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This self-serving bunch of boondogglers will be the death of us – literally

Even before they could possibly have read Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s energy report, the coal cheerleaders from the backbench of the Coalition have come out swinging.

Tony Abbott jumped the gun, saying two days before the report was even released that “Anything that makes it impossible for us to bank new, efficient coal-fired power stations I think is a big mistake.”

Eric Abetz has accused Dr Finkel of making “creative assumptions” to come up with his recommendations for a Clean Energy Target – a bit rich from a party whose budget is completely based on very optimistic assumptions about wage growth and surpluses just around the corner.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said he won’t support any reform that would discourage coal, saying he wanted to make sure the nation could build new coal-fired power stations­. “I believe baseload emissions are generated by a stock that has been providing cheap power for us for a long while, and that’s coal,” he said.

But it is Craig Kelly, chairman of the Coalition backbench committee on the environment, who has gone into hyperdrive in leading the coal push, calling for yet another report to be done into the economic effect of setting aggressive emissions reduction targets.

He said he would not support a benchmark emission target of 0.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour, which is the level Dr Finkel has used in his report to model economic effects.

“We had times here last month when 1,000 wind turbines spread from South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland were delivering zero electricity,” Mr Kelly told Saturday AM. “I would want to see whatever target that we go for, I want to see several different attempts at modelling just to see exactly what costs that would have on electricity in this nation… we have to be very conscious of the damage that we can do to the economy if the target is too low.”

This sort of facile, and entirely predictable, opposition completely ignores the enormous cost to the economy of the detrimental health effects of particulate matter, an issue that Craig Kelly seems to have forgotten was a key component of his campaign in the 2010 election.

From his maiden speech in 2010:

“I consider myself an environmentalist. As our cities and roads become more and more congested, I am concerned about the health effects from fine particulate matter in diesel exhaust, as studies in California show that diesel exhaust leads to 9,000 premature deaths annually. That is why I oppose Labor’s intermodal freight terminal at Moorebank.”

Particulate matter (PM), includes the tiny particles of fly ash and dust that are expelled from coal-burning power plants.

In October 2013 the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said both air pollution and “particulate matter” would now be classified among its Group 1 human carcinogens. They cited data indicating that in 2010, over 220,000 deaths from lung cancer worldwide resulted from air pollution, and said there was also convincing evidence it increases the risk of bladder cancer.

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma-related episodes and asthma-related emergency room visits, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, peneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal-fired power plants.

In March 2011, the American Lung Association released the report, “Toxic Air: The Case for Cleaning Up Coal-fired Power Plants,” on the hazardous air pollutants emitted from power plants. The report found that coal-fired power plants produce more hazardous air pollution in the United States than any other industrial pollution sources. More than 400 coal-fired power plants located in 46 states across the country release in excess of 386,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants into the atmosphere each year.

According to an EPA report also released in March 2011, “The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020”, the annual dollar value of benefits of air quality improvements from 1990 to 2020 will reach a level of approximately $2.0 trillion in 2020. The benefits would be achieved as a result of Clean Air Act Amendment-related programs and regulatory compliance actions, estimated to cost approximately $65 billion by 2020.

Most of the benefits (about 85 percent) are attributable to reductions in premature mortality associated with reductions in ambient particulate matter: “as a result, we estimate that cleaner air will, by 2020, prevent 230,000 cases of premature mortality in that year.” The remaining benefits are roughly equally divided among three categories of human health and environmental improvement: preventing premature mortality associated with ozone exposure; preventing morbidity, including acute myocardial infarctions and chronic bronchitis; and improving the quality of ecological resources and other aspects of the environment.

According to the report: “The very wide margin between estimated benefits and costs, and the results of our uncertainty analysis, suggest that it is extremely unlikely that the monetized benefits of the CAAA over the 1990 to 2020 period reasonably could be less than its costs, under any alternative set of assumptions we can conceive. Our central benefits estimate exceeds costs by a factor of more than 30 to one, and the high benefits estimate exceeds costs by 90 times. Even the low benefits estimate exceeds costs by about three to one.”

Craig Kelly is the one who, when offered a briefing on climate change by three of Australia’s leading scientists, invited along three IPA non-scientists to counter their arguments.

If Kelly’s gang of coal lovers are so concerned about the economy, they should be researching the cost of health issues resulting from the continued use of coal. Or did Mr Kelly’s concern for our health only extend to his constituents and evaporate as soon as he got elected?

This self-serving bunch of boondogglers* will be the death of us – literally.

*(boondoggle: spend money or time on unnecessary, wasteful, or fraudulent projects.)


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  1. Harquebus

    The “self-serving bunch of boondogglers” will be the death of those who are not prepared. Get ready.

  2. Freethinker

    Kaye, I agree with many of your comments but I am also very critical of the Labor and up to a point of some of the members of the Greens.
    For near all the politicians their seat and financial implications come first and points like human health second as you have mentioned in your article.
    “Labor is broadly supportive of the target, but much will depend on the detail.

    Green groups accept most of Dr Finkel’s recommendations but have criticised the report for “overplaying” the importance of gas generation going forward.

