Australian Notes

Australian notes

20 July 2019

9:00 AM

20 July 2019

9:00 AM

Superglued to the Greens

The great satirical novelist Evelyn Waugh once catalogued a fictional, remote and newly-converted Christian sect who continued to engage in cannibalism but not during Lent and only with ‘special and costly dispensation from their bishop’.

I don’t know what penance arrangements environmental activists have in place, but they certainly have great demand for them.

Take this month’s superglue protests. Queenslanders gave emphatic support to the Adani mine at the recent Federal election, so two environmental activists thought the best response was to superglue themselves to Queen Street, holding up traffic in Brisbane’s CBD for three hours.

They were somewhat thoughtful in their preparation. Presumably expecting that three hours superglued to a hot, bitumen Brisbane street could be rather uncomfortable, the activists thoughtfully brought along their own yoga mats to comfort them through their ordeal.

Not too much thinking though. The activists probably don’t realise that the EVA foam, from which modern yoga mats are made, stands for ethelyne vinyl acetate. The feedstock for the creation of this plastic is ethane, a hydrocarbon, or in the words of the activist types, a fossil fuel!

The world has an enormous demand for fossil fuels, more often than not to provide necessities a little more basic than yoga mats. The recently-released World Energy Statistics from BP proves this point.

In our Asia-Pacific region, coal-fired power production increased by 354 terawatt hours last year. In its last full year of operation, the Hazelwood power station produced 10 terawatt hours, so in effect thirty-five Hazelwoods opened in the Asia-Pacific last year.

In contrast, solar power increased by only 87 terawatt hours.

Although coal has been declining in North America and Europe, coal recorded the largest increase in electricity for the entire world. Coal remains by far the predominant source of electricity across the planet.

There remain more than 1 billion people without access to electricity in the world — let alone yoga mats. Australia’s clean coal and gas help provide power to the poorest people in the world and that’s something all Australians can take pride in.

That is why there are over 400 coal fired power stations in construction or planning around the world. The era of coal is far from over because coal-fired power provides such clear and abundant benefits to people who want to climb out of poverty.

The BP report also showed the enormous potential of India, where over 150 million people lack access to electricity. Last year, India increased its generation of coal-fired power by almost 60 terawatt hours compared to an increase of only nine terawatt hours for solar.

There is still enormous potential for India’s demand for coal to increase substantially. The International Energy Agency predicts that India will increase its thermal coal demand by 670 million tonnes per year by 2040. Australia only exported 200 million tonnes of thermal coal in the last year.

Australia’s share of India’s coal imports, however, is disappointingly low. Last year, Australia captured just four per cent of India’s thermal coal imports market. Indonesia provided over sixty per cent, and even the US exported more coal to India than Australia.

The final tick-off to the Adani project gives Australia the potential to lift Australia’s share to a more respectable level. If we could lift our market share of India’s thermal coal to fifty per cent that would deliver $10 billion extra in export revenue for Australia by 2030.

Developing new markets in India would also increase the number of customers we have for our resources. It makes sense for any business to not rely on one customer.

Australians are known for their common sense. And common sense dictates that we should support industries because they help develop our wealth and create jobs. For the past few years unemployment has been hovering around ten per cent in North Queensland. At the peak of the downturn, Townsville’s workforce reduced by 33,000 people, or over thirty per cent. If the same downturn had occurred in the Sydney labour market nearly a million people would have been out of a job. That collective common sense was shown at the federal election when the vast majority of Australians, especially those who live closest to coal mines, voted against the Labor-Greens agenda of shutting down our wealth producing industries like coal. Indeed, there is a statistically-significant relationship between how far a polling booth was from the physical location of the Adani mine and the swing to the Liberal National party.

Since the election the Labor party has paid lip-service to the idea that, now, they might actually support coal. The problem, however, is that the Labor party has become so addicted to preferences that they are superglued to the Greens party and no chemical known to man is strong enough to weaken that bond.

Not all Australians demonstrate common sense. One superglue protestor in Brisbane was fined $550 which would have gone nowhere near the direct costs of hours of police time freeing the protestors, let alone the indirect costs of disrupted Brisbane traffic.

These fines must increase and if the Queensland courts can’t, then governments should pass stronger laws to increase these penalties, as the Liberal National party has proposed.

If the next superglue protestors want to be taken more seriously they should do so sans yoga mats. But then I have even worse news for our modern hypocrites. Modern superglues also contain fossil fuels to generate their adhesive properties. It is just so hard to be pure in an impure world.

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