Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ferguson claims "neutrality" as he shores up HRL brown coal

Updated 14/2/12

In a move to "shore up" brown coal rather than properly support genuine clean energy alternatives, resources and energy minister Martin Ferguson yesterday announced that HRL has yet a further six months to get its long-flailing Latrobe Valley brown coal power plant together and meet funding conditions before it loses a $100m Federal Government grant. Ferguson also announced $100m for CarbonNet, a carbon capture and storage project, also in the Latrobe Valley and part of the $1.68b CCS Flagships Program.

The HRL announcement follows concerted community action to stop the polluting brown coal power plant, the tabling in Federal Parliament of a petition of nearly 13,000 signatures opposing it, and a recent public rally at which Labor's Federal Member for Wills, Kelvin Thomson MP, spoke against the project, on which he also addressed the Parliament in tabling the petition.

The announcement has been met with dismay and a commitment to sustained action by community campaigners opposing the project because of its dangerously high carbon emissions, the availability of abundant and genuinely clean alternatives such as solar, and a promise by Prime Minister Julia Gillard not to build more dirty coal-fired power stations in Australia.

Here's the unedited version of my letter published in today's edition of The Age responding to Katharine Murphy and David Wroe's report of the HRL project extension.
In throwing a "lifeline" to HRL's brown coal power project and more money at carbon capture and storage in the Latrobe Valley, Martin Ferguson comes clean in at least one respect - he's aiming at "shoring up the value of Victoria's brown coal resource".

Ferguson can imagine no low-emissions solution that leaves coal in the ground. Unfortunately exploiting coal and lowering emissions are essentially contradictory aims.

Ferguson claims a "technology neutral" approach to clean energy solutions, but those he favours with so-called neutrality in fact serve private coal interests and escalate dangerous carbon emissions despite empty claims of technological advancement.

If Australia is to contribute to a safer global climate, the selection of clean energy solutions cannot be neutral in assessing projected emissions.

Ferguson knows there are jobs in genuine clean energy, but prefers coal at the bidding of coal interests who have no monopoly over energy from the sun and the wind.

He should also know that the public campaign to stop his climate destruction - a broad-based campaign driven not only by Greens - will only grow stronger.
 The published version can be read in today's letters (scroll to "Minister shores up coal").

See also the ABC's investigation of clean coal, Cloud hangs over Rudd's clean coal vision, for which Ferguson refused to be interviewed.

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