There’s an information war underway… or a propaganda war, depending on your view.
A robust debate on energy policy is essential to delivering a balanced outcome between reliability, affordability and emissions intensity.
At stake is our standard of living. The cost of energy flows through to all goods and services. And given the recent unprecedented jump in electricity and gas prices, more people are paying attention and joining the conversation.
Information is essential to making informed decisions. Accurate data underpins sound policy decisions.
The problem is, most consumers of electricity (and gas) don’t care much for the underlying data. They find it too technical or borning. They just want affordable, reliable power to run their businesses and households.
We understand. But so do certain green groups who, not surprisingly, take maximum advantage of the publics general disinterest in data, focusing on emotive arguments that contain a sliver of fact, but rely more on the omission of facts to spin their point of view and lead readers to incomplete or misguided conclusions. Some may even call them intentionally misleading.
Case in point: the below article appeared in several publications yesterday.
In The Age online, the headline read;
The printed version of The Age ran the same article, with a slightly modified headline;
The first headline more accurately reflects the underlying data than the second. The growth in coal-fired capacity has slowed, but not fast enough to meet Paris Climate Agreement commitments.
The content of the articles is identical. The print headline conveys less, leading the reader to conclude overall coal-fired power generation is declining in absolute terms.
As for the content of the article itself, it’s a lesson in green spin.
The author of the article, Peter Hannam, covers environment. He’s writing about a report – the annual Boom and Bust report by Greenpeace, Sierra Club and CoalSwarm. But the article fails to present the facts objectively. Essentially it’s an advocacy and opinion piece dressed up as journalism.
As an example of how this topic can be spun, the article has two main contentions;
- India and China are taking action
- Coal is in decline (in absolute terms)
A look at the data suggests otherwise.
For example, India’s commitment under the Paris Agreement is to reduce its CO2 intensity by 35%, which will see its absolute CO2 emissions triple by 2030, from 2005 levels. That’s right… triple!
That figure is not mentioned by The Age article.
As for the suggestion that coal is in decline… depends on what they mean by ‘decline’.
The rate of addition of new coal-fired capacity is in decline. No doubt. Coal’s percentage share of electricity generation will drop as 60% of new demand is projected to be met by renewables. But in absolute terms, coal is forecast to remain steady.
By 2040 world energy demand is projected to grow 30%, adding the equivalent of another China and India to our requirements.
Despite tremendous additions of Wind and Solar projected in coming decades, net additions of coal-fired power will still be 400GW through to 2040, meeting 40% of the increased energy demand.
This is the objective piece of information that the article leaves out.
The world is building coal-fired plant faster than it’s closing them down. Except in Australia.
For context, Australia’s total coal-fired power generation fleet is around 26GW.
This information contradicts the ‘feel’ of the article, which conveys the imminent demise of coal. In reality, coal will increase its absolute position while declining in percentage share. That is important. Its omission indicates the article falls into the category of green propaganda rather than journalism. It takes an advocacy report and spruiks it without investigation or clear context.
Coal is here to stay (and increase) for at least another generation. It’s needed to underpin the gradual development of renewables. To keep the lights on and bills down.
Lignite will continue to be used. Coldry is the ideal transitional CO2 mitigation technology for lignite, enabling the use of HELE power stations on what is otherwise our most CO2 intensive fuel source.
Coal plant construction extends dive – but not fast enough: report
22 March 2018 | The Age | Peter Hannam
Coal-fired power is on track to start shrinking globally by 2022, dimming prospects for exporters of the fossil fuel, including Australia.