Several pieces of news in quick succession, have made in clear that the nightmare prospect of six mega-coal mines in the Galilee Basin has been staved off, at least for the foreseeable future. The key to the whole process is the Carmichael mine proposed by Indian conglomerate Adani. The rail line and port expansion proposed by Adani is necessary if any of the other mines are to proceed. Now the goods news
* Having already sacked its contractors, Adani is laying off most of its own staff, their non-denial denial notwithstanding. The break with Korean Steel company POSCO is particularly notable since POSCO was a likely equity investor and could have brought in debt funding from the Korean Export-Import bank
* The Federal Court overturned Minister Hunt’s approval of the project. While the grounds were technical, the decision raises the possibility that the whole process will need to be reassessed in the light of the adverse information that
* The Commonwealth Bank, the last likely source of debt finance for the project has ended its role as advisor
The remaining question is why, with no mine remotely in prospect, the Queensland government is still calling for expressions of interest in dredging for the proposed Abbot Point expansion. Hopefully, they have just been going through the motions. But, with the latest news, it’s time to stop throwing public money at this mirage. The tender process should be halted, at least until, and unless, the project is re-approved.
81 thoughts on “Score one for the planet”
This looks like the post of an “Extreme Green” as Big George Christensen puts it. Also, our dear leader strongly exhorts the benefits of coal, so maybe we should do a “pause for thought” given the position of these two illustrious gentlemen.
I look forward to the day when Quarry Australia is complete, species are rationalised, and we can float about on our gigantic inland sea, with no white pointers in sight.
Yes, I saw a Qld Resources Council rep. (I think it was) on the news bleating on about how this was really bad and how we had to get coal mining going again to save the Qld economy (essentially). The I saw a Qld Labor minister (Resources?) bleating on about how this was really bad and how we had to get coal mining going again to save the Qld economy.
What a load of tripe they carry on with!!! Firstly, they all say they believe in markets. Then when the market says in effect, “Nope, coal is a bad investment.” OMG! Suddenly the sky is falling and if we don’t state-subsidise coal mining and coal miners profits then the state will collapse.
The next time they are consistent (a one in a billion event) I will buy a lotto ticket as it might be a “sign” that a one in a billion win event is due to come my way.
Iko: I think a very strong education campaign needs to aimed at the skull of Lynham, the ALP Resources or similar Minister. Plus some others, including the Treasurer. Labor here want to help fix climate change, on one hand, yet …….
This could simply be part of their 1950s policy of “openning up Northern Australia”. Not long ago they put out tenders for planning how this could be done with minimal government support – at least in respect to water supply which is how I came across it.
There seemed to be this ideology based idea that the magic ‘market place’ would solve these issues without the need for government (tee hee).
As we know they are also trying to push the Ord River scheme again which for all the money put into it is still relatively small bikkies economically but is a favorite of the 2nd most hated billionaire in the world (Gina – at least according to one of those factoid web sites – Ruppert comes in top – ahead of the Kochs Waltons and the Donald so this rating may not be reliable. Still it does seem to be something where we lead the world)
Another possibility is that their speculator mates have bought up cheap arid zone land along the line of the railway like the robber barons used to do in the old US West. And their ‘investment’ looks threatened which could lead them to sue the government for compensation?
One can only assume they (Qld Labor) are;
(3) Liars, who say they want to help fix climate change but who actually want to help coal miners and get political donations and jobs for the boys (and girls) from them.
My bet is firmly on (3) as being a near certainty. The other excuses just don’t stack up.
Just reading a Grauniad article on it.
Quite apart from the global warming aspect, there are problems with protection of the water table and general environment and the dredging for the port facility has been attacked for some time as ecologically problematic.
So we back to an enduring facets of development and development politics in the form, once again, of massively endowed corporations again unwilling to spend even a pittance on ecological concerns and protections and impacts on hinterland communities, say for example, health.
The big business mentality just can’t conceive of money spent not directly related to an extractive process being a legitimate expense, no matter how small additional monies required may be.
Reminds me of a doco I watched on TV last night about theClives Battle of Plassey and an aftermath of extractive greed and violence that resulted in 3-10 million people dying in a resulting famne caused by conquest and looting.
