Climate activists lock on to stop HRL

About 200 people protested against the Victorian government’s proposed new gas-fired power station. If built, the carbon emiss

About 200 people protested outside Victorian government offices on April 11 against a proposed new gas-fired power station in Victoria. Five protesters locked themselves to a stepladder inside the building.

The company HRL is planning to build its power station in Victoria, and the state and federal governments have committed $150 million towards it.

The rally came at the end of the National Grassroots Climate Summit in Melbourne. The protest called for funding to be put toward renewable energy instead.

According to the Stop HRL collective: "The proposed new 600MW HRL ‘Dual Gas’ power station is likely to receive works approval from the EPA sometime in the next few weeks. Despite relying on a mixture of synthetic gas (produced from coal) and natural gas, it nevertheless is still as dirty as a black coal-fired power station.

“Public money is being used to fund this project, with the primary financiers currently being the federal government ($100m) and the state government ($50m)," the website says.

In the next few weeks the Environment Protection Agency will rule on the project. A record 4000 plus people wrote to the EPA opposing the power station, but there is a strong chance it will be approved.

The 5 protesters inside the building eventually left in return for an offer to meet with the energy minister.

Protester Shaun Murray told the ABC on April 11: “He gave us absolutely no commitments and so this is the beginning of a campaign which we're going to win.”

The Stop HRL collective meets every Wednesday at Melbourne University and welcomes new members (Mary Cooke A room, level 2, Union House).

A statement on the group's website explains: “HRL Ltd is a private company that was formerly the research arm of the State Electricity Commission (SEC). It was privatised (along with everything else) in the Kennett era in the mid-90s. It has now submitted a ‘Works Approval’ application to the EPA for construction of the 600 megawatt “Dual Gas Demonstration Project” in Morwell.

“Using a high-tech process to dry and convert brown coal to gas — thereby creating ‘syngas’ — and combine this with natural gas, HRL’s power station would nevertheless have the equivalent emissions of a coal-fired power station using black coal.

“It would increase Victoria’s annual emissions by up to 4.2 million tonnes of CO2 (about 3%, or equivalent to an extra 1 million cars on the road).

“There has also been no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for this project, and there are serious air and noise pollution concerns for the local community. The plant would put more dangerous pollutants into the air — including particulates and other contaminants known to cause cancer and to affect the lung development of children.

“The major components for the plant would be built in China and shipped to Australia, providing relatively few construction jobs and only 40 permanent jobs for local workers — a fraction of the jobs created by an equivalent renewable energy project.

“The power station would also suck two gigalitres of water annually from the already stressed and deteriorating Latrobe River and Gippsland Lakes.”

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Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber (Potsdam Institute) says that for a 67% chance of avoiding a disastrous 2C rise the World must get to zero (0) CO2 pollution by 2050 and high per capita CO2 pollution countries such as the US and Australia must get to zero CO2 emissions by 2020. Further, top biologists and climate scientists say that the Wolrd must decease the atmospheric CO2 from the current dangerous and damaging 392 parts per million (ppm) to the safe and sustainable 300 ppm (until recently the maximum value for 899,000 years) for a safe planet for all peoples and all species (see ). Opening new coal-fired , gas-fired or coal-derived syngas-fired power plants simply increases atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) when the problem is how to decrease atmospheric CO2 ASAP as demanded by top climate scientists. A coal to gas transition will in actuality double the GHG pollution from Australian electricity generation because methane (CH4) is circa 85% of natural gas, leaks (3.3% as assessed from the latest US EPA data) and is 105 times worse than carbon dioxide (CO2) as a GHG on a 20 year time scale taking aerosol impacts into account (for a detailed and documented assessment see: “Australia's Carbon Tax And Coal To Gas Transition Will Double Power Generation Greenhouse Gas Pollution “, Countercurrents, 15 May 2011: ; see "Gas is not clean energy": ) . The partial natural gas component of the proposed HRL dual gas-fired station is accordingly contra-indicated as worse than coal burning for power. What should Australia do? I would suggest an urgent shift to biochar production, re-afforestation and installation of wind power (the cheapest and most mature renewable energy technology) as quickly and massively as possible on a continent-wide scale using Australian-made steel. Thus “ignoring cost-increasing energy storage and transmission grid costs and cost-decreasing economies of scale for a 2- to10-fold size increase, here are 2 similar cost estimates for installation of wind power for 80% of Australia's projected 325,000 GWh of annual electrical energy by 2020: (1) 90,000 MW capacity, 260,000 GWh/year, $200 billion/10 years (10-fold scale-up from GL Garrad Hassan, [44]) and (2) 96,000 MW, 260,000 GWh/year, $144 billion (2-fold scale-up of BZE's Wind Power proposal [41]”: . Dr Gideon Polya, Melbourne