Call to close Hazelwood power station


Fraser Allison, Melbourne

On August 19, young environmental activists led a different sort of demonstration against global warming. Juliana Qian and Lachlan Campbell-Type, with a small group of supporters, thanked commuters at train stations for using public transport. They gave tips on how to reduce energy consumption and handed out paper windmills as symbols of renewable energy. Qian and Campbell-Type were also protesting against the proposed expansion of Hazelwood power station's coal mine.

Hazelwood's current supply of brown coal is expected to run out in 2026. It was built in 1964, renovated in the '80s and has been refurbished since 1996. Extending the mine could prolong the power station's workable life by five years. The extension would also create up to 92 million tonnes of additional greenhouse pollution, Qian said.

The World Wildlife Fund declared Hazelwood the most-polluting major coal-fired power station in the First World in its report "Ranking Power" released in November 2004. International Power Hazelwood (IPRH) spokesperson Neil Lawson has questioned the accuracy of the WWF report.

On August 11, Greenpeace activists broke into the power station's mine and chained themselves to a coal dredger. They draped a "First place" ribbon over the dredger, saying Hazelwood had won the award for world's "most polluting power station".

Qian and Campbell-Type have sent a petition to Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, asking that IPRH not be allowed to extend Hazelwood's coal mine. Government, industry and individuals should acknowledge "the real cost of fossil fuels" in terms of extreme weather, agricultural losses and serious long-term environmental damage, Qian said. "The state needs to invest heavily in clean power and renewable energies", she said.

The IPRH counters that renewable power such as wind turbines will never replace coal-fired power stations while coal is so abundant. Lawson even encouraged green groups to discuss nuclear power stations as an alternative to coal.

From Green Left Weekly, August 31, 2005.
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