Ben Courtice

Residents of the south Gippsland town of Poowong are preparing to hold a public protest against coal seam gas (CSG) exploration in their area on February 17.

Local group CSG Free Poowong conducted an extensive survey of the area last year. They asked: “Do you want to declare Poowong coal and coal seam gas free?”

The survey results showed over 95% of the community does not want CSG mining in their region.

The event on February 17 is being organised as a celebration of this result.

Australia’s big electricity generators are feeling the squeeze of electricity demand falling in recent years and growing competition from renewable energy.

This year, some environmentalists criticised the federal government for scrapping the “contracts for closure” negotiations, which would have made the federal government compensate operators to close up to 2000 megawatts of coal-fired power stations. However, more than 2000 megawatts of coal power plant has now been closed or “mothballed” across the country without paying the contracts for closure.

In recent months, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has taken to highlighting the role of state electricity utilities in pushing up power prices. Average power bills have been rising rapidly — 69% over four years in NSW.

The ALP’s capitulation to populist refugee-bashing is wrong on so many levels that it's hard to know where to begin.

The underlying rationale is patently false. The Age reported: “In a major backdown from her earlier insistence on the Malaysia ‘people swap’, Prime Minister Julia Gillard declared: ‘If people want to put up banners that this is a compromise from the government: dead — in order to start saving lives.’

If the official government line is to be believed, Australia is only a minor player when it comes to our greenhouse gas emissions.

In this view, Australia is powerless to bring about international action to cut emissions. Indeed, any such efforts are only likely to amount to economic self-sabotage.

From Laggard to Leader, the new report from research group Beyond Zero Emissions, demolishes these arguments. Far from being an inconsequential emitter, Australia’s carbon footprint is immense.

A report published on July 23 calls for Australia to institute a moratorium on new fossil fuel developments as the centrepiece of a global campaign to phase out fossil fuels.

Hundreds attended the Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane meetings to launch the latest report from climate research group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), Laggard to Leader: How Australia Can Lead the World to Zero Carbon Prosperity.

Too Much Luck: The Mining Boom & Australia's Future
By Paul Cleary
Black Inc., 2011
156 pages, pb, $24.95

Paul Cleary’s book Too Much Luck: The Mining Boom and Australia's Future, published last year, raises important questions, and provides much useful information for answers.

But the real elephant in the room, coal mining, is largely left untouched.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) is being set up under the Clean Energy Future legislation (the carbon price package). It will provide $10 billion to support renewable and low-emissions energy.

That’s the message that most climate-concerned people have been hearing from the Labor government and the Greens.

Unfortunately, it now seems overly optimistic. The recently completed CEFC expert review shows it may give most of its support to gas projects.

On the afternoon of March 30, Friends of the Earth campaigner Cam Walker said on Twitter: “This has been the week from hell for climate change politics in Vic. There's still a few working hours, maybe a nuke power plant is next?”

Climate targets, standards abandoned

Poultry industry union delegates in the National Union of Workers (NUW) and supporters met on March 27 to launch a report outlining the basis for the union’s “Better Jobs 4 Better Chicken” campaign.

Late last year, NUW members at Baiada Poultry took strike action over conditions of employment and wages, citing widespread use of cash-in-hand work at rates well below the minimum wage.

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