Hogsback kicks off with 'praise' for Bob Brown

BOB Brown, the Australian Greens Senator, believes coal is the cause of extreme weather events. Hogsback, this new ILN column, would like to thank Bob for that comment – and for doing more than anyone else to promote the Australian coal industry.
Hogsback kicks off with 'praise' for Bob Brown Hogsback kicks off with 'praise' for Bob Brown Hogsback kicks off with 'praise' for Bob Brown Hogsback kicks off with 'praise' for Bob Brown Hogsback kicks off with 'praise' for Bob Brown


Tim Treadgold

If praising Senator Bob sounds a bit odd that’s because there is a time gap between the two events. Bob’s attack on coal occurred last month. His coal promotion work occurred many years earlier.

Clever readers will spot where Hogsback is going with this argument. It’s one that Bob will hate and one that is coming back to haunt him.

To understand the irony of what he said in mid-January, about coal being the cause of floods in Queensland and that the coal industry should fund the clean-up, you have to go back in time to an era when Bob was campaigning against another fuel – uranium.

Twenty and more years ago, the Green movement led a campaign against uranium mining and nuclear power. The world listened, largely because of two nuclear-reactor accidents, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, and expansion of the nuclear power industry stopped.

Trace events from that time of uranium protests and you will also be following the rise of coal as the world’s fuel of choice or, to be more accurate, the continuation of coal as the world’s preferred fuel.

Driving the rapid rise in coal production (and price) is global power demand, particularly in China and India, those two emerging industrial giants which are building factories that eat electric power, and have populations demanding the mod-cons enjoyed in the western world, such as washing machines and air conditioning.

The world, much to the Greens’ annoyance, is demanding more electricity and the only viable solution to that demand is coal, thanks to Bob and friends stopping the development of a nuclear alternative, and failing to prove that any replacement power source works as promised or can deliver reliable base-load power.

Hogsback knows it is stretching this argument to breaking point, but since Bob started the game with his flood clean-up claim in January, why not go the whole hog?

That’s why it is possible to claim that without the Green campaign against uranium, there might not be a coal boom today.

The problem for the Greens is that they have never thought through their academic arguments and balanced them with real-world experience, and now that they’ve helped release the coal genie from its bottle, there is no way to put it back.

It’s for that reason that a coal lobby group, perhaps at an annual convention, might consider awarding Bob a medal for services to coal.

There is one more aspect to the story of the Green crusade against coal – or should that be the crusade against human development – and it is to be found on Bob’s door step.

Four days after the call for coal to pay for the flood clean-up via the introduction of the full 40% super tax on profits, a cheeky explorer announced an expanded search effort for coal in Tasmania.

Spitfire Resources received positive results from the analysis of coal seams it is drilling at three projects in the southwest of the Australian state, which claims to have the greenest credentials in the country.

What’s better, or worse, depending on the colour of your politics, is that Spitfire reckons it might have enough coal to start exporting the stuff: “All of these projects have excellent access to infrastructure and offer the potential to underpin a niche export thermal coal business”

It gets better. Langloh, one of Spitfire’s projects, is amusingly close to the scene of two of Australia’s greatest environmental conflicts, the anti-logging and anti-dam building campaigns which helped make Bob famous and started his career in politics.

Oh to be a fly on the wall if/when Spitfire confirms its Tasmanian coal export plans, a business-in-waiting which will send the Greens into orbit, but for which they can take much of the credit for its creation.

Thanks Bob, you have a heart of coal.

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