Letter: Why coal became old school

I BELIEVE that Brian Smith from Macksville (Letters, July 20) is labouring under an illusion. The fact of the matter is that it is cheaper to generate electricity using wind turbines and solar PV than coal. It has been for a few years and is getting more so as the costs of renewables continue to fall.

New coal-fired power stations are not being built because it is not financially viable to do so.

India and, particularly China, are working hard to displace their current coal-fired power plants with renewables. China is largely motivated to do so because the pollution caused by burning coal is creating social unrest. In India, new power plants do not benefit the majority of people, who are not connected to the grid. Small micro-grids using solar PV and batteries is bringing power to Indians for the first time in increasing numbers, bypassing the grid.

New coal mines in Australia look likely to become stranded assets as the world demand for coal continues to fall.

As for the confected gas ‘shortage’, I will agree that the Australian Government has been taken to the cleaners by the companies that have developed the gas reserves. Did you know that these companies are allowed to write off their investments against future earnings and that these liabilities are allowed to appreciate at 20 per cent pa? That is why they may never pay any resource rent tax on these gas exports. 

I think Mr Smith will also find that Australia's agricultural exports are booming, especially to China, contrary to his claim.

We live in a globalised world and Australia is a much richer country for it than in the 1940s. The only problem is that the wealth is less evenly distributed. The only solution to that is to tax wealth more effectively.

Peter Sobey, Valla