NSW government whip Peter Phelps has thrown his support behind the Australian coal industry, hosting what he called a “Carnival of Coal”, at Parliament House last night.
Joined by Upper Hunter member Michael Johnson and Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) CEO Hennie du Plooy, Phelps said he had planned to host the small gathering of “friends of coal” months in advance, but decided to name it the “Carnival of Coal” after hearing about the “Solar Shindig” series of events hosted by Greens MP John Kaye.
Phelps said coal needed friends because the commodity had been unfairly demonised by anti-coal extremists.
“The simple fact is this, coal improves living conditions for people around the world,” Phelps said.
“Coal provides cheap energy…coal still remains far and away the cheapest source.”
“You might be happy to pay large amounts of money [for renewable energy]: If you are a white bourgeois elitist from the eastern suburbs on a comfortable six figure government salary paid for by taxpayers, you can afford to be indulgent and pay whatever price you like.”
Phelps said coal would help to ameliorate conditions for millions of people in India and the third world who rely on burning cow dung for a source of heating and cooking energy.
“Coal is not anti-humanity… To love coal is to love humanity, and to hate coal is to hate humanity,” he said.
Phelps also said he believed popular computer games such as SimCity were responsible for the indoctrination of people of his generation to believe that solar and wind generated energy had a lower environmental impact than coal-fired power.
A report released yesterday by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) referred to comments made by the Indian energy minister Piyush Goyal that India would be able to stop imports of thermal coal by 2017, however Phelps said he did not believe this would be a concern for Australia.
“It depends on who you speak to in India…there is going to be an expansion of coal there,” he said.
“They may be reducing imports, because they will be developing their own domestic resources…but generally speaking the contracts are locked in so I find it hard to believe that the Indians would be reducing their reliance on Australian coal.”
Greens MP John Kaye responded to comments made in the Carnival of Coal mixer, saying Phelps was playing to a “narrow audience”.
“Feeding back to the coal industry the most biased of propaganda might make Dr Phelps and the least aware members of his audience feel good, however, it only damages the opportunities for the industry to respond to a changing economic and social environment,” he said.
“Dr Phelps chooses to delude his audience about the relative costs of renewable energy and the demographics of the early adopters. Those who believe him might well make some very unwise investment decisions.
“Dr Phelps is once again playing to a very narrow audience. I am sure that there would have been people present who would understand that coal is challenged economically by solar and wind and is rapidly losing its social licence.
“It would have been more useful to have had a festival of reality than a carnival of myth,” Dr Kaye said.
The Liberal Party gathering also saw PWCS boss Hennie du Plooy announce a record day with 495,000 tonnes of coal loaded at the Kooragang Island in a single say.
"Despite challenges that the industry is going through, the coal chain in the Hunter Valley as a whole is running at a record rate for the month to date, well in excess of 180 million tonnes," he said.
"While it's challenging, it's not all doom and gloom."