Environmental policies are costing the earth

Originally posted by http://www.altmedia.net.au 

Contradictions and Hypocrisies of the NSW Government’s ‘Sustainable’ Policies

Solar rebates, the demise of the solar panel rebate scheme, promises of no new coal mines, the Cobbora coal project, fracking contamination concerns in Queensland and the announcement of coal-seam gas mining in Sydney’s inner west.

The recent environmental policies of State and Federal governmenst could be described as inconsistent at best.

It’s difficult to know whether there is any sort of overarching policy when it comes to the not so insignificant issue of how to transition into more sustainable society.

The NSW Government’s most recent moves however are of particular concern.

The first is the decision to retain ownership of the Cobbora coal project, guaranteeing ‘cheap’ (in the narrowest sense of the word) coal to electricity generators across NSW. By artificially depressing the price of coal, the NSW Government is guaranteeing cheap coal for decades – a move that flies in the face of all of Gillard’s talk of a carbon price and shift towards renewables, and goes against the NSW Government’s own Greenhouse Gas Reduction Scheme and other energy efficiency programs.

The second most recent point of concern is the plans for exploratory mining for gas in St Peters. The concerns that have been most vehemently thrown around arise from the water contamination problems encountered in Queensland, and the possible health implications of some of the chemicals used in the extraction process.

These are valid concerns.

However, the most obvious problem with Clover Moore’s plan to power Sydney CBD with natural gas to combat climate change is that it simply replaces one evil with another.

Whilst true that natural gas emits less carbon dioxide than burning coal, Professor Robert Howarth (Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology, Cornell University, US) has released one of the first comprehensive investigations into the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the use of natural gas as an energy source and has concluded that it is not the clean energy source it is often espoused to be. His research indicates that considering all the emissions involved in the mining, development process and transportation of natural gas; and the conservative estimate of a 1.5 per cent leakage rate of methane (the largest component of natural gas and a much stronger greenhouse gas than coal). Natural gas is no more sustainable than burning dirty coal – something all levels of Government report to be against.

Above and beyond all of this, however, is the simple fact that renewables are the only proven sustainable energy source available. By embarking upon exploratory coal seam gas mining we are not only spending billions of dollars for largely unknown outcomes, but we are creating yet another source of competition for the renewable sector.

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