Sunday, August 30, 2009

We must learn from the Hunter Valley experience

Renewable Energy as an alternative to Coal Development

We know we cannot co-exist with coal mines, petrochemical plants and power stations. On the other hand we CAN co-exist with renewable energy, which would preserve our precious farmland, protect our environment, and safeguard our community.

To that end, FOF invited Trevor Berrill to come to Felton to look at the renewable energy potential. Trevor is one of Queensland's most respected Sustainable Energy Systems consultants.

After touring the Felton area on Saturday morning, Trevor gave a fascinating talk to around 60 people at Cambooya Bowls Club in the evening. Some of the key points are detailed below.

Trevor Berrill. Presentation - Cambooya 29 Aug 09
Only Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency provide immediate CO2 Reductions

We have RE & EE technologies now. We know how to use RE & EE, and it doesn’t cost the earth. Failing to use it may.

Current energy pathway is unsustainable –business as usual is no longer an option.

Costs of greenhouse response NOW will be small: about 1% of annual global GDP by 2050 (ref Stern).

Current World Energy Supply
Non renewable: 91%
Renewable: 9%

Global Renewable Energy Resource
15,000 x Current Energy Use

Solar Power
Qld Resource: MASSIVE
Require < 23 x 23 km to meet all current Qld electricity demand.

Qld Resource - 10TWh/yr at <10c/kWh = 20% current demand (CSIRO 2007).

“Clean” Coal
• Oxymoron - inherently ‘dirty fuel’
• Pollution – costly
• Limited resource life
• Inefficient conversion
• Nimbyism
• 1000 yrs Waste Disposal and Storage problems– beyond civilisations
• Future hidden & external costs

There is NO clean coal technology available NOW

Energy Efficiency
Transport: Of the fuel used by a car, 80% heats the engine, 19% moves the weight of the car, 1% moves the weight of the driver.

Lighting: An incandescent lightbulb powered by electricity from a coal-fired power station uses only 2% of the energy in the coal. 98% is lost.

Direct Local Jobs per Unit of Electricity Generated
Coal electricity + coal mining - 1job.
Wind power with 50% Australian content 2–3 jobs(ref Diesendorf).

Strong Sustainable Energy Policy for Qld
• Set a 40% renewable energy target by 2020.

• Set a target of a 10 percent annual reduction in energy consumption to 2020.

• Undertake energy, material waste and water audits of all homes and businesses.

• Remove market barriers to the uptake of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

• Apply Polluter Pays Principle - Stop subsidising the fossil fuel industry.

• Ensure that all new developments apply best practice environmental design.

• Provide rebates for retrofitting existing homes with Sustainable Energy and efficient water technologies.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Erin Brockovich to Felton: Don't give up!

Anthea Gleeson. Toowoomba Chronicle | 19th August 2009

CHAMPION legal activist Erin Brockovich offers this piece of advice for Felton farmers whose livelihoods are under threat: Don’t give up.

Ms Brockovich was in the Lockyer Valley yesterday to officially open a new legal residential training facility.

The blonde advocate didn’t mince words when talking about big businesses conducting deals that compromise the health and integrity of communities.

“We don’t want our corporate neighbours to pollute our environment, but more often than not that is what happens,” Ms Brockovich said.

“The community needs to turn their anger and passion and heated arguments into a connection.

“They need to work with the industry to find a way not to have (the mine) here.”

Ms Brockovich was immortalised by Julia Roberts in the film, Erin Brockovich.

The film told the story of Hinkley townspeople who were being poisoned by a chemical that leached into their water supply.

Tony Moore, Brisbane Times
August 16, 2009 - 4:24PM

Environmental fighter Erin Brockovich told a host of Brisbane media this morning that government environmental agencies needed extra funding for independent research so they do not have to rely on "industry" research.

Ms Brockovich said she still had no faith in government environmental agencies protection of the public, describing the organisations as underfunded, understaffed and with the potential for bias.

"I would like to have faith in them, but I have to be honest with you and tell you that I don't ," she said.

