Australia Institute data challenges claims coal industry
drives economic growth, is a key element of alleviating worldwide
‘energy poverty’ and improves quality of life. Kieran Cooke from the Climate News Network reports.
THE COAL INDUSTRY has many friends in high places and none more so
than Tony Abbott — prime minister of one of the world’s major producers
of a fuel that earns the country billions from exports.
As Prime Minister Abbott said recently:
“Coal is vital for the future energy needs of the world. So let’s have no demonisation of coal — coal is good for humanity.”
But a new report by researchers in Australia seeks to debunk what it
considers to be myths promulgated by the powerful worldwide coal
industry and its allies.
The report by the Australia Institute, an independent public policy thinktank, says claims by lobbyists that coal is a main driver of economic growth are false.
Data shows that coal use has grown much slower than global economic growth, says the report:
‘All Talk and No action: The Coal Industry and Energy Poverty’.
It points out that
‘…developed countries have reduced coal use while economic growth
has been unaffected. Developing countries are now the major users, but
with alternatives becoming cheaper, they are likely to reduce coal use
much earlier in their development.’
The report also attacks industry claims that coal use increases life expectancy and quality of life:
‘On the contrary, coal use is often associated with lower life
expectancy due to health impacts of indoor and outdoor air pollution and
the global health impacts of climate change.’
The study says that, although access to electricity might initially
improve quality of life, once basic electricity facilities are in place
there is little correlation between increased electricity uptake and
improved living conditions.
Talk in the coal industry about tackling energy poverty is just
public relations spin, says the report, and it questions whether the
coal industry itself believes its own claims.
It is significant, the study says, that coal concerns that choose to
become involved in electricity and poverty alleviation schemes in poorer
parts of the world support projects connected with solar technology or
small hydro and gas-fired facilities, rather than with far more
expensive coal-fired power installations.
The report also takes issue with claims by the coal industry that
coal is becoming cleaner. What is meant by clean coal varies widely:
although many power plants and other enterprises have reduced
coal-related emissions of sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide, coal still
releases into the atmosphere enormous amounts of CO2 — by far the most polluting of greenhouse gases.
Meanwhile, progress on carbon capture and storage
(CCS) – the process through which emissions from coal-powered plants
and other industrial concerns are captured and stored deep below the
Earth’s surface – has been slow.
There are only 13 such projects in operation and, together, they are
capable of sequestering only 25 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per
year — less than one per cent of the world’s total annual emissions.
To put this in perspective, the report says, 33,376 million tonnes of CO2 were
emitted worldwide in 2011, with the United States emitting 5,420
million tonnes, and Australia – which has a much smaller population −
emitting 400 million tonnes.
The report concludes:
‘Addressing the challenges of energy poverty will become even
more difficult if public relations campaigns are able to influence
government policies away from genuine solutions towards spending that
benefits the coal industry. The real solutions to energy poverty do not
focus on coal.’
~ Climate News Network