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New Coal Mines in Australia

We will be loud against the silence
Angry at the greed
We will not beg

We are defiant
Tell it like it is

– Phil Monsour and the crisis actors, ‘Our House is on fire

The global climate deal reached at the Paris climate talks left a big question unanswered: what do to about coal? It isn’t even mentioned in the (Paris 2015) agreement text. This week the Paradigm Shift (4ZZZ fm 102.1 Fridays at Noon) looks around the country at proposed new coal mines and the resistance to them – from Gomeroi traditional owners in NSW to farmers in central Queensland. We also have an update from Ben Pennings (Galilee Blockade) on the campaign to stop Adani’s infamous Carmichael mine in Central Queensland.

New Coal in Qld & NSW

Paradigm Shift

Andy, Ian & guests

Friday 12:00 – 1:00 PM July 3, 2020

Welcome to the Paradigm Shift on FM 102.1 4ZZZ Fridays at noon. We challenge the assumptions of our current society, to resist oppression …

This week we look around the country at proposed new coal mines and the resistance to them – from Gomeroi traditional owners in NSW to farmers in central Queensland. We will also have an update on the campaign to stop Adani’s infamous Carmichael mine in Central Queensland.

Playlist
Ziggy Ramo – Stand for something
The Lurkers – Mining man
Mick Daley and the Corporate Raiders – No minister
Stretch Farbrigas – Adani stinky farty
Formidable Vegetable Sound System – Climate movement

5 responses to “New Coal Mines in Australia

  1. Looking forward

    WBT has received this article in response to the Paradigm Shift’s program about New Coal Mines in Australia. It is by Trevor Berrill – Sustainable Energy Systems Consultant and Educator.

    The Battle for the Green New Deal

    The battle over the expansion of coal and gas mining continues to confront Australians, as indigenous Australians lose country and heritage, farmers see strategic cropping legislation fail to protect precious fertile land, and coal seam gas fields and coal mines scar the countryside. Australia is now the biggest world exporter of both these fossil fuels (1). A “Green New Deal” (GND) has been suggested as a solution to the climate crisis and now a pandemic recovery. It has the potential to replace the need for mining coal and gas. It could transform the Australian economy, building a renewable energy power system, high speed rail between Brisbane and Melbourne to replace cars and much aviation use, producing green hydrogen from renewables as an export fuel, reduce emissions and deliver thousands of jobs. All of this has been shown to be technically and economically feasible in comprehensive analysis reports by organisations such as Beyond Zero Emissions. But such a “Deal” looks unlikely in Australia, under the current Federal LNP government. Its aim is to limit renewables, which have continued their rapid growth even during covid-19 pandemic, both in Australia and internationally.

    Energy Minister, Angus Taylor is doing this in a number of ways. Firstly, the LNP have stacked the National Covid-19 Coordination Committee, responsible for recovery planning, with fossil fuel representatives, promoting fossil fuel infrastructure programs, instead of renewables. Secondly, Taylor is slowing down changes in electricity industry regulation to prop up the incumbent large fossil fuel generators as their financial models crumble, at the expense of cheaper renewables with storage. Thirdly, he is allowing fossil fuel projects to receive funding from both the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CFC). Both these organisations were set up under Labor to promote renewables. The LNP have repeatedly tried to shut them down but have failed in the Senate. Instead, Taylor is promoting gas and the oxymoron of “clean coal” again. Most of these measures, except the first, were already in place before covid-19 struck (2).

    But Taylor is facing stiff opposition to his plans at a State level as the States want a foot in both camps, selling fossil fuels, upgrading transmission systems to assist rapid expansion of renewables with storage. This isn’t going to slow new coal or gas mines though. You have to look at the bigger global picture to see what is happening internationally with fossil fuel demand, and what other countries or regions are doing with renewables as part of a GND.

    Globally, the pandemic’s slowing of the world’s economy has resulted in a huge reduction in demand for all fossil fuels (oil and coal mostly), with global greenhouse gas and other emissions down by 17 percent in April, and predicted to be 8 percent lower for 2020, the lowest since 2006. This is associated with a reduction in energy use of up to 25 percent in countries during full lock-down (3). Many organisations and experts are calling for the opportunity to move to the “Green New Deal” as the way to address both economic recovery and reduce greenhouse gas and other emissions from fossil fuels. In Australia, this includes many conservative groups including the Business Council and the Australian Industry Group, as well as Unions and green groups (4). This is largely because they recognise that new industries are often labour intensive in their early phase of development, as is the case with renewable energy. There are about 3 times the number of jobs created for each unit of energy generation from renewables compared to coal and gas generators (5).

    Currently the pandemic response has reduced fossil fuel use and emissions, but at a huge economic cost, and potentially mass unemployment and social/political instability. The question is, can a “Green New Deal” get us out of this mess and clean up the environmental and social costs (called externalities) associated with fossil fuel use? According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, “These substitutions (I.e. of renewables for fossil fuels) would reduce externalities by at least USD 1.2 trillion per year and as much as USD 4.2 trillion per year by 2030, in comparison to current policies” (6). These savings would help fund a “Green New Deal”.

