Opinion Piece - Blocking the coal chain shows utter disregard for the facts - Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Opinion Piece - Blocking the coal chain shows utter disregard for the facts - Wednesday, 17 November 2021 Main Image

By Joel Fitzgibbon

17 November 2021

This week young Emily chained herself to a railway track and her friends are swung from ropes, deliberately putting themselves in the path of the huge locomotives that deliver the Hunter's high-quality coal to the Port of Newcastle.

Of course, the engine drivers had no choice but to stop, disrupting the Hunter's multimillion-dollar coal chain.

The disrupters are part of Blockade Australia, an activist group opposed to the state's top export income earner.

They are young and idealistic and, in itself, that is not a bad thing. Civil disobedience has played a major role in the development of fair and enlightened societies and nation states. But the question becomes: Have they really thought sufficiently about their cause and the consequences of their actions?

About 160 million tonnes of the world's highest-quality coal is loaded through the Port of Newcastle each year. Indeed, the Hunter is exporting more coal at higher prices than ever before.

Most of our product is shipped to Asia where wealthy and developing nations alike are using it to generate electricity or to manufacture the steel products so essential to their economies and living standards.

The majority of Hunter coal is thermal product used to generate electricity. Only a small proportion of it is consumed in our ageing coal-fired electricity generators.

The majority goes to fuel the generators or Asia where across China, India, Japan and South Korea alone, 300 new highly efficient coal-fired plants are in the making. Generators that will meet both the household and industrial needs of their people for decades to come. One measure of a country's wealth is gross domestic product per head of population.

In Australia, it's more than $US50,000 per capita. In China, it's less than $10,000. In India, it's less than $3000.

Those who would have us cease our coal exports, want to keep these people poor.

If successful, they'd only achieve two unhelpful things.

First, carbon emissions would grow as our customers turn to suppliers of coal which is less efficient and more polluting.

Second, they'd undermine global efforts to reduce poverty, denying our neighbours the tools needed to build wealth and stability.

But what really makes or should make mainstream Australians angry is the lack of respect climate change protesters have for working people. In the Hunter region, tens of thousands of workers in the coal chain work hard to deliver our coal to market and are proud of the economic wealth they generate in doing so.

The foreign exchange their products earn helps pay for our hospitals, schools, roads and much more, yet the activists hold them in contempt. It's a disgrace.

In this 21st century, about 80 per cent of the world's energy comes from oil, gas and coal. They power, planes, cars, and trucks.

They generate most of our electricity and heating. For the protesters, ignorance is bliss.