OPINION: Fixation with coal starting to look like socialism

Australia's Treasurer Scott Morrison pictured holding a piece of coal during House of Representatives Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra, in February.
Australia's Treasurer Scott Morrison pictured holding a piece of coal during House of Representatives Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra, in February. LUKAS COCH

HONESTLY, what is up with our politicians' preoccupation with coal?

I get it, coal has got us where we are today and I realise that without the stuff, a whole lot of the developed human world wouldn't exist.

But does that mean we must continue to prop up a dying industry and flagrantly ignore the climate warnings coming from our nation's top scientists?

Investors are backing away from new coal-based investments, the Carmichael -Adani coal mine being the closest and latest example.

Whether you believe this is the hippies' fault or not, this withdrawal either means government must fill in the funding gap or the industry must be left to die, just as horse-and-cart businesses and typewriter manufacturers had to close down when money for their products dried up.

So let's examine each of those options for a moment.

Government stepping in to bankroll new coal developments would be ignoring market forces in favour of supplying coal-powered energy to Australian homes, apparently in the name of keeping power costs down and helping out the average Aussie battler.

That's socialism.

Would Malcolm Roberts or Tony Abbott be happy to apply this principle to other sectors and further fund our universities, schools and hospitals? None of these projects may make a profit, but it would definitely help Aussie households keep costs down and improve their lot in life.

Alternatively, we could allow coal to become a thing of the past.

Some have hit back at this option by expressing sympathy for coal miners, who, through no fault of their own, would be out of a job.

That is unfortunate indeed, and I was very sympathetic to my Fairfax colleagues who have found themselves out of a job due to market forces beyond their control.

As I type this, many hundreds of people from Channel Ten may find themselves unemployed sooner than they would have liked.

But I'm not convinced this means our state and federal governments need to be handing out subsidies to keep either of these organisations afloat.

In fact, personally I have found very limited sympathy for working in a struggling industry, instead of calls for politicians to safeguard the future of newspapers.

Finally, let's touch on the fact that burning coal is actively causing harm, which I believe is the most important reason to allow the industry to die.

I don't have the space to delve into the myriad responses to my critics here but I will say one thing.

Mr Roberts may be the best man to speak about coal mining, as Mr Abbott may be best for opinions on theology. But when it comes to science, I'm going to trust the people who have studied science.

Topics:  adani climate change coal economics energy fossil fuels industry renewables technology tony abbott

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