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Wed, 2014-11-19 20:28Graham Readfearn
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Gas Industry Repeats Attack On Scientists Who Found Triple Methane Levels At Gas Fields

In August 2012, two Australian research scientists attached a highly sensitive spectrometer to a vehicle with a GPS tracker and took a 700 kilometre drive around gas fields in Queensland.

Starting at 3.30am in the morning, Dr Isaac Santos and Dr Damien Maher, of Southern Cross University, wanted to measure the levels of methane and carbon dioxide in the air around coal seam gas fields operated by BG Group, formerly known as British Gas.

Twelve hours of driving took them past fields with about 300 wells that tap coal seams to release gas, often with the help of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) technology.

They also drove past other areas where you might expect levels of methane to be high such as wetlands, fields of cows and sewage treatment plants.

The researchers found methane levels at the gas fields were triple the background levels.

The chemical fingerprints of the methane they detected near the gasfields — known as isotopic signatures — matched those from the gas produced from the wells.

Fri, 2014-11-14 16:00Graham Readfearn
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Youth Climate Coalition To Peabody Energy Boss: 'We Don't Want Your Coal'

“Mr Kellow will not be doing any interviews,” came the message into the media room at an unofficial G20 side event in Brisbane earlier this week.

Glenn Kellow is the chief operating officer at Peabody Energy – the world’s biggest privately owned coal company.

The news of Mr Kellow’s media shyness was all the more curious given that his company had been the sole main sponsor for the “energy theme” at the Global Café event.

Perhaps Kellow was anticipating a hostile reception over his company’s spearheading of the coal industry’s new message that the climate changing fossil fuel is the answer to global poverty?

If this was his expectation, then it came true – if only for a few fleeting seconds – when a group of seven campaigners from the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) rose to their feet in the middle of his keynote speech inside the lavish auditorium of the Brisbane City Hall.

“Peabody: we don’t want you coal. You don’t belong at the G20,” came the bellowing shouts, before the group joined hands to walk out.

Outside, the protestors rode bikes outside the forum entrance with billboards that spoofed Peabody Energy’s “Advanced Energy for Life” campaign developed with the help of Burson-Marsteller, one of the world’s biggest PR firms who previously worked with the tobacco industry.

“Climate Impacts for Life – Peabody Coal… the only kind of ‘Advanced Energy’ is Renewable Energy,” the billboards read. 

Wed, 2014-11-12 16:40Graham Readfearn
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Coal Companies Avoid Coal When Funding Energy Poverty Projects In Poorest Countries, Report Finds

When the coal industry says its product is the only way the world’s poor can lift themselves from poverty, some people in Australia believe them.

Chief among the industry’s promoters has been the country’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who has said that coal is “good for humanity” and that the energy source and main driver of climate change shouldn’t be “demonised”.

But a new report from progressive think tank The Australia Institute (TAI) has put a looking glass up to the industry’s claims to a glistening future and found what it claims is little more than self-serving industry spin.

The industry has been pushing its supposed concerns for “energy poverty” in media statements, columns, industry presentations, reports and advertising campaigns this year.

According to the International Energy Agency, there are about 1.3 billion in the world without access to electricity and about 2.7 billion without access to clean cooking and heating. Almost all these people live in rural areas in either sub-Saharan Africa or Asia.

The coal industry – led by a PR campaign from the world’s biggest private-sector coal company, Peabody Energy – has been using the energy poverty issue as way to lobby investors and world leaders.

But the TAI report – All Talk, No Action – finds that the industry’s claim are largely misrepresenting the current economic climate and forecasts for the future.

Tue, 2014-10-28 19:21Graham Readfearn
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How Bill Gates and Peabody Energy Share Vision For Coal Powered Future Through Views of Bjorn Lomborg

No doubt a few eyebrows were raised and possibly some palms smashed against faces earlier this year when the richest person on the planet came out in qualified support of policies to burn massive amounts of coal in the developing world.

