Jul 7, 2009

Why are CSIRO scientists spruiking for the coal industry?

Just when did it become normal for publicly-employed scientists to spruik for the coal industry? asks Clive Hamilton.

Since when did it become normal for publicly-employed scientists to spruik for the coal industry? The Australian Coal Association’s slick new website aimed at promoting “clean coal” features video grabs of CSIRO experts mixed in with industry spokespeople.

ACA Executive Director Ralph Hillman begins by informing us that renewable energy cannot meet our energy needs. So “on this website independent scientists” explain how clean coal technology will cut carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired electricity by up to 90%.

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12 thoughts on “Why are CSIRO scientists spruiking for the coal industry?

  1. keith goodwill

    Peter, while if you forget cost there are some examples of infrastructure that would make carbon capture possible due to existing technology that has been used for gas and oil extraction (this may be true in Victoria). To make this a general solution is quite a different issue. The reality is that even if technically possible, it can never be cheap to do. My hunch is that this whole thing is about buying time from groups who don’t want to face reality. Solar and wind will become cheaper than carbon-captured coal quite soon anyway (if they are not already cheaper). Coal has many other bad things associated with it (eg health (asthma), messing up prime agricultural land, need to move it around, danger of mining it etc etc). With wind and solar, they are just there for the taking.

    As to China and India and coal. Look at what is happening in China with wind and solar. The goal for wind in China until recently was for 20GW by 2020. Because of rapid progress on this pretty worked out technology, the new figure is 100 GW by 2020. If they keep going the way they have been going over the last couple of years I wouldn’t be surprised to see a wind target in China of 500GW…. when they do that, you start to make coal irrelevant. On solar, China had a goal of 2GW for 2020 until recently, but with thermal solar coming on stream they have raised their goal with solar to 20GW by 2020. Same logic as for wind. Watch how they grow it. Once you have a technology, it is just rolling it out and China is brilliant at completing projects.

    Not so sure about India (I don’t have current figures), but we need to understand that at the end of the day no government is going to hurt their citizens if there is another way. The current problem is that the coal lobbies with their disinformation and fear of change have paralysed decision making, slowing action in directions that are going to work. China at least seems to be less hindered.

  2. Edmund Moran

    Well the game has hotted up with Mr Rudds “Advisory Panel for Global Carbon Capture and Storage” announcement that Nick Stern had come aboard.

    Money talks and the coal industry has deep pockets so expect a lot of noise.

    Coal will direct big $ into the realm of “independent scientists” that,understandably, will research on till the cows come home.

    Delay, obfuscate, make more money, and hope science will save the day.

    The Aus. economy and the emerging economies are reliant on coal, and so politically is Mr Rudd. Well, crikey said, “blatant self interest”!

    Cheap clean energy will eventually come but I don’t think it will be from be from old king coal!

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