Some of the best radio documentaries are broadcast in the early of hours of the morning on the BBC World Service. On Sunday, whilst trying to drift off to sleep, I was able to stay awake long enough to listen to one such documentary.
A woman was explaining about how a company called Adani, had submitted a tender to build a new Coal Mine in Carmichael, Queensland. The mine would bring thousands of badly needed jobs to her town. At the same time, she was explaining how the town planned to build an Industrial Estate, totally powered by solar panels. This highlights the dichotomy between managing the transition from traditional fossil fuel to renewable energy. The woman did a very bad job at trying to explain how they planned to mitigate the environmental damage that a new coal mine would cause to the nearby reef. The town is split into two camps. Those that have worked in the coal mining industry all their life and for many previous generations, and those that work in the Tourism Industry and for whom, a new coal mine, represents both a commercial & environmental catastrophe.
The documentary went on to explain how the Great Artesian Basin, would be tapped, by Adani, for it’s precious underground water supply and the negative effects this would have on many of the cattle stations, in the vicinity. Adani has already bought many of the nearby cattle stations, in preparation for the construction of the mine. A few, farmers are holding out and trying to battle Adani, in the law courts. This is no mean feat, considering Adani have access to vast legal resources.
In short, this issue has created a division. On the one side, there are those that still support the continuing development of the fossil fuel industry, as a way to keep the lights on, whilst more renewable energy resources come on line. On the other side, the environmentalists & the Tourism Industry want to see a much faster transition to renewable energy. After all, Australia has a huge renewable energy potential. It has a vast amount of sunshine that could be converted into solar energy and a vast amount of offshore wind that could be tapped by coastal wind farms. There is also the possibility of tapping vast reservoirs of geothermal energy.
This example stands as a microcosm for a much greater schism that everyone on this ancient continent, is now having to address. Recent events have perhaps bought this issue to a head.
Australia now stands at a crossroads. The devastating bush fires, that started in September 2019, may be the catalyst that is required for political change.
We will see, in the coming years, whether the Australian people have finally decided to end their love affair with fossil fuel?