    Mr Weatherill said the SA Government “strongly supported the report but “there’s an enormous amount of work to be done”.

    We can read in many news the opinion of scientist
    “A proposed clean energy target would not be enough to meet Australia’s Paris climate agreement commitments, a leading academic says.”

    IMHO as long as we only concentrate in blame only the present government and not all the politicians that put the current economics model first and the environment/human well been second we do not have a hope.
    We need politician with courage and vision to implement effective policies not the “good enough” present policies that are only put in place to keep their seats safe.

    The ALP with their neoliberal policies is as guilty as the Coalition.

  3. Kaye Lee

    Harquebus, unless you live in a bubble, coal-fired power generation is also going to affect the air you breathe too.

    Freethinker, I agree which is why I am trying to come up with as many arguments as I can from different aspects that people can use to help stop new coal generators and mines.

    The Labor Party in Queensland are very much putting their electoral interests first with their support for Adani but they will have to come up with genuine alternative employment opportunities for affected communities. With black lung disease back in the news, surely they can make more of the health effects – it isn’t just an environmental greenie niche issue for the latte-sipping smashed avocado set as so many Queenslanders like to disparagingly say. Climate change is one issue, particulate matter is another.

    It was Kelly’s maiden speech that got me riled. He deliberately opposed a Labor development that would have created jobs in his electorate because of his supposed concern about the health effects of particulate matter.

  4. helvityni

    …haven’t read the article yet, but looking at the photo, I have to say: what a bunch of oafs…!

  5. Aortic

    These buffoons keep rabbiting on about the potential destruction of the economy. When will they realise, if the planet becomes uninhabitable, that their precious economy will not mean a damn thing. Forrest Gump the present POTUS, is also doing his best to destroy what we have left on earth, by resurrecting long closed mines instead of embracing renewables and reemploying people in the industries of the future. Have a look at Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot and ponder, you ideological numpties.

  6. Divergent Aussie

    Finkel review was very disappointing but to be expected. At least he highlighted the need to rectify the imbalance of “non-disptachable” energy sources. This review follows on from a number of more substantial reviews. The Tambling Review, 2003, available here,,
    The Wilkins review, 2008, available here,, and the Garnaut review which we’ve all heard about. The Wilkins review was erroneously referenced in the direct action plan “The Wilkins Report on climate change programs within Australia found that there are too many programs being administered and that “many are ad hoc or badly targeted.” as an attack on labor. This was because the footnote had the review year as 2009. The review was actually completed in mid-2008 just six months after labor attained office after 11 years of coalition government. So the Wilkins review was really an attack on the coalition and NOT an attack on labor. Wake up everyone, we have been snowed for much more than a decade now. Happy to engage in a discussion.

  7. Divergent Aussie

    Oops Mr Hunt, Direct Action available here,
    “It is thus not surprising that most of the CURRENT government activity to reduce CO2 emissions
    appears to be geared more toward fanciful political spin” Who’s spinning whom? The footnotes:
    26 Roger Wilkins, Strategic Review of Australian Government Programs on Climate Change, (2009), p.1.
    27 Roger Wilkins, Strategic Review of Australian Government Programs on Climate Change, (2009), pp.42-43

  8. Kaye Lee

    Speaking of being snowed…..

    When the Coalition launched its direct action plan in 2010, they promised to invest in “one million additional solar energy roofs on homes by 2020”.

    “To achieve the goal of one million additional solar energy roofs by 2020, the Coalition will provide an extra $1,000 rebate for either solar panels or solar hot water systems. The program would be capped at 100,000 rebates per year and would therefore be capped at a total cost of $100 million per year,” the policy said.

    In August 2012, Liberal leader Tony Abbott told a press conference that the Coalition was still committed to its plan.

    By March 2013, the Coalition’s commitment had changed to take into account the time that had elapsed since the policy was announced. Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said in a speech that it was the Coalition’s intention to “ensure at least one million additional solar homes or community centres over 10 years”.

    Two days before the federal election Mr Hunt committed to providing solar panel installation rebates for low-income households. “The program will offer up to 100,000 rebates a year,” he said.

    The same day, Mr Hunt’s office told the media the rebates for solar panels and hot water systems had been reduced from $1,000 to $500.

    In a paper to the Clean Energy Council annual meeting in November 2013, Greg Hunt describes solar power as a “glaringly obvious” avenue for clean energy, and a “shining beacon”.

    Mr Hunt promises that under the Government’s direct action plan, it will “provide $500 million for the One Million Solar Roofs Program”.

    “The solar roofs program will provide $500 rebates for installing one million rooftop solar energy systems over the next 10 years,” he said.

    There was no funding for the program in the Coalition’s first MYEFO less than three weeks later. It did not appear in the 2014 budget and Greg Hunt confirmed the scrapping of the one million solar roofs program, in an interview with Tom Tilley on Triple J’s Hack on May 23, 2014.

