A disproportionate price

John Shailer writes: Re. “Liberals, in denial over O’Farrell’s error, should learn from this” (Thursday). The media wolf pack that mercilessly savaged Barry O’Farrell after his ICAC appearance have now successfully hounded him out of office. Notwithstanding, the economic recovery instigated by O’Farrell will continue, as Mike Baird has shown himself to be a  very capable  minister. Hopefully O’Farrell will ultimately return as a senior minister, as he has paid a disproportionately heavy price for his memory lapse.

Steel yourself

Dr Mark Diesendorf writes: Re. “Minerals Council raked over the coals for troubled PR campaign” (Wednesday). For making steel or cement, renewable electricity can be used to supply the energy inputs. Coal is not essential.

In addition, for making steel, coal (in the form of coke) is usually used as a chemical for converting iron ore (iron oxide) to iron. However, charcoal obtained from wood or other biomass can be used as an alternative to coke. Indeed that is how it was done in the past. A wood-based process is much cleaner, with no sulphur or mercury emissions, low oxides of nitrogen, no toxic coal mine tailings, less ash, which is not a toxic waste, less slag to dispose of, and less lime needed because charcoal is basic rather than acidic. It is unclear whether there is enough biomass for today’s high volume of steel production; however, recycling of steel could reduce the demand substantially.

The power of coal

Matt Saxon writes: Re. “A vein of truth” (Thursday). Andrew Davison and Niall Clugston where right yesterday in criticising the piece on Wednesday about the coal industry for being a little unrealistic, but I think the real issue here is the disingenuousness of the material from the Minerals Council in the first place. Who gives a stuff how much coal goes into steel-making — that’s coking coal (the amount of which they are looking to lower all the time, and for which in theory you can use any source of carbon).

Global coking coal production accounts for only 12% of that mined. By far the majority of it is burnt for electricity generation or other thermal reasons, and it is this coal consumption that is on the block first for (ultimate) cutting in response to climate change. That, in turn, is why the coal industry as whole is squealing, flapping around and producing not-so-slick social media pushes. The MC knows all this (except for the nuttiest fringe), but there is nothing sexy in a slick campaign calling for us to reflect on the tons of coal required to power our houses.

Peter Fray

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