The Minerals Council of Australia has followed up its recent print media campaign bemoaning the unfair legal advantage green groups have over major mining developments, with a new advertisement spruikng the “amazing” and “endless possibilities” of coal, and claiming it is now able to slash its emissions by up to 40%.
The multi-media campaign, called Little Black Rock, was launched over the weekend with a 30 second TV commercial that, sounding just like Tony Abbott, lists the endless possibilities of coal; including the delivery of $6 billion in wages for Australians, and the injection of $40 billion a year into the Australian economy.
“It can create light, and jobs. …It produces steel, and powers our homes, as well as out economy… and it can now reduce its emissions by up to 40 per cent. It’s coal. Isn’t it amazing what this little black rock can do?”
Indeed it is. As Fereidoon Sioshansi put it in an article published on RE in June, “coal is plentiful and cheap, the perfect fuel for the utility boiler, only if it were not for the fact that it is heavily polluting… (and) carbon loaded,” in an increasingly carbon constrained world.
It is for this reason – namely, avoiding dangerous climate change – that a recent report from Australia’s Climate Council advised that 90 per cent of the nation’s Little Black Rock reserves must stay in the ground; an outcome that would undoubtedly limit their endless potential.
To counter this sort of thinking, the Minerals Council campaign claims that low-emission coal-fired power plants and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is “now a reality”, that is slashing emissions. And it wants to use this campaign to initiate an “informative and rational discussion” about the fossil fuel’s future.
But it’s an optimistic view. As Sioshansi points out later in that same article, despite governments in coal dependent economies around the world pumping money into CCS to varying degrees, “to date, few successful commercial-scale options have emerged.”
Rather, he adds, “CCS has proven technically challenging and financially expensive – certainly on a scale large enough to make a difference.”
Last month, it was revealed that the developer of America’s first commercial-scale clean coal project in Mississippi was “on the brink of bankruptcy,” due to soaring costs and long construction delays (it is two years behind schedule and $4.4 billion more expensive than the original estimate.)
Meanwhile, the cost of renewable energy sources like wind and solar is falling lower and lower, with the cost of energy storage soon expected to follow suit, leaving coal without much of an up-side, as an energy source.
To Blair Palese, from climate group 350.org, the campaign by the Minerals Council is a sign that Australia’s coal industry is feeling the pressure.
“We’ve got climate talks coming up in Paris and the steamroller effect of action happening globally, with companies and governments moving away from coal, is scary for the coal industry.
“This desperate ad is a figment of the Mineral Council’s imagination and cannot stand up to the reality of renewables cutting into the market with very little support. People will see through this but sadly there is no transition plan to renewables in Australia,” he said.
“This is a ludicrous ad,” said Kelly O’Shanassy, chief executive of the Australian Conservation Foundation. “Coal is a dangerous little black rock. Every climate scientist and almost every politician in the world knows that coal is very polluting and very dangerous. The only people who don’t get that are the Minerals Council and our government.
“I’m glad that the Minerals Council has woken up to the 18th century potential of coal. I can’t wait until they see the 21st century potential of renewable energy.”
Meanwhile, a separate adverting campaign has been launched by anti-mining group, Lock the Gate, starring Sydney radio host and born again environmentalist, Alan Jones, and calling on the Abbott government to abandon plans to restrict the legal rights of green groups to challenge mining developments in Australia’s courts.
“I may live nowhere near the Liverpool Plains, or the Great Barrier Reef,” says Jones in the TV ad, “but I sure as hell am concerned that they are protected.
“This move by the Abbott Government puts at risk not only our environment but our very democracy,” he says. Don’t get him started on wind farms, though.
You can see the Jones ad below, which will air on Sky News from today.