff?

  12. Diannaart


    If the financially vested interests really gave a damn about jobs, the future and long term prosperity … but they don’t, because the short terms gains are so easy (heaps of coal) and political will so malleable by votes and the dollar.

    Of course there will be a time when economic costs will favour renewable energy, just when is debatable and these arseholes won’t care until the impacts of pollution and exploitation of resources finally bites hard. By which time … well, who knows?

  13. Kaye Lee

    Interestingly, our Chief Scientist Alan Finkel is a big proponent of hydrogen as a fuel source though he doesn’t mention the ocean for the necessary carbon sequestration.

    “Hydrogen produces only water vapour and heat when burned. When produced from water using renewable electricity, or from coal or methane combined with carbon capture and storage, it’s a close to zero-emissions fuel. With appropriate safeguards, it’s just as safe as natural gas, and just as convenient for consumers.

    “In Australia, we have all the necessary resources to make hydrogen at scale: wind, sun, coal, methane, carbon sequestration sites and expertise.

    “It’s simply never been commercially viable. Now, the economics are changing.”

  14. Diannaart

    The following is one of Tom Ballard’s finest.

    He decimates our leaders and us for doing f*ck all on climate change (warning video contains expletives).

    One of the best summaries – all the facts whether you (dear AIM reader) can handle them or not and no bullshit.

  15. 1petermcc

    The key to Hydrogen is getting Clean Energy in the first place. Or access to waste heat energy from some other process. It rather defeats the purpose if you use Victorian Coal to generate the energy without having a process for curtailing the carbon generated by mining. This is the key blocker at the moment and Carbon Capture is not proving to be especially practical. Here in Gippsland, there are plenty of us who are dead keen for Hydrogen, but for goodness sake, drive it with our Gippsland sun.

    I would note that this is where chaps like the Nationals leader, Mc-something-or other, falls over every time he comes to the stage. He just looks at the final stage and ignores the rest. He also damages his cred by claiming he is “in talks with Financiers” which is BS of the highest order. Who is going to put their own money into an expensive product while the competition is killing you on price and still having price reductions? Other than a corrupt government of course.

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