Neo libs wonder at the scepticism of people as to truth claims by business as to its activities, but can any one detect even the slightest change in capitalist mentality across the span of history?
This is not about Adani, but Shenhua: the story from Michael West in the SMH saturday 1 August includes a pretty strong suggestion their financial reporting and accounts are dodgy – where does this sort of thing fit into the approval process? Makes a bit of a mockery of the corporate sector preaching about corporate governance and accountability.
I think he may have suggested similar things about Adani.
Do we as a country not care about financial probity of people who make grandiose claims about the money and jobs we will get?
Yes, the LOCAL environmental harm should not be underplayed. The court’s decision might be technical but really it’s reasonable to infer that the reason the correct technicalities were not observed is because they would likely have resulted in a more difficult environmental approval process.
AGW aside, coal mining and burning is a bloody awful industry that every year kills more people than Chernobyl ever did or will. That’s why a sizeable part of the decarbonising agenda is ‘no regrets’ – it would make economic and environmental sense even absent AGW. This in turn is one reason that agenda should NOT require major reductions in living standards.
The winners of this case were saying that a reassessment will create a lot of trouble because there’s a lot more information available now about its financial viability. I wonder if Adani are going to use this as an excuse to back away from teh whole thing without admitting that their entire business model is shaky? After all if they can’t get finance to get a decent coal mining operation going in a completely friendly environment in one of the world’s biggest coal mining countries, people might start to think that their business model was shaky – but if they can blame it on a regulatory decision they can pretend that the deeper, structural problems of the coal industry aren’t real.
It does give one pause to wonder though what is going to happen to the queensland economy. Given no one at any level of power in Australia is capable of thinking beyond dig!baby!dig!, how are they going to support the queensland economy as the mining boom really begins to collapse? They have no alternative ideas, and the international resources market is destroying the one industry they thought htey could depend on …
Boiling water by fire is a very old technology, full of traps. About time we moved on.
Maybe they were banking on the TPP to open up the way to sue for their profits rather than actually work for them. End stage capitalism.
” .. their speculator mates have bought up cheap arid zone land along the line of the railway like the robber barons used to do in the old US West..”
They didn’t need to buy it. The federal government gave Union Pacific the land, a 10 mile wide strip around the line. The company had to shell out to buy the Congressmen, of course.
The company had to shell out to buy the Congressmen, of course.
From what I have seen, US Congressmen can be bought very cheaply overall so it was probably not much more than petty cash.
> US Congressmen can be bought very cheaply overall
Play to your strengths: between the lax regulatory environment and the low wage levels of the economy generally it’s more cost-effective to ship your corruption to the US than to produce it locally, and with the TPP we’ll all be able to share in the benefit.
By saying that the decision by the Federal Court amounted to “red tape” Abbott appears to be interfering with due process, perhaps to sweep the rule of law aside in favour of business interests. His argument, that coal from Carmichael will provide energy to millions of Indians liberating them from poverty, seems almost incredible. Carmichael coal is too expensive for Indians and Indian govt, with Adani, are said to have prioritised renewables.
After Abbott’s rant in the Oz this morning, I’m expecting him to write a personal manifesto titled “Mine Kampf”.
What was he ranting about, Paul? (You know most of us won’t read The Australian.)
“So we back to an enduring facets of development and development politics in the form, once again, of massively endowed corporations again unwilling to spend even a pittance on ecological concerns and protections and impacts on hinterland communities, say for example, health.”
I was reading a chapter by Peter Christoff and Robyn Eckersley and one of the main points was that the real problem for sustainability and climate change is that national governments haven’t integrated their environment and economic policies, so the gains made by environmental policies are low hanging fruit gains like advances in technology and efficiency and also to a degree from offshoring of industry from advanced economies.
So the environmental and economic policies really need to be harmonised to the objective of sustainable development, rather than having different goals that are often opposing like environmental protection versus competitive industry.
