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Analysis and Comment (61)

The government knows that solar panel subsidies are very popular with voters. zstock/Shutterstock

The pitfalls of using renewable energy as a political football

Federal industry minister Ian Macfarlane has finally revealed his opening gambit on negotiations on the future of the Renewable Energy Target (RET). He and environment minister Greg Hunt have pledged to…
Opening a mine in Queensland this week, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said coal was “good for humanity”. Dan Peled/AAP

Abbott’s G20 agenda: climate still the elephant in the room

News emerging from Washington last week suggests climate change may amount to more than an FAQ in the appendices of this November’s G20 leaders' summit agenda. President Obama’s deputy national security…
Could carbon capture and storage be the way to clean up coal power stations, such as this one in Australia’s Latrobe Valley? Monash University/Flickr

Carbon capture and storage — reality or still a dream?

To have any chance of avoiding dangerous climate change we’ll have to reduce the carbon emissions from our energy sectors — currently the largest human source of greenhouse gas emissions globally. And…
The prime minister’s business adviser Maurice Newman continues to distract business leaders on the issue of climate change. Julian Smith/AAP

It’s personal: why leaders don’t turn climate knowledge into action

There is an abundance of profitable business opportunity to be found in addressing sustainability issues. These stand out against the difficulties we face implementing effective change. Globally, the World…
As early as 2015 China’s use of thermal coal for electricity could peak. Bret Arnett/Flickr

Ross Garnaut: China to reach ‘peak coal’ for electricity by 2015

China’s use of coal for electricity could peak as early as next year, then decline until 2020 in a turnaround of “global importance”, according to economist Ross Garnaut in a lecture presented at the Melbourne…
Is the ABC biased against fossil fuels? The IPA thinks so, but it’s not really the most constructive question to ask. AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

Claims of ABC anti-coal and gas ‘bias’ aren’t backed by the facts

It’s tempting to view The Australian’s latest broadside at the ABC as just another salvo fired between our nation’s two biggest media organisations. But the coverage, based on an Institute of Public Affairs…
The Saraji coal mine in the Bowen coal basin produces around 5 million tonnes of coal each year. Adani’s Carmichael mine could produce up to 60 million. Image Library/Flickr

Carmichael mine is a game-changer for Australian coal

The Carmichael coal project, approved this week by environment minister Greg Hunt, is unprecedented in its scale, and also represents a significant shift in Australia’s coal industry. If the mine goes…
High-emission brown coal power generators including Hazelwood are set to be among the short-term winners from the carbon tax repeal. AAP Image/David Crosling

Who gains most from axing the carbon tax – and at what cost?

When the carbon tax was introduced, there was a lot of discussion about winners and losers. The Labor government limited the number of businesses that had to pay the tax, while it also gave carbon tax…
The Mount Thorley Warkworth mine in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales produces coal for both electricity and steel-making. Lock the Gate Alliance/Flickr

Australia’s coal industry needs to prepare for global climate action

At the recent midyear UN climate negotiations in Bonn, an unprecedented 60 countries (including Germany) called for a total phase-out of fossil fuels by 2050, as part of a global agreement on climate change…
Global action to reduce emissions could threaten Australia’s coal exports. Lock the Gate Alliance/Flickr

Australia’s economy will suffer if we fall behind on climate action

Australia’s economy faces grave threats from climate change, but the greatest threat is if we do not make a serious effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s not just the physical impacts of climate…
New Delhi at night: India’s surging electricity demand may prove a challenge for renewable energy. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center/Flickr

India’s energy future: Australian coal or renewable revolution?

India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inherited the ongoing problem of supplying energy to one of the world’s largest economies. The challenge is made even bigger by India’s ambitions to meet rigorous…
Anti-coal protesters at Maules Creek are being watched - although it’s not really clear by who. Greenpeace Australia/AAP

Is spying on anti-coal activists just the tip of the iceberg?

The infiltration of anti-coal protests in New South Wales by spies employed by a private security company is unlikely to be a one-off event. More likely, the revelations of spying on the Maules Creek and…
Australia has a possible path to 100% renewables – if governments and business can be persuaded to take it. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Renewable energy target can go all the way to 100% – if we let it

The political outlook for renewable energy is not great – and I’m not just talking about the view out of Joe Hockey’s car window. The Renewable Energy Target (RET), which aims to deliver 41 million megawatt-hours…
Automatically labelling people as NIMBYs if they have concerns about local power projects is not a constructive way to proceed. Grahamec/Wikimedia Commons

Calling people NIMBYs won’t stop development arguments

From coal seam gas to wind farms, new resource projects seem to be pitting communities against corporations, and people against their neighbours. We often see, in such cases, community concerns labelled…
Two dozen ships anchored outside Gladstone harbour in 2008, waiting to load coal. milton.v1/Flickr

Australia’s biggest coal state plans for life beyond coal

We are in the coal business. If you want decent hospitals, schools and police on the beat we all need to understand that. – Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, June 2012. It was a rare moment of unscripted…
Coral bleaching is one of the more obvious signs the Great Barrier Reef is in trouble. mattk1979/Flickr

Is Australia shooting itself in the foot with reef port expansions?

