The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been rising steadily over the past 150 years. The fact that humans are responsible for the increase in atmospheric CO2 is settled science. Burning fossil fuels is the main cause.
Emissions from our coal exports are not counted in Australia but in the country where the coal is eventually burnt. Australia is currently exporting around 730 million tonnes of CO2 per annum or about 20% more greenhouse pollution than is currently emitted within our borders.
Coal exports are set to double by 2021. Current expansion plans for Queensland coal exports alone will emit an additional 460 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere per year, making Queensland the source of a very significant proportion of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Coal seam gas is predominantly methane which has a far greater greenhouse footprint than CO2. Methane is 72 times more potent than CO2 over 20 years and 25 times more potent over 100 years.
The coal seam gas industry frequently states that “gas is up to 70% cleaner than coal.” This is a best case scenario comparing the most efficient gas-fired turbines with the least efficient coal-fired power stations burning the most polluting brown coal.
The 70% figure does not include the emissions involved in producing the gas – the drilling, fracking, compressing, pumping, liquefying and transporting the gas; nor the loss of carbon-storing forests and woodlands cleared to make way for gas wells, pipes and other gas-field infrastructure.
Research from the US indicates that methane leakage or “fugitive emissions” in the unconventional gas industry may cancel out any greenhouse benefits of gas over coal or other fossil fuels.
The Commonwealth Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency is working towards a way of accurately assessing coal seam gas emissions.
Cleaner, renewable alternatives to coal and coal seam gas already exist which will not threaten our climate and will create more sustainable jobs than continued use of dirty fossil fuels.