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Let them eat coal: Coal lobby not taking Paris deal very well

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In a remarkable outburst reminiscent of Marie Antoinette, the head of the European coal lobby has lashed out at what he described as “mob rule” by governments, following their agreement in Paris to seek to cap global warming at well below 2°C and possibly as low as 1.5°C.

Clearly not taking the news very well, Brian Ricketts, Euracoal’s secretary-general, wrote in a letter that the coal industry would be “hated and vilified in the same way that slave-traders were once hated and vilified” as a result of the Paris climate deal.

coal-plate

He also criticised what he called “mob rule” by a cabal of world governments and protesters at the Paris climate summit, which he said posed a threat to democracy itself. He also did not appear to accept the science of climate change.

“The world is being sold a lie, yet most people seem to accept the lie, even if they do not believe it,” Ricketts wrote in his letter. “The UN has successfully brainwashed most of the world’s population such that scientific evidence, rational analysis, enlightened thinking and common sense no longer matter.”

“You might be relieved that the agreement is weak. Don’t be. The words and legal basis no longer matter. Fossil fuels are [being] portrayed by the UN as public enemy number one. We are witnessing a power bid by people who see the democratic process as part of the problem and have worked out ways to bypass it.”

As one observer noted, it is a little rough describing 195 duly constituted governments as a mob, but the fossil fuel industry is clearly not used to not being in control.

But not in control is where they find themselves. They continue to be shunned by the stock market; reports emerged on Wednesday that shares of fossil fuel companies had been dented by the COP21 deal, while prices of both oil and gas were trading at more than seven-year lows.

But as Sky News put it, shares of coal companies “sank the most.” In the US, Peabody Energy Corp dropped 11.3 per cent, and Consol Energy fell 4.9 per cent. On the ASX, Whitehaven Coal closed trading on Tuesday at a 52-week low of $0.60c, down from $1.72 in February.

Meanwhile, fossil fuel supporters in the US appear to be having an equally hard time digesting what has happened, with Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio resorting to mockery and denial, by calling the Paris climate agreement an “unfunny joke.”



“This kind of unilateral disarmament in our economy is reckless, and it is hurting the American Dream,” Rubio told an event in Las Vegas on Monday, later expanding on his views in a conversation with Fox News.

“It’s all for show. I mean, the whole thing is for show. Number one, as you said, they’re not binding,” he said. “Number two, the administration has committed the United States to certain caps, but hasn’t told us how they’re going to do it, which obviously means they’re going to have more of these sort of regulations, at least that’s what they intend.”

In Australia, the Minerals Council has also opted for a brand of denial, arguing Australian coal will remain an important provider of affordable energy to developing countries, and that new low emissions technologies will keep coal in business as the world cuts carbon.  

  • suthnsun

    Incredible outburst of specious thinking. Does Ricketts seriously contend that slave traders should not be villified? At least with this calibre of management we can be assured the coal industry will self destruct in the face of rational pressure.

  • JustThink4Once

    I suppose the next step in Australia is for them to lobby the current government for punitive taxation on anyone divesting away from coal. Protesting new mines will put you on the ASIO watchlist and installing solar cells will be grounds for losing your citizenship.
    Meanwhile a new levy will be charged on all citizens towards a compensation fund for lost coal mining profits and coal fired generation losses.
    The Coal Restitution And Profitability fund (C-R-A-P) will be waived for those donating more than $500 to the Liberal party.

    • Chris Fraser

      Conversely, and assuming they were not wedded to coal, they could get a deal for quick depreciation on clean assets rather than lobby their cash into political parties.

    • Calamity_Jean

      “Meanwhile a new levy will be charged on all citizens towards a compensation fund for lost coal mining profits and coal fired generation losses.”

      Of course, the compensation will only be paid to the owners and managers. The guys who actually go into the mine and get dirty working the machinery will get a big fat nothing, right?

      • hydrophilia

        You are forgetting the shareholders: they have to get bailed-out too. This IS what the Libs stand for, right: privatized profits and socialized losses?

        • Calamity_Jean

          A: I was being sarcastic.

          B: “Owners” and “shareholders” are synonymous when referring to a company that has issued stock.

          C: The term “Libs” means different things depending on what country you’re from. This is an Australian site, but some people from the US and other places also read and comment. Please explain what you mean by “Libs”. I can’t answer your question until I know what your understanding of that word is.

          • hydrophilia

            Yes, I know. I was just continuing the tongue-in-cheek. And I am aware of and was working with corporate ownership issues and variations on the meaning of “Liberal”, including the Australian political party so many people here mention. Was also working with the essential hypocrisy in free-market advocates..

            Sorry if I brought confusion rather than a grin or chuckle.

