There appears to be no end to the COVID-19 crisis. While we are not facing the restrictions challenging our big city cousins, our wine tourism and other sectors are suffering badly, and inconvenience is all around us.
Families remain separated and drive-through COVID testing stations are marked by long queues every day, largely with people travelling to restricted areas for work purposes. Like all MPs, I continue to do my best to help families get loved ones back into the country. The problem is, there are tens of thousands in the queue. It’s no wonder people grow angry when they hear celebrities continue to find it easy to visit our shores.
We can’t hope for lockdowns to be a distant memory until we achieve much higher levels of vaccination and improve quarantining arrangements. Government has let us down on these fronts.
I don’t like sounding like a broken record, but I continue to receive emails from people who might have good intentions but have little idea about the nature of our economy, our energy system, and global demand for coal.
Our carbon emissions continue to fall as the role wind and solar energy in our system continues to grow. As our coal-fired generators reach the end of their physical and economic lives, renewable energy’s contribution will grow further. But only if we successfully “firm” the system with more gas and hydro generation and more battery storage. We are on track to do all of that.
But in Asia our neighbours are building hundreds of new coal-fired generators. As a result, they’ll be buying our high-quality thermal coal for decades. Asia continues to modernise and as its countries do, they are building more and more things with more and more steel. They need our coking coal and iron ore to do so and they’ll also be buying those products from us for decades. These sales are the backbone of our economy. Our coal industry is no more in transition than any other industry.
There is another point. While electricity generation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, it is not even half of our energy system. Not even close to half. Our energy system includes the fuel that goes into our cars, trucks, and aircraft. It includes all heat generated by our manufacturers and other industrial processes.
Globally, around 90 per cent of our energy comes from fossil fuel sources. But technology will facilitate further reductions in carbon emissions as it has done so over the past 30 years. Pollution systems in our transport system have improved, industry has invested in more efficient plant, our councils are capturing methane in the waste system, and renewable generation has continued to grow. Since 1990, the emissions intensity of our economy has fallen 66 per cent. We are also absorbing more carbon. Developers felling trees are required to offset the losses by purchasing and locking-up other woodland areas, and the forestry sector is more carefully regulated.
We are doing a lot for our natural environment. I don’t mind people arguing we could do more because we can and will. I’d just like them to better understand the facts before calling for the unnecessary destruction of so many local jobs.