"I am certainly frustrated with the EPA (Environmental Protection Authority) currently in the United States of America, " she said.

Ms Brockovich said her experience with government agencies suggested "science lags behind the law" and the people affected come a distant third because well-meaning employees could not provide unbiased advice.

"They are understaffed, they are underfunded, and they can often can rely only on the science that industry is giving them because in the absence of having any funding themselves to be able to get out there and have a look at the situation, more often than not their hands are tied," she said.

"So I would like to see our governmental bodies providing more funding and more staff and more scientists to these agencies so we can get a fair assessment of what is happening."

"A fair assessment. You know, science lags behind the law more often that not.

"And with no funding they have to rely on the information that industry scientists have given them.

"And that is not always a fair assessment of what is happening to a population."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Friends of Felton support act for Graham Brown in Brisbane

Who's Graham Brown? Here's an article from the Sydney Morning Herald in April -

Mining stalwart sees no future in carbon plan
Paddy Manning, Sustainable Investing
SMH Business
April 25, 2009

Kevin Rudd should meet Graham Brown before he decides to spend billions of dollars on carbon capture and storage. A coalminer for more than 20 years, Brown retired in 2007 and is happy to call a spade a bloody shovel.

Brown, 57, has his own theory on why good money is being wasted on a technology very few have faith in.

Brown, from the Hunter Valley, originally worked in the construction industry, in open-cut and underground coalmines, including for Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.

He is a staunch unionist but does not toe the corporate line on CCS parroted by officials from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.

Brown's main motivation is to see his former colleagues retrained to be able to exit a fading coal industry. He joined the NSW Greens after meeting state MP Lee Rhiannon, who said the party's policy was to make the transition to a clean energy economy with no job losses.

Brown is not a politician and does not want to be one. But he is active locally and takes any opportunity to speak on the transition away from coal.

Last year he took part in a Greenpeace blockade of the Eraring power station, and attracted media attention as one of a handful of miners sympathetic to the action.

"I'm not the only one in the mining industry," Brown says. "There's quite a few and they're coming on board all the time. The blokes in the industry, they're fully aware that there's a problem with burning the coal. They're interested in where they fit into the situation."

Brown is not funded by anyone. He gets a kick out of putting some of the retirement savings he earned from mining back into the cause.

I saw Brown speak at a climate change rally in Sydney in November and was struck by his denunciation of CCS. He says most people working at the coalface know CCS is "just not do-able".

"In the beginning there wasn't a lot of view either way on it but now, because it's been going so long, a lot of the blokes are up to speed on it and they are fully aware that it's nonsense. It's never going to get off the ground. The technology's so expensive that it's not going to be economical."

The main problem is the sheer volume of carbon dioxide that needs to be captured and stored. It is hard to visualise. Brown explains it this way: for every tonne of coal burnt there is 2.5 to 2.7 tonnes of CO2 to store. How big is a tonne of CO2? About 500 cubic metres, as a gas at sea level at room temperature.

Now say coal-fired power stations in Australia emit 100 million tonnes of CO2 each year. The Government hopes CCS will trap 20 per cent of those emissions. If the gas is compressed 500 times, that is about 20 million tonnes a year.

Transporting 20 million tonnes of highly compressed gas is no mean feat. "Look at the infrastructure that needs to be in place to get 80 million tonnes of coal to port," says Brown. "Moving gas is a different kettle of fish to moving coal, I can tell you, because it's got to be stored in an intrinsically safe way - either pipe or trucks or trains".

Where to put it all? Brown says there is really only one place where significant volumes of CO2 can be stored - the Cooper Basin in South Australia, where Santos recently shelved a $700 million CCS project. If that project were revived, Brown says it has been calculated that we would need a B-double lorry carrying six tonnes of CO2 leaving NSW for the Cooper Basin every 20 seconds to store 20 per cent of emissions from the state's power industry.