  • Chris Fraser

    Upon reflection, a good response by fossil lobbyists. The outburst is probably not about our acceptance of the presence of climate change, but their acceptance of the presence of climate change. I’m told the grieving phase lasts for quite a while.You can only feel sorry for the ideologues, for they too had a chance to invest in something else long ago.

  • Motorshack

    I always wondered what sort of snacks were served at high-level LNP political barbecues.
    It gives real meaning to the phrase “swallowing the party line”.

  • Peter

    Such comments are to expected by an industry that has had it too good for far too long. They have never had to pay the full costs they impose on society – the opposite actually as they have benefited from government largesse from subsidies in its various forms.

    Just imagine how they would react if the subsidies were removed and emissions were taxed pricing coal at its real costs to society.

  • michael

    “new low emissions technologies will keep coal in business as the world cuts carbon.”
    are you suggesting this isn’t true? strange comment to lump in there as denial Giles, when it is factually accurate. As but one example, China is aiming to peak emissions in 2030, so there’s at a minimum 15 years of increasing emissions in that country alone that have to originate from a source. I would comfortably suggest some of that would be Coal and it would benefit the world if that was low particulate, high energy coal of which I am led to believe Australia has as a resource

    • John Saint-Smith

      What a curiously out dated vision. Expecting the Chinese to increase their emissions from coal for the next fifteen years is a bit naïve when they have already begun to reduce their domestic consumption. They reached zero growth in coal consumption a year ago. Five years ago they had no intention of reaching any such goal for at least twenty years – but five years is a long time in the most rapid ecological and technological revolution in history. China has a habit of exceeding expectations, and I would suggest that they will have peaked their emissions by 2025, mostly through increasing energy efficiency and accelerated installation of renewables and perhaps nuclear power if they can keep the costs down.
      The only technology which isn’t showing any signs of reduction in cost or increase in efficiency is CCS. You’d think that if it were practical, the coal industry would have built numerous full scale (1-2 GW) 100% carbon capture and sequestration power stations by now, just to re-assure the world’s governments that they can deliver safe clean cheap electricity from coal.
      Why do you suppose that they haven’t?

      • michael

        Re-read the comment and comprehend it… Nobody said coal was increasing. They will be attempting to get to 20% renewable and uranium… So there’s 80% from something else…. Some of which is coal… So it would be best for the good of the world that it’s High quality Australian coal instead of crappy grade coal which pollutes more… Is that simple enough?

        • John Saint-Smith

          “Coal is good for humanity”

          • michael

            constructive contribution, guess that’s what you need to do when facts don’t suit. Is it a fundamental inability to understand relative advantage (ie Coal will be used for the next decade at a minimum, therefore may as well use the good stuff in supercritical reactors) or something else which is annoying you?

          • John Saint-Smith

            Reducing your enthusiastic support for this out-dated ecology disrupting fuel to ‘the next decade’ is quite an achievement, but ultimately self-defeating. Why would anyone invest $billions in new supercritical coal-fired power stations burning coal whose principal exhaust gas, CO2 is the ultimate problem, if we can only use the technology for another 10 years? CCS has never been demonstrated to be cost competitive with solar, wind or even nuclear power. The sequestered CO2 will remain a liability for thousands of years, just like nuclear waste.
            At some point you might re-consider your beliefs. I’m not annoyed, incidentally, if I were I’d ignore you entirely.

          • michael

            beliefs? this isn’t religion. i’m not a fan of CCS by the way. Big fan of Uranium/thorium though. just facing reality of the comment that was being lambasted by giles, which was actually quite reasonable. You ask “why”, when what I was pointing out was that they ‘why’ doesn’t matter in terms of exports, as it has already happened. do a quick google and see what’s current under construction or just constructed around the globe in relation to coal fired power stations (critical or otherwise) and then connect that to demand which justifies supply, which is what the minerals council quote was highlighting, very simple logic. the why is a separate argument.

        • Roger Brown

          Should have sold your coal shares years ago ?

          • michael

            haha, don’t have any, but thanks for asking. should have piled life savings into the big solar companies 3-5 years ago?

    • Maurice Oldis

      Looks like you have been “led to believe” a lot of things!

    • Leigh Ryan

      What about the Sulphates michael

    • Barri Mundee

      How’s that CCS going Michael? How much funding has been committed by the coal industry and how many CCS plants are actually operating?

      • michael

        obviously not enough, but not relevant to my comment so not sure where you are going with that…

        • Diego Matter

          Michael

          Man made CO2 is the problem – I assume you support this view. The world has decided in Paris to avoid the release of CO2. That means coal is on the wrong side of history.

          Why should we support ‘high energy Australian coal’. It still emits to much CO2 when burned, which has also externalised costs associated. These costs aren’t paid by the coal industry at the moment. In short, coal doesn’t serve the world, even if it would be high energy coal from Australia. And CSS and super critical coal power stations aren’t the solution either – see http://reneweconomy.com.au/2015/citi-dont-expect-clean-coal-to-save-the-planet-80388

          By supporting to keep coal in business, you just delay the transition to new technologies in a new decentralised electricity model that is imminent. You also deny Australia, Australians and Australian businesses to be part of the new workforce in a new carbonised world.

