The Coalition’s attachment to fossil fuels is not just about donations they receive from the sector or their conservative rump of MPs in coal mining areas. Coal earned Australia $23 billion last year in export dollars.
However, the problem with clinging to the dig-it-up, ship-it-out habit is that our major customers – all in Asia – now have serious plans and timelines to decarbonise, according to Energy Finance expert Tim Buckley, reported by Mike Seccombe in The Saturday Paper 30/1.
Japan – our biggest customer at 43% – will close two thirds of its coal-fired power plants over the next 9 years and is already shifting them to burning ammonia to produce hydrogen. By 2040 Japan will have phased out coal completely. China was our next biggest customer but may have already exited. South Korea and Taiwan buy 27% and they too are shifting to renewables.
Steelmakers are turning to hydrogen as investment in coal is drying up worldwide.
Australia may have already missed the big opportunities in renewables that require government drive.
Saudia Arabia, the world’s largest petroleum exporter, has seen the writing on the wall and is setting itself up as a global ammonia supplier with plans to develop green hydrogen using electrolysis. The cost to produce green hydrogen is, like all renewables, falling fast.
That’s why it’s so irresponsible for the do-little Morrison Government and the Joel Fitzgibbons of this country, afraid to tell the truth about coal, to be holding back the inevitable transformation. That negligence comes at great risk to the economy.
We are fortunate to have entrepreneurs like Andrew Forrest and Mike Cannon-Brooks who can see the potential but how do we ensure the whole nation benefits from the change?
Let’s have a carbon tax so we can catch up with the US, the EU and Asia in demonstrating commitment. That way, revenue can be generated to make up the shortfall in fossil fuel exports and remove taxes for people on very low incomes. Let’s prepare for the inevitable loss of jobs by fostering new industries.
Let’s look for once at the evidence and act.