Before the Commonwealth Bank announced their decision there was another planned day of action by 350.org for next week, instead of calling the action off the action has been changed to saying thank you to the Commonwealth Bank for coming to this positive decision, which is quite a nice way to turn the protest around I think, especially for the young people involved.
He was ranting about TEH GREENIES “sabotaging” the Carmichael mine by going to the Federal Court over the failure of a Liberal Minister in a Coalition government to comply with the terms of legislation introduced by a previous Coalition government, and saying that 100 million Indians will freeze to death in the dark as a result.
Those deep green Bolsheviks at Citibank have been saying all year that the global coal industry is in long-term structural decline – basically for the reasons that JQ has discussed in his posts on climate change and energy – and that the world price for coal is going to remain, for at least several years to come, well below the level that Adani’s own modelling shows would be necessary for the mine to be profitable. This may be a big call to make, but once it becomes official that the Carmichael mine is a busted flush economically, a long-standing and bipartisan orthodoxy about how Australia makes its way in the world will be likewise busted. Picking up on the points made by John Chapman @3 and Newtownian @4, our major parties seem to be in denial about this prospect and to not have much of an idea about what paradigm for Australia’s economic development should replace the soon-to-be-defunct orthodoxy.
Exactly. They have no idea.
Poe’s Law. One could not write satire of Abbott better than his own words.
For coal fired electricity to remain viable, coal needs to be cheap. For coal mining to remain viable coal needs to be expensive. Interesting dilemma.
A John who is a different John, has pointed me towards this link to the futures prices for Newcastle coal which is of higher quality than what Galilee Basin has and commands a higher price: http://www.barchart.com/commodityfutures/ICE_NewCastle_Coal_Futures/LQ
As can the seen, the consensus is that as far as the future market goes, all the way till the end of 2021, there will be no increase in the price of coal. In fact, if US inflation averages 2% it predicts a 16% fall in thermal coal prices. Now we can’t know what actual prices will be, and futures markets rarely get things exactly right, but they are the best method of predicting future prices we have and so I really don’t know what all these people who have been quoted in the Australian as saying that coal prices will soon go up are basing their assertions on. Perhaps they are using some other method of predicting the future such as examining bird entrails or looking up their stars in the back of the newspaper?
Paul Norton, I too read (some) of the PM Tony Abbott’s rambling coal manifesto, and it is deeply embarrassing to have a PM picking winners that are actually losers. Isn’t the LNP the coalition that rails against governments trying to pick winners?
The tragedy is that the PM is completely enclosed in thought-bubble wrap, and evidence-based claims are simple unable to penetrate the spin-foam encasing him.
Meanwhile, multiple climate scientists are pointing to the recurring under-estimation of the rate of change of glacier and ice sheet destruction, why the estimates are proving too conservative, and what it means for the rate of sea level rise. But don’t bother yourself with this, Mr PM, it is just scientificky stuff, done by the kind of boffins you sacked.
Roman augurs predicted the future from the flight of birds. Haruspices used the entrails (especially the livers) of sheep and poultry. All right, a hen is a bird, just.
A competent haruspex or augur should be able to score about 50% by chance, since the input data are completely uncorrelated with the outcome. Common sense will raise this, when dealing with enquiries of the type “Can I defeat the 12th SS Panzer Division / Xth Augusta Victrix legion with my band of 200 lightly armed volunteers?” The coal shills are doing much worse than chance, since they are using data fabricated to make a case, or none.
Sorry about the unclosed italics tag. When can we have comment editing?
The Environment Defenders Office in Queensland and New South Wales have just started fundraising for climate litigation now, and have videos online of Marjan Minnesma the CEO of the Dutch NGO that won the climate litigation torts case against the Dutch government a month or so ago. She spoke at uni and was very interesting and inspiring — one thing she said was that it took their lawyers about 3 years to build the case before it was ready for court, but she thought about 85% of their work could be used in other jurisdictions like Australia, so it shouldn’t take as long to get a case ready here.
The main thing for an Australian case is getting people aware of the public trust doctrine. I asked Mark Dreyfus when he was talking at the Art Gallery here the other week how he got the community to support Australia taking Japan to court over whaling, but he wouldn’t exactly say. He did say though that he hoped someone would take the Crown or the Commonwealth to court over climate change though.
