Coal companies: 'It's not fair'

August 2, 2009

Australian Coal Association (ACA) executive director Ralph Hillman believes the industry doesn't want special treatment from the Rudd Labor government. It just wants the same "fair treatment" given to other big polluters under the proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS).

Coal's share in the estimated $9 billion in public subsidies already given to the coal, oil and gas companies isn't enough, it seems.

The coal industry is a victim of "really unfair and discriminatory treatment", Hillman told ABC Radio's World Today on July 28.

The coal industry should receive 60%-90% of its pollution permits for free — funded by the taxpayer. This is only fair, Hillman said, because that's what the cement, aluminium and liquid natural gas industries have been promised.

"The Australian coal industry supports a well-designed emissions trading scheme that cuts Australia's greenhouse emissions but preserves our exports and jobs", Hillman said in a promotional video on the ACA website.

By "well-designed", Hillman doesn't mean a scheme that actually cuts emissions rapidly, as climate scientists urge. In this case, a well-designed scheme means the public pays even more money to Australia's greenhouse mafia.

The coal industry has launched a media offensive pressuring the government to boost the "compensation" to the coal industry under the CPRS.

The Rudd government has since indicated it might come to the party and hand over the compensation.

On July 28, media outlets speculated that the government will consider doubling the amount to coal companies from $750 million to $1.5 billion.

But Hillman told The World Today that amount is just not enough. The $1.5 billion "still looks unfair", he said.

If granted, the extra payment would be top of $2 billion the ALP government gave to fund non-existent "clean coal" technology on behalf of big coal.

In contrast, the federal budget awarded just $465 million to support research into renewable energy development.

The coal industry is hardly in a position to cry poor.

The July 15 Brisbane Times said that the value of Queensland's coal exports have more than doubled, despite the economic crisis.

The state's coal exports rose in value to $33 billion in the first three quarters of 2008/09. This is up from the $16.4 billion return for all of the previous year.

The renowned climate scientist James Hansen wrote a searing opinion piece in the February 15 British Guardian calling for the rapid phasing-out of coal-fired energy to stop a climate catastrophe.

"Coal is not only the largest fossil fuel reservoir of carbon dioxide, it is the dirtiest fuel", he said.

"The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death."

Under the government's planned emissions trading scheme, the death trains won't slow down. Nor will the death factories be phased out. Instead, working people will be made to compensate wealthy and polluting industries.

In return, the polluters keep on polluting, make plenty of profit and put the future of the planet at risk. Doesn't that seem fair?

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