    So what is happening globally to implement a GND? The European Union is attempting a “Green New Deal” (7), but it’s likely to be piece meal, given the tensions across the EU, and the exit of the UK. Some Asian countries are planning part measures, such as South Korea. But China is key and may stimulate polluting industry instead to reboot the economy (8). America is in crisis although some progressive States will act as much as they can. As a whole nation though, America is rejecting this strategy under the Trump administration and supporting the fossil fuel industry, which is in crisis and being heavily subsidised (9). However, to address both the pandemic, its economic / social / political consequences and the climate crisis, will require a level of international cooperation never seen before. That doesn’t appear to be happening. Overall, it seems to me to be unlikely that a “Green New Deal” will get enough international cooperation to address both the climate and pandemic crises.

    The Battle for the Green New Deal
    Trevor Berrill – Sustainable Energy Systems Consultant and Educator

    Sources:
    1. Coal seam gas and coal exports and emissions https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/2020/07/09/australia-export-fossil-fuels/
    2. Renew magazine (2020 – issue 152). “Transition delayed”. http://www.renew.org.au
    3. Reduction in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions https://www.iea.org/reports/world-energy-investment-2020
    4. Support for Green Recovery https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/may/22/australian-government-urged-to-back-sustainable-covid-19-recovery-with-clean-energy-transition
    5. Jobs in renewables 3 times more https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jun/07/renewable-energy-stimulus-three-times-as-many-australia-jobs-fossil-fuels-coronavirus-economic-recovery
    6. Environmental and socials costs of fossil fuels https://www.irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Publication/2016/IRENA_REmap_externality_brief_2016.pdf
    7. EU Green New Deal https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal_en
    8. Asian Countries Green New Deal https://www.eco-business.com/news/how-green-are-asias-post-covid-economic-recovery-plans/
    9. Green New Deal in USA https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-green-new-deal-is-more-relevant-than-ever/

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    • 453 megawatt Coopers Gap wind farm, powering 264,000 homes with clean energy

      Like

    • Real Jobs?
      Employment as security guards, and in cafes, coffee shops and cleaning in the regional towns are not real jobs. They are not unionised and the awards in those jobs are pathetic. Plus such jobs are not productive. Retail & café jobs are used by workers to supplement income from other sources.

      I think people in regional areas of Australia understand the difference between a real job and a fake job.

      Ironically it is partly for this reason that people in the regions voted for Morrison’s support for coal.

      During the last federal election, they sensed that Labor was equivocal on mines like Adani. They understood that Labor had no solutions for real jobs in Queensland. Neither does the LNP.

      Until regional voters are convinced that there will be real, long term employment with proper conditions they will continue to oppose the ‘Green New Deal‘ outlined here and in the US by people to the Left of the Democratic Party.

      When jobs are raised, opponents of new coal mines may claim the existential threat of carbon outweigh concerns over employment . They may claim alternative energy companies will provide better employment in the regions. I just do not buy it, privately owned renewable energy companies are run for profit not for workers rights. As are coal mines. It is just that coal mines in QLD & NSW are unionised.

      I find arguments that imply that one group of people have greater insight into the future than another group unhelpful. Such arguments often ring with moralism.

      Ian Curr
      16 July 2020

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      • Renewables jobs

        Your comments are opinion and you provide no facts. And your definition of what constitutes “real jobs” as opposed to “fake jobs” is in no way clearly defined, other than that only unionised work places can deliver “real jobs”. Do Real Jobs = fair wage/flexible, safe & heathy work conditions/long term security/democratic work place decision making and more??

        When you say security is not a real job, I would ask the worker that – is not security a service industry, that is, however much we might not like it, necessary to some extent? Do you have evidence of how much these guys got paid at the wind farm? In terms of job security, the guys I spoke to briefly were clearly happy with 19 years of work for the same company, otherwise why mention it, in a world where we are expected to reskill every 5 to 7 yrs. Maybe in a pure communist state, security would not be necessary (Just read the book – Fully Automated Luxury Communism by Aaron Bastini – plenty of reviews online).

        Re Unionisation
        Why are people not joining unions? Clearly no short answers to this and the relentless neo-liberal attack has been effective over time at reducing greatly union membership. So worker conditions and salaries stagnated and of course casualization has had huge impacts. So yes in many industries, particularly service ones, workers have lost out big time. But does that mean all industries fall into this situation? My own union experience of 14 years in TAFE MWU was that we got sold a little more pay for ever worsening conditions – more students to teach and less support to deliver, being asked to find productivity gains year after year, when we actually needed more support (financial, infrastructure and workers) to do the job well.

        Re Regional people
        Why do regional people have the ability to distinguish “real jobs” from “fake jobs”? Many are likely to run small business and have never been unionised, and probably are anti-union.