“EDO Qld and EDO NSW were excited to host the Brisbane and Sydney visits of Marjan Minnesma from the Urgenda Foundation.
Marjan’s visit provided a fantastic opportunity to hear more about the groundbreaking climate action case run by the Urgenda Foundation in the Netherlands.
The District Court of The Hague has ordered the Dutch Government to take more effective climate action to reduce the Netherlands’ considerable share in global emissions. This is the first time that a judge has legally required a state to take precautions against climate change.
Marjan Minnesma spoke at public forums in Brisbane and Sydney. To watch recordings of these events, please select one of the links below.”
Still, it’s a bad look to have the Rockefeller Standard Oil billions (OK, tucked into a “foundation”) behind your anti-fossil-fuel environmental campaign.
This all goes back to 2011/2012 when a bunch of ‘anti-coal’ groups got together in the Blue Mountains and prepared a “Funding Strategy Proposal“, and it was leaked to the “media”.
The document says that it came about through:
When I see “GetUp!”, “United Voice” and “EDO” I automatically think ‘ALP Front’. That may or may not be a fair conclusion. But I would bet a million that I’m not the only one to make it, and when I think ALP I think ‘sell-out’ – especially to the fossil fuel extractive industries over the environment.
The document (which has been used to death against climate activists ever since – as the gift that keeps giving) was only a proposal to raise money. And, the concepts in it are quite standard corporate practice.
But the thing is that these people are trying to beat the pig by wrestling with it. Or perhaps risk (?) becoming the monster they are fighting.
The planet will not be saved by corporate-style marketing/PR/strategizing and tactical techniques. And it certainly is doomed if there is no breakout from the concept that we must either squirm in a marketplace under a political duopoly cartel that is hell-bent on continuing business as usual, or emulate them.
Of course, The Queensland Resource Council is a “not-for-profit” organization – a bit like a charity – which gets treated accordingly as far as taxation goes.
It looks after the interests of many in our community, including:
“Maybe people will start to understand that there really is a well-funded and well-coordinated campaign being executed by the activists.”
Yes Michael, maybe they will.
But I don’t think it will turn out the way you are imagining.
@Megan On the whole, I’d rather save the planet than worry about whether the people who are doing it are ALP fronts. EDO in particular has achieved great things.
JQ’s point is the main one, but I though I’d additionally point out that on the list you provide the EOD representative is in fact a Greens candidate. So, probably not an ALP front after all…
But the risk is that the two may be mutually exclusive.
Just had a gander at the “Windmills, the Blades of Death!” report from the inquiry into non-existent evidence of deleterious health impacts of the turbines turning, turning, always turning.
In the introductory chapter, section 1.17 (“Science and public policy”), it poses a list of questions concerning the interplay of science and public policy, with one question in particular:
“what are the risks of basing public policy on `the current science”’, to which I can’t help but think of “Hey, what if we make public policy by ignoring `the current science’?”
We are talking about some blades whirling around at a fairly leisurely clip, no smog, no CO2 emissions, no heavy particulate matter; nothing but some turning blades. If our politicians think for a second that windturbines could be that bad for us that we need to spend a bucket of money on examining the non-existent evidence, then why aren’t we doing the same thing for the petrol powered vehicles of actual death, the car? Shouldn’t we have strict rules like not allowing cars within 2km of the nearest house?
When hell freezes over, young man.
When you think about it, quite a lot of fossil fuel will have to stay in the ground. But some will still be dug up or pumped out. You’d like to think that the bit being extracted is the bit that does the least possible damage to the environment during that process.
Rather than granting environmental approvals in Australia, we should create environmental rankings that determine the order in which fossil fuel deposits are extracted.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen my fair share of birds maimed by motor vehicles. No doubt some of them were even endangered. Cars may well fall foul (so to speak) of our current government.
While we may extract coal, oil, natural gas (have I missed anything) it may be a misnomer to call them fossil fuels.
