July 29th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The rise and rise of Old King Coal

EDITORIAL Behind Donald Trump's endorsement of Poland

CANBERRA OBSERVED Cory Bernardi claims strong flow to his ranks

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Liu Xiaobo's extraordinary courage remembered

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Why we must fight for freedom: Trump in Poland

HEALTH Gardasil(R) and the man upon the stair, Part II

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Death of caliph will hasten end of Islamic State

MUSIC What's in a tune: minor change makes a major difference

CINEMA Spider-Man: Homecoming: Reboot on a domestic scale

BOOK REVIEW Moves that may push our constitution over

BOOK REVIEW Exposing the transgender agenda


GENDER POLITICS Edmund Rice Education Australia proposes transgender sex-ed

GENDER POLITICS Melbourne mum goes viral on 'Safe Schools'

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COVER STORY The rise and rise of Old King Coal

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, July 29, 2017

Coal, long derided as a “dirty” source of energy, has suddenly returned to favour, with the latest figures showing that 1,600 new coal-fired power stations are planned around the world, most of them using the latest high-efficiency low-emissions technology. World coal production has also risen sharply as a result.

Japan, an advanced economy of over 120 million people, is planning 45 new coal-fired power stations, as it reduces its dependence on nuclear energy, following the Fukushima meltdown.

Australia has not yet caught up with the new trend, with the recently published Finkel Report on Australia’s energy future dismissing coal as yesterday’s technology, and suggesting that there is no future for coal-fired power stations in Australia.

The figures on new coal-fired power stations come not from the coal industry, but from anti-coal environmentalists running websites like endcoal.org and coalexit.org.

The anti-coal groups are alarmed that coal usage around the world is set for a massive expansion, contrary to anti-coal propaganda, which claims that coal usage is declining.

Even in the heart of green politics, the European Union, 28 new coal-fired power stations are planned or under construction.


According to the anti-coal campaigners, Chinese power companies will supply nearly half of the world’s new coal generation expected to commence operation over the next 10 years.

Chinese companies are planning or building more than 700 new coal power stations around the world, of which some 300 are in China itself. At present about 2,800 power stations are operating in China.

According to an article in The New York Times (July 1, 2017), if the 1,600 new coal-fired plants planned and under construction come into operation, they will lift global power output by 43 per cent.

Countries in our region that are expanding coal power include Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, the consequences of the recent closure of the Hazelwood (Victoria) and Northern (SA) power stations continue to reverberate.

A recent study quoted in The Australian Financial Review found that Queensland, long an importer of electricity, is now an exporter, and that Victoria, previously an exporter, is now a net importer. (July 5, 2017)

More alarming was the fact that renewable energy, which has been touted as the solution to Australia’s looming energy shortage, has completely failed to make up the shortfall.

In South Australia, wind power, which is the mainstay of the state’s renewable energy capability, fell by 50 per cent over previous months due to a lack of wind. To make up the shortfall, generation had to be ramped up from the Pelican Point gas plant near Adelaide, and the small Ladbroke Grove gas plant near Penola, in the southeast of the state.

For the month of June, SA’s wind farms, which are expected to have a rated output of about 35 per cent of capacity, had an actual output of 13.3 per cent for the month. In the lowest week, it produced just 7.9 per cent of capacity, and on two separate days, its output was below 1.5 per cent.

The figures highlight the risk of depending on wind and solar power, particularly in periods of peak demand, in mid-summer and mid-winter.

The Finkel Report, published in May, canvassed the proposal for a phase-out of all coal generation in Australia, but argued that it is was unnecessary, as the major Australian generators, Origin, AGL and Engie, have announced plans to divest from coal generation in any case.

The report highlighted comparable countries announcing plans to cease coal generation, including Germany and Canada. Yet it made no mention of the massive expansion of coal generation around the world. (See the graph on the facing page.)

However, both those countries’ power profiles are totally different from Australia’s.

Germany has long produced vast quantities of surplus electricity that it exported to neighbouring countries, including Switzerland, Austria and Holland. It also generates power from nuclear energy.

It is now importing electricity from France – which gets most of its energy from nuclear power – Sweden, and neighbouring Poland, which is increasing its number of coal-fired generators.

Nevertheless, reliance on renewables has pushed up power prices in Germany to among the highest in Europe.

Further Germany’s intentions are unclear. While the country has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2020, and to halving emissions from energy production by 2030, Germany mining company RWE is planning the expansion of some of Europe’s biggest coalmines – Garzweiler and Hambach – and Germany’s Climate Action Plan 2050 has not set any deadline for the last of its coal-fired power plants to go offline.

Canada obtains almost two-thirds of all its electricity from hydro, and a further 16 per cent from nuclear power. Power from coal is less than 10 per cent of the total, compared with over 70 per cent in Australia. While Canada claims that over 70 per cent of its energy comes from “renewables”, only about 2 per cent comes from wind and solar power. Most of the rest of that 70 per cent is hydro.

Like Germany, Canada has a large surplus capacity in electricity, and exports its surplus to the neighbouring United States.

None of these facts was mentioned in the Finkel Report, showing that the debate in Australia is shrouded in misinformation.

Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2017, p10

As the above graph amply shows, coal, along with its fossil-fuel cousins oil and gas, composes the great bulk of energy production worldwide, while renewables, if we include hydro among them, contributes maybe 10 per cent to the world’s energy generation. No responsible government around the world is going to endanger the very lifeblood of its people’s economic and social life until such a time as the mix of fuel sources can reliably be tilted towards renewables. Of course, the word “responsible” when associated with the governments of South Australia and Victoria looks like a joke.

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