‘So Australia runs off coal and makes a great deal of money from selling it overseas, yet Australians say they don’t like coal and would prefer renewable energy. Try figuring that out, Canberra.’
So ended the article http://echonetdaily.echo.net.au/australians-hate-coal-so-what-do-we-do-now/.
Well Australians and Canberra could figure this way. A study has shown that including unaccounted-for social costs, such as environmental and health damage, the cost of Australian coal is double what is paid for it – enough to increase the cost of coal fired electricity by 10¢/kwh.
We do pay for it anyway, in our unnecessarily escalating health, environmental repair, food, energy, border-protection, military, and insurance costs. Similar studies in the US have shown that coal may cost society more than it benefits.
This does not include the incalculable cost of destabilising our climate. How do you value the loss of civilisation? Why would climate change cost civilisation? Because civilisation at core depends on a growing supply of food and electricity, and they both currently depend on fossil fuel.
Depending on even a century or so of available fossil fuel at present rates of production means that with exponentially increasing demand, supply will peak in decades. Even worse, putting that much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and oceans will most assuredly produce a climate and an ocean acidity inconsistent with producing enough food, within decades.
By being the biggest per capita greenhouse gas polluter among the industrial nations (and intending to triple that via export of coal and gas), Australia is criminally leading the charge in the wrong direction.
However, Australia is the nation most powerfully positioned to lead a strong new charge in the right direction. What we can do now is commit to never building another coal-fired power plant.
There is something Australia has that is far more abundant than coal: sunshine. The Beyond Zero Emissions, http://beyondzeroemissions.org , along with the University of Melbourne Energy Research Institute, have shown that with only a small fraction of our financial and manufacturing resources Australia could build the infrastructure to be 100 per cent clean renewable energy in only 10 years, while creating tens of thousands of jobs.
Doing it rapidly is the cheapest way to do it, and indeed the fastest way to ensure our prosperity: costs tumble, damage is avoided, opportunities to be the exporter of renewable-energy technology manifest.