A snap protest of about 40 demonstrators on 25th June, greeted Trade Minister Simon Crean as he met at a Melbourne Hotel to approve a deal to export up to 20 million tonnes of polluting La Trobe Valley brown coal to Vietnam. Mr Crean was jostled as he tried to enter the Langham Hotel. The company exporting the coal is ludicrously called “Environment Clean Technologies” whose big claim to fame is that they can brown coal as “clean” as black coal! Simon Crean defended the deal stating most Australians support coal exports as our economy relies on coal exports whilst environmentalists see this deal as a sign the Guillard Government is already failing on climate change.
Related: Climate Action Centre Coverage - Photos of protest -- The Age coverage - Environment Victoria background info
The successful demonstration received wide media coverage on the television evening news and some print and online coverage too. The Age story in particular was revealing in that it revealed the true nature of the Federal ALP climate policies , which is to continue coal exporting on a massive scale but to spin this climate vandalism with greenwash and keep praying at the false god of “clean coal”.
Mr Crean was quoted as saying said: ''People are entitled to protest, but I don't think the vast bulk of the Australian people think that exporting coal is bad for the Australian economy because they know the Australian economy is heavily reliant on coal,'' he said.
''That is an issue, though, that we can't allow to continue in its old form … We have to find ways in which we reduce the carbon footprint. This investment is an example of how that can be done.''
The claim that this is an example of “green" investment is that the process used by ECT reduces the water content of brown coal from about 60 per cent to 12 per cent, lowering the greenhouse gas emitted by about 30 per cent to roughly the same level as black coal exported from New South Wales and Queensland. So the brown coal from Victoria is green because its “only” as polluting as black coal!
This deal can also be expected to pave the way for other similar deals. The Brumby Government knocked a similar deal earlier this year on brown coal exports to India but can be expected to revisit this decision after the next election.
As Christine Milne said ''Brown coal is the most polluting fuel we have. Pumping energy into transforming it into the equivalent of black coal will only increase pollution at home and overseas,'' she said.
It will take many more actions such as this and the building of a massive, peaceful but militant movement to combat not just coal burning for domestic consumption but the even bigger climate threat from Australian coal exports. In a week that saw the resource sector play an instrumental role in the removal of a sitting PM, the Australian environment movement faces a daunting task in reasserting both democratic control of our system and environmental sanity in public policy.