Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Mail from Home

When a reader takes the trouble to contact me I am often surprised. Most of what I write here seems to be important to me, but when someone else dedicates words to it I...just don't know what to say.
Anyway, I just got an email from Doug Holden, the Director, External Relations Chair COAL21 Communications Group. Doug is concerned with the truth about coal, an important topic. He seems to be responding to the post APEC in Sydney, but I am not sure as he does not quote my text. Apparently "COAL21 is not an organisation. It is a partnership between the coal and electricity industries, unions, federal and state governments and the research community." Here is Doug's mail:


I find the ubiquity of blogs does not seem to add much to the quality or accuracy of information on the net (unfortunately my Google alerts do not distinguish between quality well researched journalism and illinformed polemic. I wish I could filter out the latter).

I wont go into responding to much, if anything about your comments, re Australian coal, suffice to indicate it's inadequacy by saying Australia exported precisely 4.3 million tonnes of coal to China last year: it burned 2 billion tonnes - that would of course be two thousand million tonnes - in its power stations. To be precise Australia provided 0.21 per cent of China's needs. We export 4% of the world's coal and produce 6% per cent. Should you be wish to be better informed I have attached a
background paper.

I was always taught at University that my views had to be first and formost (sic) empirically based. As a holder of a Masters degree myself I was further taught that a thesis needed rigorous research and reference citing before conclusions and original ideas are promulgated..seems this does not apply to blogs, or maybe even Universities these days.

Feel free to post this, should I have any confidence you will ?

best wishes


Doug Holden
Director, External Relations
Chair COAL21 Communications Group
Tel:(02) 6273 6060
Mobile:0431 006 044
Fax:(02) 6273 6060

and here is my response to Doug, to which I have yet to receive a reply:

Dear Doug,
I am glad I am building a readership so far afield. It always surprises me when a reader makes themselves seen/heard. To think that people actually pay attention to me is almost embarrassing.
Thanks for you response and I will reply to it on my blog. I have no problem posting material that goes against things that I say ("Feel free to post this, should I have any confidence you will?"), as you may remember from university, the seat of learning is large, there is room for all.
Since you did not quote the text you referred to (always important in critique), I presume it is this passage:

"Clean coal technology has received millions of dollars from the federal Australian government in the last year. With record exports of coal being sent to China one does not have to ponder long to explain the agenda put forward by Howard at APEC. Anyone who opposes the development of the fossil fuel agenda is branded a hypocrite." APEC in Sydney

The first sentence in this statement refers to the subsidies which the coal industry receives from the Australian Federal Government. According to the working paper "Subsidies that Encourage Fossil Fuel Use in Australia" the coal industry received significant subsidies from the Federal Government. I quote:

In November 2000, the Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee released the final report of its inquiry into Australia’s response to global warming (ECITA References Committee, 2000). The report estimated direct fossil fuel subsidies at $2 billion per year, referring to NIEIR’s earlier work, but found an additional $4 billion in indirect subsidies such as ‘tax incentives, startup grants, preferential purchasing agreements for oil, and biased market structures’ (ECITA References Committee, 2000, p.xxxvi).

The second sentence in the passage quoted above said that coal exports are at a record high for Australia at the moment. According to the Australian Coal Association;

Black coal remains Australia's largest commodity export, worth around $A24.5 billion in 2005-06 (or $A2 billion per month) - an increase of 43 per cent over 2004-05.

In 2005-06 black coal represented around 19 per cent of Australia's total commodity exports

I would say this is a record. According to the IEA Key World Energy Statistics - 2004 and 2005 editions, Australia is the worlds largest exporter of coal:

"Australia maintained its position as the world's largest coal exporter with exports of 233 Mt in 2005-06, or 30% of the world total" Australian Coal

The rest of the quote taken from my blog is my own opinion based upon supposition of the facts given here (it is not really a thesis and I would argue that the format of a blog entry can not support developed argument on the level of a thesis). That you say Australia only "provided 0.21 per cent of China's needs." is misleading when we consider that China is currently opening a new coal fired power station every week to meet energy demands that are being driven by a level of economic growth that is almost unparalleled in world history.

"It is building a new power station every week to meet a surge in demand for electricity." David Shukman, Science correspondent, BBC News, Shanghai

Thanks Doug for the chance to revisit this topic.

No comments: