One thing we have learnt this week – coal mining

coal reserve dataCoal mining is still big business. It was announced this week that the Queensland government has given the go ahead for a super mine (Carmichael) in the Galilee region of this state. Unfortunately its not just burning the coal that is going to do the harm but transport of the coal by rail to the port of Abbott point. This puts the great barrier reef at risk in three ways. First from dredging to get the ships in with the spoil from this being dumped on or near the reef. The second way is by the ships sailing close to the reef with the possibility of accidents (which have occurred in the past). The third is CO2 emissions from the coal which is going to China and India causing acid damage to the reef in the long term. The irony is Australia’s CO2 emissions are falling and its wind solar capacity has leapt. Even more ironic solar is nearly competitive on the Aussie grid. However, like in the US these emissions are being exported partly as coal and this is burnt by others. This explains the renewable conundrum that as renewables installations rise steeple (albeit from a low level) emissions globally are still rising. As we covered in our book coal reserve figures have plunged worldwide over the last decade or so but in the last year have increased a bit (graph above). Coal still looks like a dicey way of generating electricity though from both the climate and energy security point of view, but coal mining with all its negative environmental impacts for the moment looks set to continue.

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