In June, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates took to his GatesNotes blog to promote the views of Danish political scientist Dr Bjorn Lomborg.

Gates opined that “as we push to get serious about confronting climate change” it was wrong for rich countries to tell developing countries that they should cut back on burning fossil fuels. He wrote:

For one thing, poor countries represent a small part of the carbon-emissions problem. And they desperately need cheap sources of energy now to fuel the economic growth that lifts families out of poverty. They can’t afford today’s expensive clean energy solutions, and we can’t expect them wait for the technology to get cheaper.

Gates urged people to consider the view of Lomborg and his think tank, the Copenhagen Consensus CenterAlongside the blog post were two “GatesNotes” branded videos where Lomborg presented his arguments. 

In the videos Lomborg said it was “hypocritical” for the developed world to try and deny poor countries access to fossil fuels when so much of the developed world is still fueled on them. Lomborg also linked the issue of reducing the impacts of indoor air pollution to increasing use of fossil fuels. 

In the video, Lomborg said:

The solution to indoor air pollution is very, very simple. It’s getting people access to modern energy and typically that’s electricity and that’s going to mean fossil fuels for those three billion people who don’t have access. We have a very clear moral imperative to make sure that people don’t cook with dirty fuels and make sure those people get out of poverty and have a decent life.

The World Health Organization says indoor air pollution caused by the burning of fuels like wood, dung and coal (Lomborg didn’t mention coal) kills about four million people a year.

While Lomborg argued that the “simple” solution to indoor air pollution is access to coal-powered electricity, the more immediate solution is access to cleaner-burning cooking stoves, according to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

Radha Muthia, the executive director of the alliance, wrote to the New York Times in December last year after the newspaper had published a column where Lomborg had again argued that while more efficient cooking stoves “could help” what the world really needed were “low cost fossil fuels” – chiefly, coal.

Muthia wrote that “fossil fuels are not the only solution” and that the “stakes are too high” to rest on Lomborg’s assumption.

Thu, 2014-10-23 18:39Graham Readfearn
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Climate Science Denialist Patrick Moore Tours Australia After Comparing Students to the Taliban

Canadian climate science denialist Patrick Moore is at the beginning of a tour around Australia speaking to audiences across the country.

But here’s a warning. 

If you do find yourself in the audience and don’t want to be compared to the “Taliban” then don’t even think about walking out in protest.

Less than two weeks before flying to Australia, Moore spoke on the campus of Amherst College in Massachusetts. 

When members of the college’s environmental group decided they had heard enough and walked, Moore said they had a “Taliban mindset”. 

When he was later asked to apologise, a report in the Amherst College student newspaper says Moore instead chose to double-down on his remark.

Fifty people walk out, and I say that’s a pretty Taliban thing to do,” Moore is reported to have said, characterizing the behavior of the young students to that of the fundamentalist regime that massacred thousands and committed brutal repression of women.

Thu, 2014-10-16 20:24Graham Readfearn
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Coal One of 'Greatest Products In History' Says Australian Coal Industry Figure

THE Australian newspaper has run a free advertisement today for the coal industry in the form of an op-ed column by a leading industry figure that says that coal is one of the best things ever.

And no I'm not exaggerating.

New South Wales Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee, a former advisor to several high-ranking Liberal Party politicians including the now Prime Minister Tony Abbott, writes in The Australian that coal is “one of the greatest overall products in ­history” and is just totally awesome (he didn't use the word awesome, that was me).

Galilee's column in the Murdoch-owned newspaper is the latest repetition of the industry's favourite PR line that coal can end global poverty.

Tony Abbott, the environment minister Greg Hunt and the Treasurer Joe Hockey have all used this coal industry line in recent weeks.

I've written about the industry's attempt to lobby the G20 for The Guardian and looked at Hockey's recent contribution for DeSmogBlog. You should go and read those pieces because they are among the greatest overall products blogs in history.

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