11 June 2015

Coal exports grow through the gloom – AFR

Today’s Australian Financial Review contains an interesting column by Matthew Stevens, titled ‘coal exports grow through the gloom’. If you have a AFR subscription, you can read the full article at this link: AFR article

The piece says that:

…you could be forgiven for imagining coal is on its last legs. But the data says otherwise. In fact, Australian coal is leaving our shores in record volumes.

The latest numbers out of NSW are indicative of the national trend. While depressed pricing has forced Glencore and others to close or slow production and an estimated 5000 miners have lost their jobs, the state’s two coal systems remain on pace to export at record annual volumes.

NSW coal exports rose just under 5 per cent to 133 million tonnes through the nine months to March and that leaves the state’s miners on track to top the record 167.3 million tonnes that was shipped off to our region in FY14.

The article quotes the International Energy Agency who estimate that:

… global electricity demand could double by 2035 and that coal is likely to fuel more of that supply than either oil or gas for the foreseeable future. That is because coal is superabundant, easy and safe to move and it is cheap and getting cheaper.

Future demand for coal was recently addressed by India’s minister for state for power, coal and new & renewable energy, Piyush Goyal. Stevens writes:

He first noted that 280 million Indians lacked access to basic electricity supply, then that the developed world had relied on low-cost coal to power its growth for 150 years, and finally that the developed and developing world needed to better share the responsibility of climate change.

“We do understand, and it is indeed incumbent upon us to protect the world to ensure a cleaner planet for the next generation,” he told an energy summit in New Delhi.

“However, it is also important to understand the agony of poverty. It is important to understand the pain that the common man experiences when he is required to pay very high cost for energy.

The article concludes:

…the answer lies in science and finding ever-more-efficient ways of burning coal, ever-more-efficient ways of using the electricity it produces and, ultimately, the best possible ways of capturing the CO₂ it produces.


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