Hogsback and coal downunder

HOGSBACK reckons those boffins and number crunchers at the US Energy Information Administration are more clued up about where Australia’s coal industry sits in the world than your average Aussie.
Hogsback and coal downunder Hogsback and coal downunder Hogsback and coal downunder Hogsback and coal downunder Hogsback and coal downunder

Lou Caruana

While everyone “Downunder” wants to see the Australian cricket team beat the Indians and our swimmers take out gold in the Olympics, maybe it is time for a reality check about our where our real global competitiveness lies.

The good folks at the EIA have just released a thoroughly researched and comprehensive report that categorically states that Australia is the world's largest coal exporter on a weight and energy content basis, and coal ranks as the second-largest export commodity for Australia in terms of revenue.

Straight off the bat, there is a gold and silver medal.

However, Hogsback is yet to see a pub fall of blokes clinking their beer bottles over these very worthy prizes. 

“Australia is one of the key sources of coal in the world, and the commodity plays a significant role in the country's economy,” the report states.

“Australia was the largest coal exporter for more than two decades until Indonesia surpassed Australia in terms of coal exports on a weight-basis between 2011 and 2014.

“Australia recaptured the top position of highest global exporter in 2015.”

A come-back story! What a great effort from our boys, teaching those Indonesians a thing or two with good old Aussie know-how and grit to regain the top spot. A great story, surely.

Metallurgical coal, used mostly for steel production, is Australia's second-largest export commodity, behind iron ore, in terms of revenues.

Australia exported about $US28 billion worth of coal in FY 2015, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Revenues have declined overall but only as a result of the weak global coal prices over the past few years.

However, the EIA report also contained a very salient fact that people in the Greens party should consider when they claim that Australia should wind down its coal industry over the next 10 years. 

In 2014, Australia held 117 billion short tons of recoverable coal reserves, the fourth-largest in the world behind the United States, Russia, and China.

The Australian government estimates recoverable proved and probable reserves to be 138Bt at the end of 2014, with about half from black coal and half from brown coal.

Black coal, which has a higher energy content, can produce more energy than the same volume of brown coal. Australian coal is typically high quality with low ash content.

That means not only do we export a lot of coal, it’s good quality stuff, and there’s plenty of it still in the ground.

We are also right up with some of the major economies of the world, punching well above our weight.

China and the US have massive economies and large populations. Australia doesn’t so it exports its coal around the world instead.

The EIA report recognises this achievement. Hogsback thinks it’s about time Australia as a nation averts its collective attention away from the latest footy match or cricket test series, at least momentarily, and recognises this too.