Thursday, July 3, 2008

Pioneer clean-coal trial 'window-dressing'

ABC Online, Posted 1 hour 41 minutes ago 

Updated 1 hour 32 minutes ago

The New South Wales Greens say an Australian-first clean-coal pilot project on the state's central coast is another example of the State Government just tinkering around the edges of the climate change challenge.

NSW Energy Minister Ian Macdonald says the plant will take carbon dioxide out of the Lake Munmorah power station's exhaust fumes.

"This technology strips the carbon from the emissions by using chilled ammonia process," he said.

"Once it's separated, then you would sequester it, whether in deep underground structures or you could use carbonation. The actual storage of it is another part of the technology."

Mr Macdonald predicts the success of the trial will be decided by the end of the year.

"We're also testing for sequestration sites and we're also looking at a number of different technologies to bring clean-coal technology to reality," he said.

Mr Macdonald will open the $5 million facility today after it was developed by the CSIRO and Delta Electricity.

But Greens MP John Kaye says it will just be window dressing.

"The Minister, when he throws the switch today, will be doing nothing but starting up two very loud fans," he said.

Dr Kaye says the project will only capture around 0.15 per cent of the power station's emissions, even when it is fully running.

Climate leak

The Government has made the announcement a day after leaked Cabinet documents showed it would fail to meet its own set targets for carbon emissions.

The documents reveal emissions will soar far above the Government's emissions reduction target of 60 per cent by 2050, even with the measures it has put in place.

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon says the State Government has not been up-front about the climate change challenge.

"It does show that NSW is headed for a climate crisis..." she said. "You get the impression from these documents that Premier Morris Iemma has effectively given up."

But Environment Minister Verity Firth says the Government was always going to struggle to meet its target.

"All of this is about getting the technologies into the sphere and providing the appropriate incentives from Government," she said.

The documents also say stronger national and state strategies are needed and that the national emissions trading scheme will be the key to fighting climate change.

The NSW Government has promised to lead the development of the national scheme but when it comes to the state's soon-to-be-privatised power generators, it wants the new owners to be compensated or exempt.

Treasurer Michael Costa has repeatedly hit out at any suggestion that today's draft Garnaut report will recommend otherwise.

"If Ross Garnaut reckons that, he's got rocks in his head," he said yesterday.

Environment groups say any such exemptions would be disastrous but pressure from the state's business sector is also mounting.

The State Government yesterday said its targets were tough and a strong trading scheme was needed to meet them.

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