Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Australia’s cheap coal dilemma

Australia’s cheap coal dilemma CBPIX
29 Mar
2016
New figures show that one third of all coal mines in Queensland, Australia are running at a loss

A report by the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has found that one third of its coal mines are running without producing a profit. As one of the main coal producing regions in Australia, Queensland is a strong representation of the coal market across the country. The QRC’s chief executive, Michael Roche, has implored the government to provide more subsidies to protect jobs, causing mixed reactions from the public.

According to Dr Adam Lucas, Senior Lecturer in Science and Technology Studies at the University of Wollongong, Australia’s loyalty to coal is institutional. ‘Fossil fuel industries have been particularly effective at gaining political support,’ he says. ‘There is an ingrained ideological commitment to the idea of cheap energy.’

Given the collapse of international coal prices, the industry will only be able to continue to expand if it receives even larger government handouts than it has enjoyed in the past

For more than 50 years, Australian governments at the local, state and federal levels have provided the coal mining industry with subsidised road, rail, port and municipal infrastructure, all of which have contributed to the industry’s exponential growth. Coal provides 70 per cent of Australia’s electricity and is a source of major export revenues. Soaring exports to India and China helped Australia become the world’s largest exporter of coal. Confident that its exports would continue to increase, Australian governments continued to endorse plans to triple the industry’s 2010 production levels over the next 20 years.

Those export revenues, however, are in fast decline. Demand from China is decreasing as it tries to curb its fossil fuel industries and decrease air pollution, and the report shows Indian imports fell in January following drops of 49 per cent last November and 34 per cent in December – the largest three-month decline on record.

‘Given the collapse of international coal prices, and the lack of financial viability of many of the existing Australian mines, the industry will only be able to continue to expand if it receives even larger government handouts than it has enjoyed in the past,’ says Lucas. Forever under pressure from environmental groups, coal might now be the target of the country’s economists as well. ‘The private sector is not going to underwrite losses or bank on potentially stranded assets,’ he says.

This was published in the April 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

LATEST HEADLINES

Subscribe to Geographical!

Adventure Canada

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    When the wind blows
    With 1,200 wind turbines due to be built in the UK this year, Mark Rowe explores the continuing controversy surrounding wind power and discusses the e...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Polar

Celebrate World Penguin Day with this selection of penguin-related stories…

Geophoto

It takes a lot more than the latest research data…

Wildlife

NGOs shine a light on the underreporting of wildlife crime…

Wildlife

Pioneering laser photography is being used by scientists on the…

Geophoto

Annual competition looks to celebrate island life in all its…

Oceans

Increasing interest in offshore aquaculture is dividing environmentalists

Energy

Well-meaning promises don’t always have positive outcomes. Marco Magrini finds…

Wildlife

The RSPB introduces a new hotline for reporting the unlawful…

Wildlife

With the death earlier this week of the world’s last…

Geophoto

The essence of street photography is its raw, unfiltered, unstaged…

Energy

For Marco Magrini, a tax on fossil fuels would be…

Wildlife

Half of animal species in world’s most biodiverse areas could…

Wildlife

Four-year project to reestablish safe breeding grounds for seabirds on…

Wildlife

First global atlas of soil bacteria reveals a small minority…

Polar

Scientists discover how shrubs are dominating the Arctic tundra

Wildlife

War and conservation have a complicated relationship, with two studies…

Climate

Why is Europe so cold right now? Marco Magrini suggests…

Wildlife

Threatened Californian owls are suffering from digesting rat poison administered…

Oceans

With the majority of the ocean still remaining undiscovered, a…

Oceans

Belize bans offshore oil extraction to protect the second longest…