A moral case for coal, Mr Frydenberg? Turnbull continues Abbott’s mad, bad fossil-fuel propaganda.


Newly appointed Minister for Energy Resources and Northern Australia, Josh Frydenberg is Tony Abbott MK2 when it comes to preaching the gospel of coal. He is reading from the same Peabody bible. Ranting to Barrie Cassidy on ABC Insiders Sunday, Frydenberg recycles the absurd nonsense Abbott was full of. Frydenberg claims that Australia has a mission to export coal to lift Indians out of poverty. This is something the environmentalists don’t understand, he says smugly.

Even the Adani bastards can’t buy that. They donate solar street-lights to poor Indian villages which are never going to be connected to any national grid. They know that coal is the cause not the solution to energy poverty. India suffers 40 per cent transmission and distribution losses across its grid. Its mining and electricity generation industries are heavily nationalised. Consumer tariffs are on the rise as they are in Australia. Coal is not the answer but in fact the cause of 300 million Indians having no domestic electric power supply.

The Adani brothers know that coal-fired electricity can do nothing to lift villagers’ living standards. They know that the poor bear the brunt of our coal-fired nightmare. They know that the coal industry in places such as coal-dominated West Virginia, has created the lowest standard of living in the most depressed state in the USA. Coal aggravates poverty; it alleviates none of it.

As shameless or as delusional as his predecessor, ‘The New Mr Coal’ to use Andrew Bolt’s title for the Kooyong colt, sees ‘a strong moral case’ for coal. Doubtless this is because coal helps cause the dirty air which kills one in eight of us world-wide.  The moral case for coal is to leave it buried underground. Fossil fuel divestment is the only cause with any moral authority. Fossil fuels like coal are killing us.

Frydenberg is eager to help coal do its job, even if it means fudging statistics. On Sunday he said two billion people in the world were still burning wood and dung for cooking and that 4.3 million people died early as a direct result. What he left out of his statement was coal. The statistics he misreported should read burning coal, wood and dung.

In 2012, WHO calculates,  7 million died just from breathing in muck. One million of these deaths, WHO estimates, are linked to coal. Four thousand Chinese die every day from air pollution. Mr Coal must believe we can’t know this. He can’t believe it doesn’t matter.

Coal is the enemy of humanity. It causes climate change which destroys global health. Climate change hurts our economy and our environment. Poor people are hurt disproportionately more, entrenching poverty. Poisoning us aside, the harm coal does humanity in climate change alone now; let alone in any future it may leave us, outweighs any benefit.

Frydenberg must be hoping we won’t know that four out of five poor people in India live in areas away from an electricity supply which it is uneconomic to extend according to Indian research. India’s former secretary of the Ministry of Power, EAS Sarma writes ‘Studies have shown that when a village is more than 5 km from the grid, the cost of supplying electricity from solar and other off-grid solutions is far below the costs of supplying from conventional sources such as coal … take it from us in India: the world needs renewables, not more Australian exported coal.’

Others more fortunate enjoy subsidised coal which is priced well below anything Adani mine could ever produce. But he’s full of all sorts of other facts and figures – the sort you get from coal industry propaganda, a pack of lies boosted by experts from tobacco advertising. Coal is singing from Big Tobacco’s hymn-sheet; following the same tactics.

Jessica Craven, media adviser to the Australian Climate Council and a former public health advocate, points to the way cigarette companies responded to early health concerns about their product by promoting filtered cigarettes.

“Now we have fossil-fuel companies talking about ‘clean coal,’ ” she says. “It’s very similar. And the whole coal/poverty argument that we now see being used a lot by the Minerals Council – that was developed by ex-tobacco people.”

The truth is that coal is a killer. And the Indian government and its coal-fired generators know this as well as anybody.

The Indian government has ordered state utility giant NTPC to sell more expensive solar generated electricity with cheaper coal power as a single unit in an effort to increase solar uptake. China’s GCL Group has announced a strategic partnership with Adani Enterprises that will focus on delivering complete solar PV operations in India, in addition to further collaborative efforts in wind and LNG energy. Unlike Australia, India is cutting back on its coal subsidies and boosting its growing renewable energy sector.

This year the Federal government will give the poor old coal industry a $4 billion subsidy. This tops up the miserable $3 billion each year given on average by state governments. And out comes Frydenberg, popping up on Insiders, blithely repeating the same brazen lies which got Tony Abbott into trouble. Given its record of as coal industry apologists, no-one could possibly take Frydenberg or the Abbott-Turnbull government seriously. Nor does any one of us have time to indulge his wilful and calculated deception. It is too late in the day to be enduring a re-run of his government’s coal-industry propaganda. A government in bed with coal is not an agile government, not a 21st century government remotely, Mr Turnbull, it is a criminally corrupt outfit which is content to sell out the nation to the highest bidder – the coal industry which will destroy us and our planet; an industry which is, the enemy of humanity.