  9. townsvilleblog

    Kaye, boondogglers, personally I would have used the Aussie vernacular and called them ‘ratbags’ but each to their own, they are a mob of incompetent ars#$%^es who couldn’t run a two up game. We must oust them at the first available opportunity. Their austerity policies are making the rich much richer and the working poor and pensioners not only poorer but now destitute in many cases.

  10. Marcus

    Oh dear, the old “coal is cheap” argument. Over the last 20 years, in spite of falling international prices & growing levels of subsidies, the cost of coal fired electricity has continued to rise-especially during peak periods. Yet even if you ignore that, wholesale generation costs are less than 10% of the total bill, so the source of electricity is increasingly irrelevent to the retail price of our energy.

  11. Florence nee Fedup

    If we have enough wind and solar spread over the whole country, would be a rare day indeed when al are not producing power. Sun is always shining somewhere blowing. If one lived in central Queensland during winter months, the wind blows every day from sunup to sundown. Rarely a cloud in sight.

    Turn last century the horses quickly disappeared. Life went on. Now it is time for coal to be replaced. Jobs will grow. Life will go on. In fact we will be better off, as we won’t be held to ransom as we have been by petrol suppliers, now gas.

  12. Florence nee Fedup

    If coal is cheap as they say, it will survive. Truth is, they are wrong, can’t survive without government subsidies as we see with Adani.

  13. wam

    When Australians believe you are the economic managers, you have a head start on climate costs.
    When there is no media asking questions on economic topics about which you have no understanding, you have a head start on climate costs. When all the throwaway lines from morning shows autocue and other callthemselvesjournos are supportive, you have a head start on climate costs.
    Do a bit of trolling and check the need to control dole bludgers and pension rorters with a few questions. Then move to climate change and renewables???
    No fun there and no }^##^}}} interest either.
    Beauty Florence,
    Not many of the big no tax payers would exist without gov handouts. My mate runs 3 racehores and pays no tax, no medicare levy and always get discounts on purchases so less GST.

  14. Phil

    Good on you Kaye Lee for researching and reporting so effectively. Your work is greatly appreciated.

    This last summer and through into autumn, members of my family have suffered terribly from asthma and bronchial ailments – worst cases ever in their experience. Particulates no doubt play a part with the recent high level increase in popularity of diesel engines in passenger vehicles. We live in a suburban street block system that services five schools and every school morning and afternoon hundreds of diesel cars sit at kerbside with engines idling and air cons running – these literally ignorant drivers are dangerously polluting the very air their children breathe on their way to and from the family car – and likely contributing to my families respiratory woes.

    Fact: Diesel exhaust emits respirable carcinogens: 3-Nitrobenzanthrone + 1,8-dinitropyrene.

    Two pertinant quotes below from: Report on Carcinogens – Twelfth Edition 2011 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Service National Toxicology Program:

    Light- and heavy-duty diesel engines, respectively, can emit 50 to 80 times and 100 to 200 times as much particulate mass as typical catalyst-equipped gasoline engines (McClellan 1986).
    The inorganic fraction of the particulate emissions consists primarily of small elemental carbon particles, ranging from 0.01 to 0.08 μm in diameter. Organic and elemental carbon account for approximately 80% of the total particulate matter mass. The remaining 20% is com- posed of sulfate (mainly sulfuric acid) (Pierson and Brachaczek 1983) and some inorganic additives and components of fuel and motor oil. In general, the organic compounds identified in diesel exhaust emis- sions contain hydrocarbons, such as alkanes and alkenes, hydrocar- bon derivatives, aldehydes, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), PAH derivatives, multifunctional derivatives of PAHs, heterocyclic com- pounds, heterocyclic derivatives, and multifunctional derivatives of heterocyclic compounds (Schuetzle 1988).

    A toxic daily lung infusion for children (and everyone else) just so Mum and Dad can get the supposed cheaper running costs and can leave the shiny new SUV engine idling just like a real truck. Madness.

  15. Freethinker

    Phil, you have good points regarding diesel and gasoline engine emissions.
    It is interesting that in Australia we cannot get a high efficient commercial vans with petrol engines which are available OS.
    Ford Transit it is one example.
    I wonder if it is lack of political will to do something about that or is in the “to hard basket” to find a solution?

  16. Jaquix

    Great headline Kaye Lee, and excellent article. The Finckel review was hobbled from the word Go because of terms of reference to ensure “security and reliability” of electricity supply. That’s straight out of the Libs song book so the review is not as wide ranging as it should have been.

  17. Max Gross

    The LNP fossil fuel whores are killing us for a dollar! So-oooo concerned about leaving national budget debt to our grandchildren the LNP has decided to increase that debt and wipe out our grandchildren instead!

  18. Johno

    Disgusting behaviour, just another blight on the dumbarse history of the human race..

  19. Yusuf Feidel

    Malcolm Turnbull is making a coming back
    The Liberal party has lifted its primary vote to its highest level since November 2016.

    The latest Essential poll gives the Liberals a 36 per cent primary vote, with the Nationals on three per cent and Labor on 37 per cent.

    It comes amid a public debate around national security and tackling terrorism, which is traditionally a strong issue for the coalition.

  20. Florence nee Fedup

    Notice how the above poll managed to get out early.

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