          Coal and nuclear aren’t part of the energy mix in a decentralised energy world.
          The sooner you accept this the less suffering will be felt by the incumbent fossil fuel industries. But of course they can also wait for the Big Bang – I would argue the Paris deal is the Big Bang.

  • Peter Campbell

    Diddums! They have been on notice for a few decades now. And isn’t the market always right? And how can a decision of 195 countries be ‘unilateral’? That is about as multilateral as you could get!

  • david_fta

    So Brian Ricketts is concerned that the coal industry would be “hated and vilified in the same way that slave-traders were once hated and vilified” as a result of the Paris climate deal?

    I can see at least two ways in which Mr Ricketts is mistaken
    1) We hate them more than slave-traders
    2) We’ve been hating them since long before COP21.

  • Pedro

    If the coal and fossil fuel industry do not want to be hated and vilified can I suggest they start taking responsibility for the damage and pollution they are responsible for. Firstly they can acknowledge that they are the major cause of climate change. Secondly they need to stop their disinformation campaign and lobbying efforts. Thirdly, support a price on carbon pollution. Fourthly, plan for a rapid and smooth transition to a decarbonized economy. Fifthly support government efforts to remove fossil fuel subsidies. If they did all this I would be open for tax payers to help with the transition of these corporations

  • Miles Harding

    A golden window of opportunity for the Minerals Council to make a monumental blunder in their zeal to deny that the world is moving beyond coal.

    Like Marie Antionette, this coal lobby is being led up the guillotine steps to their fate as we all cheer “Vive la revolution!”.

  • david Hood

    That man is simply and absolutely a criminal. He has no idea of history. Doesn’t he know that every slave trading company survived the abolition of slavery, and was still
    In business six months after, doing more ethical, but still profitable activities. How does he sleep at night?

    • Motorshack

      There was a recent multi-part BBC documentary on the abolition of slavery in Great Britain, and a key central point was that Parliament could only muster the votes for abolition when they agreed to compensate every slave owner, at full market value, for every slave that was freed. It was one of the biggest public-to-private wealth transfers in all of modern history, and that money remains the foundation of much of the private wealth in Britain to this day.

      Point is, like the slave trade, the coal industry is run by unrelenting capitalists whose only goal is profits. So, you can expect them to hold on for the best deal they can manage, without any doubt.

      In other words, the coal industry will give up under only two conditions: either their market disappears altogether, or abandoning an existing market is at least as profitable as continuing to serve it.

      Personally, I prefer the former, but just as clearly the coal industry would prefer the latter.

      In any case, moral considerations will cause no loss of sleep in the coal industry. Only a threat to their profits will do that, so we can all save our breath when it comes to moralizing. It’s a pointless waste of effort.

  • trackdaze

    Brian ricketts? Isnt ricketts a disease caused by a lack of solar (sun)?

    • solarguy

      Sure is and I heard that burning coal is a quack treatment for rickets, which gives you a false sense of wellbeing while chocking to death.

  • john

    The quote:- { he said posed a threat to democracy itself } so all these people who head governments are a threat to democracy ?!!!!!!
    I suppose the democracy he is talking about is where you buy your protection rather like a mob protection racket ???
    If this is the kind of deluded thinking of a leader of any industry then I humbly submit the industry is either badly lead or has a problem of communication let alone community standards.
    I did hear his words in total disbelief that anyone who is anyway thinking clearly could utter such an ill thought out statement.

  • hydrophilia

    “Brian Ricketts, Euracoal’s secretary-general, wrote in a letter that the
    coal industry would be “hated and vilified in the same way that
    slave-traders were once hated and vilified” as a result of the Paris
    climate deal.”

    Wonderful comment!

    Although it is hard to imagine anything that could make it seem less blind and foolish, I would like to read the rest of the letter to make sure it is not being taken out of context.

    • Motorshack

      I couldn’t find the letter itself, and haven’t time to make a thorough search just now, but here is the page from the Euracoal website with Ricketts’ email address. So, perhaps you can write and ask the man himself.

      http://euracoal.eu/euracoal/team/

  • Ian

    ‘Unilateral disarmament in our economy” -Odd metaphor to liken economic activity to war. I think that gives an insight into the paranoid persecution complex that seems to animate the GOP these days.

  • Radbug

    I sent a post on Zero Hedge, just after the COP closed, equating coal with slavery, but it was wasn’t allowed up. I think that the editors of the site considered the comparison as too extreme to be credible!

  • Chatteris

    Well boo hoo! I think I’m suffering from a bad case of ‘carbonfreude’!