Then there is the problem of getting the stored CO2 into the ground or, even harder, beneath the sea floor. "You really need a mining industry to get it into the ground," says Brown. "And that's going to create more CO2."

There is also the risk of leakage, made worse by the increase in underground temperatures. "You're talking about a lot of pressure, and there's heaps of cracks. It's only got to come out through a slow leak and it's all for nothing.

"The second you put it into the ground, the more it will expand. If you're going to put it a kilometre underground where the temperature might be 65 degrees Centigrade, it's going to expand a monstrous amount. And that in itself will be the big mechanism where the rocks will crack.

"They can put it in there but whether it will stay there is another thing. I've pointed that out - others have too - and it's not long before people start nodding their head and laughing because they understand that it's not possible."

Brown says CCS is a no-brainer. "It just doesn't cut the ice any more. Most people know that it's a furphy." Brown says the coal companies know it too and until late last year, put little of their money into CCS. "They're not wasting money on it. They're just taking what they can from the Federal Government, and saying 'thank you very much'."

Their main interest is in ramping up extraction of coal-seam gas, Brown says. "Any kind of drilling technology that will be used to try and get this gas down, is also going to be reversed, to be able to be used to mine the carbon qualities of the coal in situ.

"They're having the taxpayer supply a lot of money for that research. They should be doing it themselves. They're going to piggyback on all this carbon capture and storage stuff and they will use that technology for their own benefit.

"It's not a matter of being solely for that but the coal companies already know that research needs to be done to get the gas out, and they will certainly use it if it's available. They might be greedy and they might have deep pockets, but they're not stupid."

For Brown, it means more job losses down the track. "If they can get the methane out of the coal seams, or convert the gas to hydrogen, without having to mine the coal, they'll use that gas and will hardly have to employ anyone."

What really annoys Brown is the attitude of officials at the CFMEU, in particular general president of the mining and energy division, Tony Maher.

He has lined up with coal companies and is backing CCS rather than focusing on retraining workers to get jobs in the green-collar economy.

"Tony Maher made some statements in Newcastle two years ago. I've got them on tape. In a submission to Newcastle council, he called the transition away from the coal industry to anything else the 'geriatric solution'. He made a statement we are by and large too old, and our skill base from the start is too low, to be trained in anything else, insinuating that we should stay in the coal industry because that's all we're good for.

"I played that tape to some of the blokes at work and I can tell you they weren't real happy with Tony, basically calling them untrainable boneheads.

"They didn't like it at all .. We can be trained in anything. Who do you think maintains the equipment in the mining industry? Doesn't he know that a lot of the truck drivers and plant operators are actually some sort of a tradesman? We definitely have the skills base.

"And who does he think is going to do the work in the renewable energy industry, and other industries as well, because statistics in Europe - and a study by Greenpeace on the Central Coast of NSW - show that there's six times more jobs in the transition away from coal than there is in it.

"I think we should be gunning for it. We definitely have the skills and he didn't do a very good service to his members. I don't see why miners should be thrown on the scrap heap by a bloody coal company. There should be a mechanism to let them flow on to other jobs."

Media coverage of Barnaby Joyce visit

There's a video here of Barnaby Joyce's visit to Felton on 8th August.

There are media reports on the visit here
and here.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Barnaby Joyce gives his word to Felton

Senator Barnaby Joyce visited Felton on Saturday to meet with Friends of Felton.
To rapturous applause, Senator Joyce gave the commitment that he would do whatever he could to stop coal mining development proceeding at Felton.

"There is only two per cent of prime agricultural land in Australia and we should not be mining it. There is an abundance of land that has coal underneath it. The state government may lose seats at the next election if they allow this to be mined. It would be criminal to turn this region into another Hunter Valley." Senator Joyce said.

He said state governments issued mining leases for the sake of raising capital and before the farmers knew it, their land was being sought for mining.

"We must protect this land so we have the capacity to feed ourselves in the future," Senator Joyce said. "The debate has started about whether this area should be mined and now we are raising the profile. Ms Bligh, in this current politically sensitive climate, does not want to do anything else wrong so we think she will listen."

