Has the government in Queensland quietly chosen a coal seam methane (CSM) future over underground coal gasification (UGC)? It looks that way, at least according to an article in today’s Australian. The article quotes an unnamed official in the office of Queensland Mines and Energy Minister Geoff Wilson as saying, the Queensland government has, “no intention of granting production tenures for underground coal gasification for at least three years”.
We chased up the reporter in the story to see where the quote came from. She produced a Microsoft Word document provided to her by a media spokesperson in the Department of Mines and Energy. The document compiles the various positions from the multiple government parties involved in the whole process.
Under a section titled “Advice from the Office of the Minister for Mines and Energy,” it reads:
“The Department of Mines and Energy has no intention of granting production tenures for underground coal gasification for at least three years. Underground coal gasification is a new technology, untried in Australian conditions, and it poses some potential problems, especially with groundwater systems. We will only do what’s best for Queensland. In this case, we don’t believe it’s in the best interests of Queensland to grant production tenures for technology that is untried. It would have to meet the most stringent environmental standards.”
To our knowledge, this is the first time the Department has made any of those views public, if indeed those are the views of the Department. We phoned them up to verify the documents authenticity, and to determine whether “Advice” meant a tentative position or a policy position. So far, our call hasn’t been returned. We’ll report back tomorrow when we know more.
If Queensland has chosen coal seam methane over underground coal gasification for the reasons listed above, well it would seem like an odd decision, given that UGC is not a new technology and hasn’t posed any problems to groundwater in its trial phases. A behind-the-scenes policy decision would be news to us.
In the meantime, you get the feeling that Aussie governments (at the State and Federal level) are almost looking for a way to derail the boom. The Emissions Trading Scheme, for example, appears to be a way that holier-than-thou bureaucrats can feel good about themselves by imposing costs on Australian business that will make them uncompetitive with their global peers.
Hey, if you want to take a position on climate change that makes you feel morally superior to your neighbours, go for it. But when you start making policy that has a real affect on jobs and economic competitiveness, your moral self-righteousness suddenly becomes a lot less eccentric and a lot more damaging.
The truth of the matter is that aside from the warm and fuzzy feeling it might bring people about “doing the right thing”, Australia’s voluntary reductions in carbon emissions won’t make one whit of difference to anyone, and certainly not the planet. Not when China and India and the U.S. are not on board. Watch the coverage of the Olympics and then let us know if you think China-with its 1.2 billion industrialising new capitalists-will follow Australia’s moral leadership…or continue its breakneck economic ascendancy that requires full employment and continuous growth.
Not that you shouldn’t do the right thing. You should. But in this case, perhaps the right thing is finding non-hydrocarbon sources of energy. That might mean seriously considering nuclear power, which of course goes against the secular orthodoxy of the “global warming” position.
That “the right thing” might come from the marketplace of business experiments to solve the problem does not occur to policy makers (who love making rules to tell you how to live your life). It also tells you that the real motive of policy makers isn’t to “save the planet” at all. It’s to get ever more involved with aspect of private life so they can regulate, tax, and punish.
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