Why Big Mining loves Big Green
Viv has a degree in Applied Science Geology and is a Fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
The Labor/Green coalition in Australia has declared war on coal, oil and gas. So why is Big Mining not fighting back?
BHP Billiton is a big producer of coal, oil, gas, iron ore, copper, nickel and uranium. Rio Tinto is a big producer of uranium, coal, iron ore, copper and aluminium. Glencore is a big producer of coal, copper, zinc and nickel. And Shell is big in oil, gas and bitumen, manufactures biofuels, and generates peak power with natural gas.
These companies employ competent geologists, physicists and chemists who could tell them that CO2 is not a pollutant and is not the primary driver of climate. They must know there is no scientific justification for the green war on hydro-carbon fuels - but none of these big miners speak out against this baseless war on their products. Some even waste shareholder funds producing glossy brochures promoting the green agenda.
Big Mining is not that dumb. Their climate concern is more motivated by self-interest - they see long-term profits flowing from the silly green agenda. They are also political cowards.
Wind and solar power are indeed “free”, but to extract electricity from them is not free – it needs turbines and solar panels, generators and transformers, transmission towers and power lines all of which boosts demand for metals like steel, copper, zinc, nickel and rare earths.
Moreover, wind and solar are very diffuse power sources and need large areas of land together with webs of access roads and power lines in order to generate significant power.
The heavy machinery needed for construction, maintenance and dismantling these green power networks provide more demands for petroleum and mining products. Before one watt of green electricity is generated for consumers, green power has boosted demand for most products of Big Mining.
Green power also needs back-up power ready to swing into action immediately the wind drops or clouds obscure the sun. This is great news for reliable energy suppliers capable of rapid backup, which usually means gas. So Big Gas loves Big Green and is secretly delighted by the war on coal. Lead, nickel, cadmium and lithium miners are also delighted with the soaring demand for energy-storing batteries.
Intermittent energy producers like wind and solar also cause destructive fluctuations in electricity supply and prices – prices can fall to zero on a sunny, windy afternoon, but soar during still, sunless periods. Coal power stations cannot adjust quickly to this destructive variability in electricity prices and will be sent broke, thus providing even more markets for gas.
Big Gas is thus delighted to secretly support the war on coal as it will do wonders for the demand for gas; but they fail to understand that once Greens have destroyed coal power, they will then turn their green guns on to gas.
Uranium producers love the greens. They know that if coal and gas are banned from power generation, and all hydro-power sites are “world-heritage protected”, all that is left to stabilise the electricity grids of modern society is nuclear power.
Even coal producers see short-term benefits in supporting inane green ideas like carbon capture and burial. This would greatly increase the amount of coal needed to generate the electricity consumed to collect, separate, compress, transport and bury exhaust gases as well as to refine and fabricate all the metals needed for gas collectors, compressors and pipelines. Long term, the main beneficiaries of this industrial silliness will be nuclear power and uranium miners like Rio and BHP.
So Big Mining can extract benefits from green energy while earning political credits. And their PC executives can polish their green credentials in their suburban circles by supporting the silliness.
On the debit side are the usual victims - taxpayers and consumers of coal, oil, gas, electricity and metals; and employees and shareholders of industries being forced to close or emigrate because of expensive or unreliable electricity supply.