As I mentioned last week, I peruse newspapers from all around Australia, and the world. Just as I have a digital subscription to The Daily Advertiser so that I can read the full newspaper wherever I am, so I subscribe to a number of others. Townsville is one of my favourite places to visit, so via the Townsville Bulletin I like to read what is happening up that way. Recent news has included Clive Palmer and Queensland Nickel, plus the downturn in the mining sector. As the Bulletin says, “There’s no denying 2016 was a tough year for Townsville and the greater region. We have faced unemployment, low business confidence, people leaving the city and criminals running rampant in our streets,” perhaps a familiar message in many regional centres.
However, North Queensland is set for a coal boom which will create thousands of jobs and inject millions into Townsville’s economy. Glencore’s Collinsville Coal Mine is recruiting workers, Adani wants to start construction works this year on its Carmichael coal and rail project and has announced its regional headquarters will be in Townsville. Stanmore Coal has also started mining at Isaac Plain near Mackay.
“Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan said the price of thermal coal had doubled and coking coal prices had tripled, creating strong market conditions,” adding that, “Adani’s rail project would open up further mining projects in the Galilee Basin, with companies such as MacMines and Waratah Coal keen to begin projects.In the 2015-16 financial year, the natural resources sector contributed $330 million to the Townsville economy and supported more than 2000 jobs.“
Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal, adding $40 billion to the economy. Without coal exports, Australia’s economy could plunge into immediate prolonged recession.
Dawson MP, George Christensen, has called for money from the Federal Government’s $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund to be made available to build one of the new reduced-emissions “supercritical” coal-fired baseload power stations in North Queensland. The acting mayor Les Walker gave the typical ideological response.
“It is an idea 10 years too late,” Cr Walker said. “Companies like zinc refinery Sun Metals were leading the way in new energy solutions for the city with the announcement of their solar farm.”
Here are the facts, Cr Walker. I wrote this column on Thursday night. On Thursday in Queensland, solar didn’t get past 50 per cent capacity until 9am, and dropped below 50 per cent by 6pm. At night Queenslanders need baseload power.
As Minister Matt Canavan pointed out, Japan is building ultra-supercritical clean coal plants that produce 40 per cent less emissions, using Australian high quality coal. Why shouldn’t we consider building them here? Last Thursday Queensland’s Windy Hill was producing 50 per cent of capacity at 9am, but dropped by midday to below 20 per cent, rising to 50 per cent again by 9pm. Queensland currently can generate only 4 per cent of its needs from wind, and that’s on a very windy day. Mrs Palaszczuk’s dream of 50 per cent renewables is a mischievous promise.
America’s electricity comes from nuclear (20 per cent), gas (35 per cent), coal (30 per cent), plus 7 per cent hydro, 6 per cent wind and 1 per cent solar. Australia’s prosperity will depend on reliable nuclear, gas, coal, and hydro, too.