Australia Burning More Coal For Power

Coal fired power generation

The UN’s IPCC has again urged for the end of use of fossil fuels for power generation, but Australia appears to be thumbing its nose by burning even more coal.

With greenhouse gas levels at their highest in 800,000 years, the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) synthesis report states the majority of the world’s electricity should be generated from low carbon sources by 2050 and fossil fuel use ceased almost entirely by the end of the century.

The ABC reports brown coal’s share of national electricity generation  in four months has risen 4 per cent to 26 per cent and black coal’s slice has jumped 3 per cent to 51 per cent; thanks in part to rising gas prices and the axing of the carbon tax.

Brown coal, energy’s crack cocaine, is particularly prevalent in Victoria. The ABC states the Yallourn Power Station was operating at half capacity this time last year and the facility is now running at full capacity.

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine says brown coal “provides us cheap, affordable energy for Victorian families and Victorian businesses.” Perhaps it is cheap, but only if the environmental and health costs of burning coal aren’t factored in. In 2012, coal was reportedly costing Australia $2.6 billion annually just in terms of health impacts.

Not all Australian governments have such a passion for coal.

ACT Environment Minister Simon Corbell says the fuel poses a direct threat to the safety of humanity. The ACT government has set a renewable energy target of 90 per cent by 2020.

The Australian Government’s $2.55-billion Direct Action scheme, touted to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions by 5%, has been labelled “utterly hopeless for Australia’s future” by Shadow Minister For Climate Change Mark Butler.

Legislation for Direct Action was passed last week with the assistance of Palmer United Party senators, but PUP leader Clive Palmer is less than enthusiastic about the initiative.

“It’s clear Direct Action won’t give us the 5% reductions,” Mr. Palmer told Guardian Australia. “We’re going to need another policy pretty soon. But in the short-term it’s better to have something reducing emissions than having nothing.”