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Coal is part of the solution in transition to new energy sources

By Graham Young - posted Wednesday, 6 March 2019

The cowardice of Australia's largest coal miner Glencore in bowing to activist pressure and capping its coal production torches the reputation of coal by implying coal mining is unethical.

This is grossly unfair to the industry and those who work in it, or use its products, which is all of us. The ethical case against coal is weak.

Yes, coal produces CO2, which is a greenhouse gas, but modern living is so dependent on electricity, and electricity so dependent on coal, that you just can't abolish it.


Multiple projections based on the Paris Accord predict that by 2040 we will still be burning about as much coal as we are now. Coal is part of the solution to a transition to new energy sources.

What activists have decided is that they know better and they will try to take energy decisions away from the sovereign governments of the world. This is a subversion of international norms, and the rule of law.

Activists are anti-democratic and in telling developing countries how to run their economies, neo-colonial.

Their actions will also cause more harm than the status quo, because they will actually increase emissions.

There is plenty of coal in the world, but ours causes the lowest emissions. Coal importers will simply shift to higher emissions sources, increasing greenhouse gases. If coal were abolished tomorrow that would also increase poverty and misery.

Coal makes up $67 billion of Australian export income and, in Queensland, contributes about $3.8 billion in royalties to state revenue. That's a lot of jobs, and a heap of hospitals, schools and police stations.


Abandoning coal will devastate regional areas and state budgets, and again, for no tangible gain.

But coal is more deeply embedded in modern life than that. Electricity is the key to modern civilisation, and coal contributes about 40 per cent of its generation at the moment.

Even allowing for rapid growth in renewables, projections put coal at about 30 per cent of generation in 20 years' time, and at a similar volume to now.

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This article was first published by the Courier Mail.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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