On Monday this week a small group of Stop HRLians woke before dawn and drove 60 kilometers West of Melbourne to Bacchus Marsh. I rode shotgun, filming everything for a video I would like to make about the day. Neil drove. Shaun, Maude and Maddie were in the backseat.
We made the trip to perform a peaceful direct action against Mantle Mining, who are currently undertaking exploratory drilling in the area and hoping to dig an open cut mine in order to establish a brand new international brown coal export industry.
It’s hard to explain how crazy it would be for Victoria to start exporting brown coal to the world, but I’m willing to try. If you already know that it’s crazy to start exporting brown coal from Victoria, I don’t know, skip over this bit.
In Victoria, we have a lot of brown coal. That’s why almost all of our electricity is generated by digging it up and burning it, which boils water, spins turbines, and voila, electricity. And that’s also why Victoria’s per capita greenhouse emissions are among the highest in the world, what with brown coal being so dirty and all.
But now, thanks to Australia’s new carbon price legislation, Victorian power is being dragged kicking and screaming away from it’s dirty brown coal-flavored teat and into the mid-20th century. Yes, you heard correctly. The Labor government’s tragi-comically inadequate one-fifth-the-scientifically-accepted-minimum carbon pricing legislation is actually going (eventually) to price brown coal out of the electricity market. That’s just how polluting brown coal is – you can’t even burn it in Australia anymore.
Yet like any kicking and screaming little brat, the Victorian brown coal industry is refusing to go to bed peacefully. Instead, a new plan is emerging – if we can no longer make money here out of the stuff, maybe we can make money elsewhere out of it? After all, there are countries out there whose poverty and low historical emissions means they don’t have to do as much on climate change as us, which as a result of our ineffectual efforts means they really don’t have to do anything. So…maybe we can sell them our brown coal?
To date, this kind of thinking has been thwarted by a lucky happenstance in physics. You couldn’t export brown coal simply because it would catch fire if it came in contact with air. And air is fairly ubiquitous in the majority of our trading partners. But rather than recognise what seems to have been a fairly blatant hint from the Gods regarding the favor with which they view brown coal exports, a company named Exergen has now devised a method of drying out brown coal, rendering it capable of being transported vast distances and burnt in countries with less ‘ambitious’ emissions targets than our own. Read the rest of this entry »