Green jobs now!

May 30, 2009

The Australian government and coal industry's push for so-called "clean coal" technology is justified on the grounds that if we can keep burning and selling coal, but in a "sustainable" way, many Australian jobs will be saved. This is pure propaganda.

As former NSW coalminer Graham Brown told the Age newspaper on May 15, "[clean coal] technology's so expensive, it's just not do-able". Further, it is likely to result in fewer jobs in that industry.

For every tonne of coal burned, 2.5 to 2.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide is released. In the unlikely event that "clean coal" technology could be made viable it would still mean transporting many million of tonnes of highly compressed gas from power plants to a suitable underground cavern every year. Brown said one of the few caverns with the potential to store such huge quantities of gas is the Cooper Basin in South Australia.

Brown said the power companies are well aware that "carbon capture" is a lost cause, but they are happy to take the government money to "develop" it so they can pursue their main goal, which is to "boost extraction of coal seam gas" and cut jobs.

"If they can get the methane out of the coal seams, or convert the gas to hydrogen, without having to mine the coal, they'll use that gas and will hardly have to employ anyone", he said.

A recent International Labour Organisation study says although "green" jobs are still scarce worldwide, it would be possible to create millions of such jobs, including 8.5 million potential jobs in solar and wind energy technologies alone.

It is very unclear that carbon capture technology can ever be successfully implemented (and research into it will take many years). However, Australia already has the technology in hand to rapidly develop a green energy industry based on solar, wind and wave power.

These technologies have been proven effective in many countries and their development would create employment for millions of people.

For example, a 2008 study by the Centre of Full Employment and Equity at the University of Newcastle found that a shift to a renewable energy economy in the Hunter-Wyong region of NSW would result in a net gain of 3900 to 10,700 jobs.

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