        In my experience of working with Felton and Acland communities, many regional people are very conservative and oppose change in general. But when presented with good information about jobs potential in RE, they listen. I spoke with the admin officer for a while at the Coopers Gap wind farm. She was from Jandowae and was enjoying her work. I asked about the level of local community support for the wind farm and she said it was very good.

        Re Regional Australia not accepting the Green New Deal & Existential Threat vs Jobs
        In the last election, Bob Brown’s tour group threw petrol on the fire in Central Qld and Labor had no transition plan to offer the regions. The coal miners oppose it because they are in a privileged position salary wise (average annual $124,000), and don’t wish to accept a transition is even necessary from coal. I heard the CFMEU rep effectively say this a few years ago at a Brisbane workshop on Transitioning from Coal run by the TJ Ryan foundation. https://www.payscale.com/research/AU/Job=Coal_Mine_Worker/Salary
        The mainstream green movement like ACF and QCC has worked hard to communicate the need for a transition package for regional coal and gas workers (many of whom are FIFO workers now). It has been careful not to use a moral argument of climate action over jobs. They have worked closed with the ACTU and other union groups on transition workshopping. https://www.actu.org.au/media/1032942/conference-program-final.pdf
        Labor failed to propose and communicate a comprehensive transition for coal and gas workers and regions at the last election. This woman, Amanda Cahill, in particularly, has done a lot of work in central Qld around this issue, and needs to be given credit for it – not sure where she is at with this. https://www.impactboom.org/blog/2019/7/9/amanda-cahill-on-proactively-addressing-community-issues-acting-on-climate-change & http://www.centreforsocialchange.com.au/ourpeople/
        Maybe you could interview Amanda on Paradigm Shift?

        RE Effective Transitions
        See the German experience on this for how to do it properly and phase our coal jobs and transition workers and regions. https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/how-germany-closed-its-coal-industry-without-sacking-a-single-miner-20190711-p526ez.html
        I think there was an ABC Foreign Correspondent program covering this also.

        State of the RE industry workers – Worker Satisfaction and Salaries

        Here’s a couple of extracts from reports into “real” RE workers conditions – professionals and trades.
        This first one is from 163 countries of workers across the whole energy sector, and includes comparison of RE workers with fossil fuel workers.
        https://solarpowermanagement.net/article/104680/Energy_Sector_See_Gains_in_Pay_Job_Satisfaction

        Renewable energy resources support long-term climate change mitigation goals by reducing greenhouse gases. While a great many workers in this sector take pride and personal satisfaction in helping meet global climate change targets, another key to understanding their satisfaction lies in ways that employers in wind, solar and hydroelectric industries have readily embraced technologies that continue to improve working conditions, safety and long-term worker satisfaction.

        Although the oil and gas industry typically pays employees more than their renewable energy counterparts, “”¦the comparatively modest remuneration hasn’t stopped workers in renewables from finding contentment. The sources of happiness come primarily from the sector’s embrace of digitalization: better technology, flexible working and remote working all played a part in ensuring contentment. Many companies can boast of having the relaxed office culture often found in Silicon Valley,” Marx explained, something that is not typically found at most oil and gas producers.

        This second report is specific to Australia – Salary survey in RE industry
        https://www.ecogeneration.com.au/renewable-energy-salary-survey/

        About half of respondents were from sales/business development (20.1%), engineering/design (17.1%) or project management (13.3%). The remainder were employed across other job functions such as administration, construction and maintenance.

        The average annual full-time salary package in the industry was about $140,000, where 82.7% of participants are full-time employees and the remainder part-time (5.8%), temporary/contract (3.7%) and casual (7.1%). Of the respondents, slightly less than half do not receive bonuses.

        A third of participants were earning annual salaries within the $60,000-$99,999 range. The participants who were earning salaries of $200,000 and more were noticeably in senior roles such as managers and directors. However, it is important to note that 8% of that salary range are consultants on temporary contracts and earning a full-time equivalent salary higher than $200,000.

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      • Criteria for a real job

        Firstly, only workers can decide what is a real job.

        The criteria that I use (there may be others) are:

        1. ability to save money?
        2. whether you can afford to buy a motor vehicle;
        3. can you pay mortgage and or rent? What percentage of your wage does your mortgage/rent take up?
        4. are you under an industrial award or is the labour contract?
        5. pay and conditions?
        6. Union?
        7. level of worker solidarity in the workplace?
        8. level of exploitation by the boss?
        9. is the work productive/creative?
        10. Does the work provide self-esteem? is it a vocation?
        11. What do you wear to work? Do you have the uniform?
        12. Is child care provided or is it possible to obtain childcare?
        13. Does the work involved menial or domestic duties?

        And finally is the job sustainable? This is necessary to not just stop ecological systems collapse, which is happening rapidly now (relatively speaking), but to regenerate the natural environment on which all life depends.

        Applying these criteria to my own worklife I was employed for 34 years and only 22 of those years would classify as being in a real job.

        Please Note: The Paradigm shift (4ZZZ fm 102.1 Fridays at Noon) intends to look at this question in the next couple of weeks and we would like to interview anyone who can address the question, what is a real job?

        Like

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