Senator Joyce promised Friends of Felton that he would arrange for the ongoing Senate Inquiry into Food Security to have a hearing at Felton.

"The Senators on that committee need to come to Felton to appreciate the importance of this issue in the national context" Senator Joyce said.

Senator Joyce assisted the children of Felton to launch 300 helium balloons printed with "No Mines on Darling Downs - our foodbowl". The biodegradable balloons were designed to represent coal dust and pollution from the proposed coal development, and were tagged with a phone number for the chance to win a prize. Friends of Felton will track the progress of the balloons to see how far they go.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ambre Energy paid to dine with the Premier

Article from today's Toowomba Chronicle -

Dinner with Premier angers Felton farmers
By Jim Campbell
6th August 2009

Photo:Kevin Farmer

FELTON farmers were outraged yesterday after they learnt that mining company Ambre Energy took part in a pay-per-view business dinner with Premier Anna Bligh in December last year.

Ambre Energy is proposing to build an open-cut coal mine and petrochemical plant in the Felton Valley, 20 minutes south of Toowoomba.

It has been revealed the company paid an unknown amount of money to be part of the exclusive dinner in December.

Representatives from Surat Basin mining company Linc Energy were also at the dinner.

Friends of Felton spokesman Rob McCreath yesterday described the arrangement as "disgraceful" and "undemocratic".

"How can we possibly have a fair and balanced judgement here when the company that is proposing the project is paying money to have dinner with the Premier?"

"The whole thing stinks," Mr McCreath said.

"We’re a community group, we don’t have a lot of money and we’re up against these big companies with lots of dollars."

Mr McCreath said Friends of Felton was currently raising money to employ professionals to contribute to their submission to Ambre Energy’s Environmental Impact Statement.

"The question of access is core to all of this," Mr McCreath said.

Ambre Energy director of business development Michael van Baarle said he paid money to attend the Labor Party dinner which he said was a fund-raiser for Member for Ipswich West Wayne Wendt.

Mr van Baarle said he went to school with Mr Wendt in Ipswich and wanted to support him.

He said the Premier was at the dinner, but he did not have a conversation with her.

He said Ambre Energy representatives had never paid money for direct access to Ministers.

Ms Bligh said this week she was banning her Ministers and State MPs from attending these types of functions and has challenged Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek to do the same.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Anti social project

80 people packed the Felton Hall last night for a meeting on the social impact of the so-called Felton Clean Coal Project with Ambre Energy and their supposedly 'independent' consultants Worley Parsons. Ambre kicked things off with an update on their plans. Under questioning from the floor, a few gems emerged. Having mentioned waste water from Toowoomba as a possible source of water, Ambre were force to admit they had no arrangement with Toowoomba Regional Council, nor were they in negotiations. Having mentioned social benefits from the project, Ambre were asked what they might be. They replied that the project would bring 'a different type of people' into the area.

Ambre were questioned about the impact of their project on water bores in the surrounding area, and what would happen if they dried up. They spoke of 'make good' agreements to supply water if this happened. They gave no details of the practicalities of this suggestion, given there are hundreds of shallow bores in the area.

An element of farce was introduced to proceedings when the facilitator of the Ambre Energy Community Liason Group attempted to explain why the identity of the members of the liason group was confidential.

Worley Parsons took the floor to survey the group on our social impact concerns.This was a most unsatisfactory process for all present, as Ambre fielded most of the questions. The meeting was alarmed to learn that the speaker from Worley Parsons was an expert in 'resettlement'. When questioned, he refused to rule out resettlement at Felton.

The following statement was read out on behalf of FOF, the document was passed around for signatures and handed to Worley Parsons as a formal statement of Friends of Felton's position -

FOF is implacably opposed to the project and find any mitigation strategies to be totally and absolutely unacceptable. FOF considers Ambre’s proposal to be environmentally and socially unacceptable and will not rest until it is formally rejected by the QLD government.