Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and state mines and energy minister Geoff Wilson were on hand in early May to celebrate Rio Tinto's announcement that the company would double exports of coal from Queensland in the next seven years.
The announcement marked the start of operations at Rio Tinto's newest mine, the $950 million Clermont Mine in central Queensland.
While the announcement was promoted as a "win" for Queensland, environment campaigners argue it is a move in a dangerous, unsustainable direction.
"The state government's preoccupation with sustaining a booming coal economy ignores the urgent need to invest in renewable solutions", Dom Hale, environment campaigner with the Socialist Alliance and Resistance, told Green Left Weekly. "Our environment teeters on the brink of catastrophe, with the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef already suffering from climate change, yet the premier cheers new coal mines and a projected doubling of coal exports."
Hale said a recent report by the Australian Conservation Foundation, Responsible Public Investment in Australia, found that government-controlled funds invest roughly $47 in fossil fuels and uranium for every $1 spent on renewable energy.
"Projects like the $1.2 billion ZeroGen Mark II [which aims to develop a coal plant with carbon capture and storage facilities] have siphoned $300 million from taxpayers to the non-solution of 'clean coal'", Hale said. "'Clean coal' is simply a way to allow coal companies to continue mining fossil fuels and spewing out CO2, with the false hope that the greenhouse gasses can be stored underground indefinitely. It's a smokescreen to avoid the need to phase out coal. Worse still, it diverts funds that should be going to genuine, renewable solutions.
"Bligh is propping up an inefficient life support system for coal, maintaining a stubborn loyalty to fossil fuel, and forcibly surrendering genuine renewable solutions.
"We need to build a community campaign that challenges this coal addiction, at local, state and federal levels."