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‘For too long, we have failed to give a value to our climate. We have failed to put a price on pollution. We have overlooked the Earth’s atmosphere with regard to greenhouse gases with no accountability for what happens next.’

Senator Penny Wong, Minister for Climate Change, 2008

Ten years ago, who thought that energy and how we produce it would be important? Ten years ago we didn’t even know where electricity came from. How many of us ever gave a thought to how our energy use was linked to pollution?

Australia has one of the highest rates of greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the world. It’s official we are the world champions of (insert drumroll) – making pollution. We are the worst where we’d like to be the best. How did this happen?

How did we become world champs? Blame our coal: we are cursed (or blessed, depending on who you talk to) with an abundance of cheap coal in Australia. Here is the problem – our governments insist on promoting and funding this ‘blessing’.

Burning coal for energy is one of the most polluting activities you can do. On top of that, the burning of coal in power stations around the country is responsible for around 60% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s like saying we are blessed with the world’s largest deposit of asbestos.

coal power stationIn 2005, the Victorian government signed off approval for an extension of the license Hazelwood, the world’s-worst-polluting power station, to run until 2035. They did this with full knowledge of the global warming implications. This was disappointing to say the least.

We have huge scope for improvement.

Our embarrassing world’s-worst-practice situation can be fixed, but we will need everyone to help with this one. Is it time to help our governments stand up to Big Coal and demand clean renewable energy?

On the other hand, Australians are making the switch to GreenPower (electricity from clean sources) with more than 1.3 million connections and 14% of households making the switch. Almost one million Australian households have installed solar panels on their roof. Demand for coal-fired energy is now falling.

Australia has massive potential to lead the world in clean energy production through wind, solar and geothermal. We can export this technology to the world and dominate a smart value added industry. Who would have thought?

‘Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.’

Mark Twain