More like feedstock to things like cling wrap, plastic pails, etc? I was thinking the other day while fighting with box of cling warp that a lot of cooks are going to have to start thinking of other ways to store things when the price of plastic starts matching that of gold—well silver let’s say.
Jrkrideau, fossil fuels is an appropriate term because they are what used to be living organisms. Australia’s black coal deposits are the remains of plants that died over 300 million years in the Carboniferous period. And Prime Minister Tony Abbott is doing his best to ensure that Australian society remains a maggot living off the corpse of the Carboniferous.
But there is no need to worry about plastic become as expensive as gold or silver. For one thing, oil fields will continue to produce small quanities of oil for centuries and that will be more than enough to sustain a chemical industry, and secondly there is no need to use oil or natural gas to produce plastics. They can be produced by plants or from things such as sewage. For example, Coca-Cola has announced that it will use plant produced plastic for all its bottles.
“Young man”? I am 68. I take that from nonagenarians.
Disqus for one allows edits to comments. It’s natural justice, as bloggers can always edit and correct. Goose, gander.
I’m not surprised that the resource industry’s response is to attack environmental regulation and those that insist it be upheld – and equally unsurprised that climate responsibility is entirlely passed over. In some ways, that it’s a couple of rare, endangered species and not the climate consequences that are impediments to major coal mining projects, allows the climate concerns to be dodged and species loss to be trivialised.
Ah. I see what you mean. I think he already did, though – it’s called Battlelines, on offer at your nearest remainder table.
Thanks for reading the Oz, btw, so the rest of us don’t have to.
Picking losers is fine. It’s picking winners they object to …
I see that today’s Murdoch tabloids (Monday 10 August) are running with the claim that economic modelling shows that action to address climate change will cost the Australian economy a squillion dollars multiplied by the largest number you can think of. Thanks to the work of people like JQ and others, we know that economic models that predict economic ruin from even modest environmental protection measures are usually based on assumptions that a sensible layperson can see the absurdity of at once, and that once the falsity of the assumption/s at the base is recognised, it is not necessary to inspect the dense mathematical superstructure of the model to know that its projections are crap.
I might also mention that when I was researching my PhD thesis, I asked the research director of one of Australia’s main fossil fuel lobby groups whether any economic studies existed of the economic and employment consequences of past environmental protection measures in Australia that vindicated prior modelling claims of economic and employment losses that would occur if those measures were adopted. His answer, in short, was that they didn’t. Of course there was more to his answer than that, and he elaborated on the methodological difficulties of identifying any such effect of the measures over and above myriad other economic variables, but that in itself is surely grounds for being sceptical of alarmist claims in economic models.
“This is not about Adani, but Shenhua: the story from Michael West in the SMH saturday 1 August includes a pretty strong suggestion their financial reporting and accounts are dodgy – where does this sort of thing fit into the approval process? Makes a bit of a mockery of the corporate sector preaching about corporate governance and accountability.”
How mining companies stack up with corporate responsibility is possibly going to be important for divestment decisions I think.
As in Australia mining companies are diversified, a lot of the coal mining companies also have other mining interests.
Also, we still need coal at the moment since we can’t just stop using it tomorrow.
Because of this it is not practicable for big institutional investors to divest from all companies that mine coal immediately.
Therefore if big institutional investors commence a divestment strategy, they have to work out what companies to divest from immediately, while probably continuing to invest in other companies with the understanding that these companies will wind down their coal mining in a way consistent with targets to limit warming to safe levels.
So to decide which companies to immediately divest from, examining environmental and social records could be used to decide on a staged divestment strategy.
For instance, there are three particular companies involved in coal mining that are the worst of the worst — these are companies that specialise in avoiding their social responsibility.
Glencore traded against sanctions in South Africa, and with Shell and Exxon Glencore specialises in tax avoidance. When Mount Isa Mine was taken over the mining was of a lower standard — but the tax avoidance was of a better standard so the company profited despite poorer mining since by its improved tax avoidance it could offer more to shareholders.
Canada’s version of the ALP has axed a renewable program:
As Brisbane band ‘Sceamfeeder’ sang: “I see a pattern forming….”
Nova Scotia is not governed by Canada’s version of the ALP.