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Issue No 364 – On some fun explosions from a dead coal plant and BHP

We’re not generally the destructive types, at least not intentionally, but the sight today (Thursday) of a coal fired power station being blown up was most engaging.

We spotted it in that most aggressive climate-antagonistic of newspapers, the Oz. Was it schadenfreude that made us so cheery? Probably. (It was nearly as sweet as the article earlier in the day on Murdoch’s media empire starting to detonate, partly, it turns out, because a Saudi prince has been arrested and has been selling out his shares of 21st Century Fox on which Murdoch was depending to shore up his power in the group. Suddenly a whole lot of fossil fuel-positive story threads of the past decade or so start to twang and develop power poles all on their own.)

So where was the imploding power station? South Australia, of course.

Early in the week we ran a piece by Mick Daley on the way South Australia has turned the tide on the Feds’ misjudged (and really quite dumb) attack on their renewable energy plan.

So the implosion on Thursday of two landmark 10,000-tonne boilers from the last coal-fired power station at Port Augusta “in one of the biggest demolition projects undertaken in the world” was sweet indeed, in a Road to Damascus kind of way.

Then there was this paragraph: “The Northern Power Station was forced to close early last year by the rise of renewables in South Australia. Premier Jay Weatherill earlier today on his Twitter feed retweeted, ‘coal is dead, long live renewables’.”

It’s pretty much what Mick Daley found with his story and what most sane people in Australia know.

BHP in a nice explosion of its own

Another big explosion was from miner BHP, which is obviously pretty used to blowing things up. Generally though, it sticks to things in the ground, rather than the political certainties that have underpinned and cossetted the fossil fuel industry in this country (at the cost of everyone else).

For a few years now we’ve seen the clouds of war building on the horizon against the environmental activists who campaign for the end of fossil fuels and the atrocious Adani mine. The terms environmental terrorist and “lawfare” were coined to discredit groups such as GetUp!

The Minerals Council, spurred by the fossil fuellers, wants the Feds to cripple these organisations by forcing them to spend no more than 10 per cent of their funds on political activity.

It turns out that BHP, behemoth though it be, is really quite a sensitive thing and has reacted to the pressure from its many investor constituents who want it to make a stand against this move by the MCA, of which it is a major funder, to gag the rights of ordinary people to protect their own patch.

The argument from the Minerals Council et. al is that GetUp! et. al should be subject to the same rules as political parties. The activists are not political parties; they use traditional grass roots actions but what’s so annoying to the MCA is how successful they’ve been.

You have to wonder if the MCA would be so upset if the activists used traditional MCA lobbying methods instead: boardroom lunches, private school connections, clubs, neighbourhood chats and so on to get their way. No brown paper bags needed. Just a raised eyebrow, a wry smile in the right direction.

BHP for many years was know as the “Big Australian”, at least partly for its many mum and dad investors who felt a special loyalty to the company and would keep their shares in it safely tucked in the sock drawer. So now that this loyal group is making a fuss, then maybe it’s a good thing for the Big Australian to listen and what’s great is it looks like it will not support the MCA policy and in fact will clearly state its opposition to it.

Executive director of Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility Brynn O’Brien said the MCA had been a “toxic drag on Australian public debate and democracy”.

“They have played a leading role in this country’s last decade of climate policy failure.”

While the MCA shouts loudly that some money from environmental groups might come from overseas, O’Brien points out that we could well do with revelations of corporate payments to coal lobbyists since we’re talking disclosure.

According to The Australia Institute paper, Undermining Our Democracy, miners are 86 per cent foreign owned and they’ve spent more than $541 million in the past 10 years to lobby Australian governments.

The MCA says  in its submission to the government: “While political parties are obliged to disclose the source of donations greater than $13,200, environmental groups can spend millions of dollars every year without having to disclose the identities or locations of their donors.

“This lack of transparency constitutes a potential threat to Australia’s sovereignty, by allowing foreign interests to exert political influence by covertly funding domestic environmental groups.”

Ahhemmm, the miners might want to examine their own dirty laundry first.

The BHP shareholder resolution will be heard at BHP’s Australian AGM on 16 November.

Good news from China

More good news that peeped through was with our Climate Council story from Katie Camero.

China continues to astound. First it was on the downside with its spewing industrial fossil fuelled-powered revolution. Now it’s with the speed of its clean-up. The latest news from Climate Action Tracker is that this giant country that pledged to peak its emissions by 2030 looks to have already achieved this goal. (As we slip further behind).

It was a a nice reprieve from the council’s otherwise bleak news. See Katie’s story here: Time’s running out for federal climate action

Andy Marks, at a recent conference on plastic pollution by Boomerang Alliance

The power of television

So there we all are, any number of activists, concerned people, journalists and so on, beavering away for years, sometimes decades, with words, internet things, and social media, to share the notion of sustainability, eliminating pollution and generally saving the planet. It’s incremental, painfully slow progress. Then along comes the ABC with a series called War on Waste and in one fell swoop achieves what so many others can only dream of – massive quick impact, behaviour change, the works.

Check out our interview with impact producer Andy Marks, ABC shows how to win the War on Waste – and there’s more to come 

We need to protect our national broadcaster.

 

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Comments

One Response to “Issue No 364 – On some fun explosions from a dead coal plant and BHP”

  • dan says:

    Meanwhile Rio Tinto has been quietly exiting the coal business. Perhaps they will exit the MCA also now that their interests aren’t quite so aligned? Either way I expect they will make the most of this in selling themselves to investors keen to divest from coal (such as Norway’s SWF).

    It is now possible to own a diversified miner without having anything to do with coal (or oil for that matter). Who needs BHP?

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