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Big Coal

Big Coal: Australia's Dirtiest Habit

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: UNSW Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Big Coal
    Book Description:

    Australia’s dirtiest habit is its addiction to coal. But is our dependence on it a road to prosperity or a dead end? Are we hooked for life? And who is profiting from our addiction? Former lobbyist and political insider Guy Pearse, media and politics commentator David McKnight and environment writer Bob Burton cut through the spin to expose the underbelly of an industry whose power continues to soar while its expansion feeds catastrophic climate change.

    eISBN: 978-1-74224-640-6
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)

    Australia is teetering on the brink of the greatest strategic blunder in its history. If planned expansion of the coal industry proceeds, Australia will find itself ‘beautifully equipped for a world which no longer exists’, with extensive stranded assets in mines, ports and railways, as key trading partners like China and India rapidly abandon a high-carbon future in favour of low-carbon alternatives.

    Coal has a long and turbulent history. It was the mainspring of the Industrial Revolution. Its cheap energy subsequently leveraged the creation of phenomenal wealth in the developed world, as well as much of the wealth being created...

    (pp. 1-11)

    Grazier and landowner Paola Cassoni lives in central-western Queensland. Back in 2000 she was worried about the extensive and rapid clearing of the land taking place around her. Along with other local families, she helped purchase 8000 hectares of land that was once part of an old cattle property near the small town of Alpha. Together they aimed to preserve the remnant woodland, along with its birds, reptiles and other animals. With the financial support of the federal government the land was turned into a nature reserve called Bimblebox Nature Reserve and became part of the National Reserve System with...

    (pp. 12-33)

    Australia is a land of coal. We are the world’s second biggest exporter of coal and 75 per cent of our electricity comes from burning coal. Created over millions of years ago as lush forests and plants decayed and fossilised, coal was compressed into vast underground seams which lie beneath large parts of Australia. In Queensland, thick basins of black coal lie inland from the coast. In some places the seams are 40 metres thick, with mine sites forming a necklace that stretches for 800 kilometres. Further south, Victoria has some of the world’s largest deposits of brown coal, centred...

    (pp. 34-59)

    Among the gum trees a sandstone cave sits high on a hill above the broad valley of the Hunter River in NSW. Inside the cave, the figure of a man – or rather a god – is painted in red ochre. Around him are white stencils of human hands, a stone axe and a boomerang. It’s an ancient vision of the Indigenous spirit god Baiame, who came to Earth and shaped the rivers, the hills and the forests. However, today, if you stand in this cave and look north across the Hunter Valley you see another vision.

    Soft grey mist suffuses the...

    (pp. 60-99)

    If you take a walk down Queen Street, Brisbane, away from Fortitude Valley, and head around the corner to Edward Street, within the space of around 600 metres you will pass the flashy high-rise offices of a new breed of larger-than-life coal barons – Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Coal, Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal, Peter Bond’s Linc Energy and Nathan Tinkler’s Whitehaven Coal. None were billionaires a decade ago and their rise to prominence provides some of the most visible evidence of the Australian coal boom of recent years. Their conspicuous spending and forays into politics, the media and professional sport have been...

    (pp. 100-127)

    The advertisements screened nationwide from early 2011 in the wake of other big ad campaigns by miners aimed at preventing the carbon tax and the Resources Super Profits Tax. Having exercised its muscle so publicly, Big Coal went on a big charm offensive – a series of heart-warming cameos mainly involving mining employees, packaged together under a ‘Mining: This is our story’ banner. ‘We all eat from the same tucker box up here’, says a farmer starring in one TV commercial. ‘Australians used to ride on the sheep’s back. Mate, now they’re riding on the back of a dump truck …’²...

    (pp. 128-155)

    Geoff Graham, a fluoro-safety-shirted, middle-aged man with a slight hint of sweat on his face, appeared glum as he looked out from the newspaper advertisement: ‘The new tax on coal mines won’t help climate change. so why should I lose my job for it?’ Geoff was just one of the ‘ordinary’ Australians fronting a series of ACA ads opposing the emissions trading scheme proposed in 2009 by Kevin Rudd. Another advertisement claimed that over 7700 jobs would be lost, with little symbols suggesting that the notional jobs to be lost in the overwhelmingly male-dominated coal industry would be equally split...

    (pp. 156-193)

    For longer than most of us probably remember, Australian politicians have talked up ‘clean coal’, beating the drum routinely ever since climate change first peeked over the political horizon. Back in 1990, Bob Hawke confidently flagged clean coal technology as ‘a possible basis’ for coal exports into Asia.² His Energy Minister, John Kerin, assured Parliament that when it came to clean coal, ‘as the world’s foremost coal exporter, we will certainly be leading the charge’.³ In 1994, with growth in Australian coal exports to developing country markets in mind, Industry Minister Peter Cook announced federal funding for ‘clean coal techniques...

    (pp. 194-219)

    The chipped china collection of Australian animals in the cupped hands of the 12-year-old girl was just about all that remained of her worldly possessions. The rest had gone up in flames as a massive bushfire raged across the Tasman Peninsula in south-east Tasmania in early January 2013. The girl’s family home – along with another 110 nearby – had all been destroyed within a few hours. Eight kilometres up the road in Dunalley, one family had a harrowing escape: two grandparents clutched their five grandchildren in chest-deep water beneath a jetty while the fire raged through the surrounding bush. The fire...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 220-246)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 247-260)