With the approval of dredging as part of the Abbot Point port expansion, Australia has given the green light to an increase in coal exports. While opposition to the plan has focused primarily on the effects…
Already operating as a coal port, the disposal of dredge material from expanding Abbot Point is now the subject of a legal challenge. GBRMPA

Let’s dump Great Barrier Reef dredging myths: authority chief

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s recent decision to allow 3 million cubic metres of dredge material to be disposed of 25 kilometres off Abbot Point in north Queensland has attracted passionate…
Cooling towers at Yallourn, one of Victoria’s major brown coal power generators. Flickr/ccdoh1

Is $15 a year really too much to pay for renewable energy?

Australia’s Renewable Energy Target looks likely to be weakened or even axed, with the Prime Minister saying the scheme needs to be reviewed because it is causing “pretty significant price pressure”. But…
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim warns investors not to ignore climate risks. EPA/Chris Kleponis

Fossil fuel campaigners win support from unexpected places

If you haven’t heard about the growing campaign for fossil fuel divestment, and what it means for both your retirement funds and for the global economy, it’s time to pay attention - because now even the…
Dredging at Abbot Point will create three million cubic metres of spoil. AAP

There is no need to dump Abbot Point’s dredge spoil on the reef

By the end of this week we will know whether the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will allow dredge spoil from the Abbot Point port redevelopment to be dumped within the park’s boundaries. The…
Despite being the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, China is increasing its renewable sources of energy. AAP/HOW HWEE YOUNG

China roars ahead with renewables

China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) has just released some remarkable data on the addition of new electric generating capacity in 2013. China’s electric power system has been growing at a tremendous…
The Queensland government is preparing the way for more coal ports, but there are indications coal production and profits are on the way down. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

If coal’s in trouble, why build more coal ports?

If the Abbot Point expansion is approved by the Commonwealth Environment Minister next month, port dredging will go ahead. Private investment in coal ports and rail may no longer stack up, as BHP Billiton…
Coal has become part of Australia’s economic landscape, and questioning it is difficult. Bill Collison

Book review: Big Coal

Burning coal is the one of the main sources of greenhouse gases, but mining expansion continues apace in Australia. Given the all-but unqualified support of federal and state governments for new mining…
Bill McKibben presents "Do the Maths" at the Seymour Centre at the University of Sydney on the 4th June 2013. Matthew Rimmer

Do the Maths: Bill McKibben argues for divestment

In June 2013, author, activist and academic Bill McKibben is visiting Australia and New Zealand as part of the Do the Maths tour. He has been discussing the carbon bubble, fossil fuels, climate change…
Contrary to rumour, the future of Australia’s coal industry is looking pretty solid. Joost J Bakker IJmuiden

Coal: full steam ahead?

Is coal in trouble in Australia? The Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics recently revealed A$150B-worth of mining and energy projects have been mothballed in the last 12 months. The media is reporting…
The lack of transparency for the economic modelling of the Galilee Coal Project means the public must rely on the word of Waratah Coal. AAP Image/Lukas Coch

Can we trust Clive? Commercial-in-confidence coal mines

Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal claims its Galilee Coal Project, which will create four underground mines, two open-cut mines, and 468 kilometres of railway line in central Queensland, will bring economic…
Will the Great Barrier Reef be declared ‘In Danger’? We’ll have to wait until next year to find out. AAP Image/Catlin Seaview Survey

UNESCO still worried about the Great Barrier Reef

UNESCO, the body that lists world heritage areas, continues to express extreme disquiet about the state of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. But it has now postponed to February 2014 consideration…
Coal threatens our future: what kind of investment is that? AAP Image/Paul Miller

Future Fund drops tobacco: should fossil fuels be next?

After a year long public campaign, the Future Fund has today announced plans to end its $222 million investment in tobacco. The decision follows much debate about whether the Future Fund should engage…
Coal mining is crowding out industries that could bring more benefits to more Australians. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Limiting Australia’s ballooning coal exports is good for the economy

Last week, Greenpeace released a report calling for a halt to Australia’s burgeoning coal exports and pointing to the catastrophic climate impacts they would cause. In response, Mitch Hooke, chief executive…
How will ASIC cope with the pressure it’s under to punish coal hoaxer Jonathan Moylan? State Records NSW

ASIC and the great coal hoax

Will anti-coal activist Jonathan Moylan receive justice if he is charged over his hoax? ASIC, which will formally interview Moylan next week, is under enormous pressure to “make an example” of the 24-year…
Governments don’t seem to take seriously the health effects of coal mining. Ian Sanderson

Moylan’s anti-coal message is an international one

Anti-coal protester Jonathan Moylan has said the main reason for his ANZ sharemarket hoax was his concern about the health impacts of coal mining at Maules Creek. He stressed the impact of the mine on…
Do you value this? The Energy White Paper doesn’t. Green MPs

Energy White Paper plans to burn, burn, burn it all

Burn it all. That is the plan in Australia’s new Energy White Paper. Released yesterday by Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson, it talks about responding to climate change while planning the…
A coal ship caught on Nobby’s Beach in Newcastle. The city is the biggest in the world for coal exports. asnewlibrarian/Flick

