This week Australia saw Coalition ministers and MPs cradling a lump of coal brought to Question Time on Thursday by the Treasurer Scott Morrison who accused Labor of “coal-phobia”
The Coalition has spent the last few months promoting “clean coal” and modern coal plant technology as a solution for Australia’s power crisis, resulting in high prices and high emissions, all the while attacking renewables, and wind energy in particular.
It’s a strategy modelled on Tony Abbott’s attack on the Gillard Government’s carbon tax and it’s designed to wedge Labour.
Let’s forget the claim the Coalition made during the campaign that power prices would come down when the carbon tax was repealed. Which it was.
Let’s look at the Coalition’s fantasy of clean coal.
According to Dylan McConnell from the Climate and Energy College, emissions from ultra-supercritical coal are actually 14 per cent higher than the outdated number quoted by the Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg.
“This so-called ‘clean coal’ is no better than the average emissions intensity of the market, and insignificantly better than regular coal. It defies belief that we are even talking about building one (a new coal plant) in 2017,” McConnell told Renew Economy.
McConnell says this means the clean coal technology would make it impossible to meet even the Coalition’s modest target of 26-28 per cent cut in emissions by 2030, let alone deeper and longer-dated targets.
According to McConnell’s calculations, replacing all the current coal power stations with this USC technology would deliver only a 17.5 per cent cut in emissions from the electricity sector, and lock in those emissions for 30-50 years.
The problem with the Coalition’s strategy is that clean coal is expensive. There is an enormous cost and logistical challenge of transporting all the captured carbon dioxide and burying it. It would require a vast network of pipelines and storage sites. And that’s not cheap.
The cost of building the required infrastructure would be enormous.
Also, it would take too long to build. The time periods involved would be too long to prevent the risk, identified by the consensus of expert scientists, of potentially catastrophic climate change.
The Coalition’s answer for the energy crisis is garbage, peddled by the mining companies, the Liberal Party’s biggest donors.