With the multi party climate change committee (MPCCC) in the midst of the crucial negotiation phase for the introduction of a price on carbon, other parts of the country are rushing forward with plans that will see Australia’s contribution to global warming soar.

Yesterday, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh announced that proponents are being sought for  four additional coal export terminals at Abbott Point, with a combined capacity of 120 million tonnes of coal per annum.

The media release went on to explain that “These expansions will further cement Queensland as the world’s largest exporter of coal”.

There was no mention of climate change, not even a scant mention of the figleaf of carbon capture and storage. Nor was there any mention of how the coal industry is being brought to it’s knees by the likely impact of a carbon price.

Lets do the maths quickly. If we ignore the fugitive emissions from the mines (which are considerable), burning 120 Million tonnes of coal annually is likely to produce somewhere in the order of 350 Million tonnes of CO2 each year. To put this into perspective, Australia’s total emissions last year were 543 Million tonnes. Thankfully we don’t have to include the contribution of our coal exports into our national greenhouse accounts because the fact that the coal isn’t burnt in Australia means that we somehow convince ourselves that we don’t have to count for it – even though it is still causing global warming.

Without even a hint of irony, the Premier’s media release went on to explain that “The $1.8 billion proceeds will be directed to Queensland’s natural disaster recovery.”

As well as making the big coal mining giants like BHP (which made US$19.7 billion pre-tax profit last year) pay for their fugitive emissions via a carbon tax, maybe we should also make them pay for the damage that they cause? As a starting point, Nicoholas Stern put the social cost of carbon at around US$85 tonne (ie the damage done globally by each tonne of co2 emitted).

Enough whinging by the coal lobby. We’re in the middle of a coal boom and they’ll still be getting a free ride even after the carbon tax is introduced.

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