Why Australia must stop exporting coal

Why get worked up about our climate responsibilities when Australia’s contribution to global emissions – around 1.5% of the total - is small? Here is the usual reply. Australia’s domestic greenhouse gas…
Given its parlous financial state, Queensland is within its rights to increase mining royalties. But why frame it as a surplus profits tax? AAP

Queensland coal: an accounting black hole

The Queensland Government has decided to raise coal mining royalties. Seems reasonable, doesn’t it? A review of Queensland Pty Ltd by Peter Costello revealed a precarious balance sheet. Time to get things…
If closing brown coal power plants is part of the lowest cost mix of emissions reduction opportunities, then they will close without additional payment from the government. ccdoh1/Flickr

Carbon price is about low-cost emissions reduction, not closing power plants

This week the Australian Government announced that the “payment for closure” element of the Clean Energy Future package would not proceed. The decision has saved taxpayers a multi-billion dollar outlay…
The Federal Government has given the go-ahead to the Alpha coal development (this picture shows the existing trial mine), but will it ever be built? Greenpeace/Andrew Quilty

On Alpha coal approval, Burke clearly right in battle with Newman

Picking who is right in political disputes is often hard but this one is different. Queensland Premier Campbell Newman was clearly wrong in stating that the Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke is standing…
With Australia’s highest carbon intensity, Victoria’s Hazelwood coal-fired power station is a prime candidate to close down part of its generating capacity. AAP

The case for shutting down Hazelwood power station - some facts and figures

Under its Clean Energy Future, the Federal government will negotiate to close 2000 MW of the dirtiest fossil fuel power generating capacity in Australia by 2020. With the price on carbon now in operation…
Coal’s toll? A Newcastle church cupola damaged in the 1989 earthquake serves as a memorial for the 13 people killed. Flickr/OZinOH

Earthquakes and mining - how humans create seismic activity

This week’s 5.3 magnitude earthquake that struck near Moe in Victoria’s brown-coal mining region of the La Trobe Valley brings to mind the 5.6 magnitude quake of 1989 in another coal-mining heartland…
The ones on the left are on their way out. Richard Brand

Energy myths exposed: King Coal or King Solar?

In our Conversation article, King Coal dethroned, we suggested that renewable energy investment was now outstripping fossil fuel power investment. Many welcomed the news that the future was arriving sooner…
Minister Tony Burke is slowing down coal development in Queensland, but there’s more to it than saving turtles. Landfeldt/Flickr

Commonwealth and Queensland face off over coal and Great Barrier Reef

The halt in the Alpha Coal Project approval process shows the Commonwealth is taking very seriously UNESCO’s recent report threatening downgrading the status of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area…
Plans to transform Victoria’s Latrobe Valley into a mining export hub are misguided. AAP

A brown-coal export hub? Tell them they’re dreaming!

If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride. And if wishes were new technology, then Victoria’s Latrobe Valley would be a mining export hub to rival the Pilbara. But wishes are neither horses nor new…
Melting Arctic Sea ice should be the warning we need about expanding coal exports. Michael Sonnabend

On Arctic Sea ice melt and coal mine canaries

Despite peak global temperatures in 2005 and 2010 (unprecedented in the instrumental record), a recent sharp plunge in volume of the Arctic Sea ice and a spate of extreme weather events, coal mining, coal…
India’s power needs are growing at a staggering rate and coal won’t do the job. NASA

How do you power a billion lives?

As the Australian Labor Party changes its stance on trading uranium with India, a pertinent question arises: why is India so keen to buy this controversial fuel? And what do India’s energy resources look…
If we’re going to talk about how safe CSG is (or isn’t), we need to look at the full picture. AAP/Origin Energy

Coal gas seams good … until you measure the methane

The Mineral Resources Rent Tax passed through the House of Representatives last week, but not without negotiations with the Greens and independent MPs. Perhaps the most significant outcome of negotiations…
There are several options for future energy generation. We just need to get there. waldopepper

Stepping stones: the slippery path to a clean energy future

In news today, the Greens are calling for an end to federal funding for a proposed coal- and gas-fuelled power plant in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley. Others have suggested the plant provides a source of “transition…
Solar is now a viable industry that should be taken seriously. AFP Photo/Sakis Mitrolidis

Solar will force coal and nuclear out of the energy business

A solar energy revolution is brewing that will put the coal and nuclear industries out of business. Solar is already reaching price parity with coal in many parts of Australia. In contrast to coal and…
Julia Gillard claims Peabody’s $5bn bid shows international confidence in the coal industry’s future. AAP

Peabody’s bid for Macarthur Coal is hardly a carbon tax endorsement

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has claimed that US-based Peabody Energy’s $5bn takeover bid for Queensland’s Macarthur Coal represents an endorsement for the government’s carbon tax. But does Peabody’s bid…

Columnists (2)

Coal, capitalism and intergenerational justice

The ANU’s recent decision to stop investing in companies it judges to have behaved in an unsustainable manner environmentally or even socially has attracted a great deal of attention. The overwhelming…

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Research Briefs (7)