NSW plans billions more 'black balloons'

November 11, 2009

NSW Premier Nathan Rees launched a government "education program" about climate change in May. The "what you can do in your world" program urged householders to cut carbon pollution by using less energy and switching to energy-efficient light bulbs and electrical appliances.

A television advertisement featured black balloons escaping from household appliances. Each balloon represented 50 grams of carbon dioxide pollution. A government website boasts householders have pledged to save more than 4 million balloons.

What the website doesn't say is that the government plans to increase NSW's emissions by billions of "balloons", cancelling out any household efficiency gains many times over.

Public submissions into government plans to build two new coal or gas-fired power stations closed on October 26.

The plants will likely be coal-fired. If approved, they would contribute 23.3 million tonnes more carbon dioxide more into the atmosphere each year.

That's about a 34% rise in the state's pollution from stationary energy — an extra 466 billion black balloons every year.

Add the government's proposed redevelopment of the central coast's Munmorah coal-fired power station and the estimated extra emissions would come close to 600 billion balloons.

One of the power plants is planned near the existing Bayswater coal-fired power station in the Hunter Valley. The other is planned at Mt Piper, near Lithgow.

Renewable energy alternatives are excluded from the government's proposal.

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW called for the ALP government to abandon the plans. "To build new coal-fired power stations in the face of dire predictions about the potential impact of climate change on the environment is extremely irresponsible, if not negligent", it said.

Greens MLC John Kaye denounced the government's energy policy at an October 23 protest outside the Financial Review Energy Conference. He said the plan is "driven by corporate profit more than the needs of the community".

"What is the absolute worst thing we could do for the climate?" Kaye asked. "While the rest of Australia is distracted by a [Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme] that will not reduce carbon pollution and will only make the polluters more wealthy, back here … the NSW government's been hatching a plan not only to sell off the existing coal-fired power stations, not only to sell off the retailers, but also to build two new coal-fired power stations.

"Well this is child abuse. It's not just corrupt, it's child abuse. Every child who lives today will inherit not only a degraded environment but also an economy … that is sick with its coal", he said.

Rees told the October 19 Sydney Morning Herald the new power stations would be powered by gas, not coal. However, he has failed to confirm this, and the planning department still lists the proposed power plants as coal or gas.

Even if the new power stations were gas-fired, they would still increase NSW's emissions hugely, at a time when climate scientists urge rapid emissions cuts.

"There is only one solution", Kaye said. "That solution is in the sunshine and the wind. That solution is in the households [with] energy efficiency. There are no solutions that involve burning fossil fuels."

A rally against the proposed power stations will take this message to the NSW ALP conference on November 14.

[The "No new coal power stations" protest will meet at 12.30pm, Town Hall on November 14.]

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