Wednesday, 16 April 2008 15:57

Battle of the greens flares up fueled by coal

Unity among various factions of the green movement in Australia appears to be disintegrating as a result of disagreement over the purported greening of coal power.

In one corner are hardliners Greenpeace and the Australian Greens political party, who believe coal is flat out evil, facing off against the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Climate Institute, who have teamed up with the coal industry to push investigations of whether coal power carbon emissions can be cleaned up by carbon capture and sequestration technologies.

Carbon capture and storage technologies seek to trap and divert the carbon dioxide emissions of coal fired power plants into natural storage facilities in the earth such as old disused natural gas mines instead of allowing the greenhouse gas to escape into the atmosphere. The technology was strongly supported by the previous Howard Government which was mindful that Australia's energy and economic future is still strongly tied to its abundant coal reserves

Opponents of carbon capture claim the technology is impractical, expensive and may even be dangerous if the stored carbon dioxide finds its way back into the atmosphere through the water table. An incident that occurred in 1986 at Lake Nyos in Cameroon, when a large carbon dioxide cloud was suddenly emitted from the volcanic lake fatally suffocating 1700 people who lived in the valley below, is sometimes used by opponents to illustrate the potential danger of carbon dioxide sequestration. CONTINUED page 2

Greenpeace and the Australian Greens believe carbon capture and storage technology as it stands is unproven and any government backed move to devote funds into cleaning up coal power emissions is diverting funds away from the development of renewable energy technologies.

The two green groups are livid that their environmental brethren, WWF and the Climate Institute have formed an alliance with industry peak body the Australian Coal Association and the CFMEU (Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union) to push the carbon sequestration cause with Rudd Labour Government.

However, the WWF and Climate Institute are more pragmatic than the environmental hardliners, accepting that Australia is currently 80% powered by coal, earns tens of billions in coal exports annually, and therefore needs to consider a diverse range of options including carbon capture and storage in order to cut carbon emissions.

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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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