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HRL challenged over 'clean coal' claims

20 July 2007 -- The Australian Climate Justice Program, with the support of Greenpeace, has lodged a complaint with the ACCC over HRL Limited’s use of the term ‘clean coal’ in relation to its proposed new brown coal-fired power plant in Victoria.

Environment groups lodge complaint with ACCC

The Australian Climate Justice Program1 ], with the support of Greenpeace, has lodged a complaint with the ACCC over HRL Limited’s use of the term ‘clean coal’ in relation to its proposed new brown coal-fired power plant in Victoria.2 ]

The proposed 400 MW Latrobe plant was promoted by HRL as a ‘clean coal power plant’ despite the fact that it would increase Victoria’s greenhouse pollution by between 2.4 and 2.7 million tonnes each year according to new data released by Victorian Energy Minister Peter Batchelor3 ]. The coal proposal has already attracted $150 million worth of subsidies from the Victorian and Federal governments.4 ]

According to the complaint, HRL has misled and deceived the public, in breach of the Trade Practices Act, by labelling what in reality is a heavily polluting proposal as ‘clean’. The ACCC has launched an investigation and is writing to HRL to seek relevant documents. If the complaint is upheld, HRL could be forced to stop using the term ‘clean coal’, and publicly retract its previous statements.

The Australian Climate Justice Project’s Phil Freeman said: “HRL’s PR machine made sure the proposal was widely reported as a ‘clean coal’ power station. In fact the HRL project, if it proceeds, would be just as dirty as a black coal-fired power station, twice as dirty as a gas-fired power station and infinitely dirtier than a renewable energy alternative such as wind power.

“HRL’s use of the term ‘clean coal’ is against the law and has serious consequences. Consumers are less likely to buy Greenpower products, and taxpayer funds are being stolen from renewable energy projects that really are clean. HRL is also using ‘clean coal’ as a smokescreen to try and slip a dirty and otherwise controversial project past the public and regulators.”

Greenpeace energy campaigner Mark Wakeham said: “It’s ludicrous that HRL are calling a plant that would pump out 2.5 million tonnes of greenhouse pollution each year ‘clean’. The use of the term 'clean coal' is not only misleading and deceptive - it's also a dangerous distraction from real action on climate change. Instead of putting $150 million into genuinely clean renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, the Federal and State Governments are conspiring with the coal industry to support the myth of ‘clean coal’.

“This is just as wrong as tobacco companies calling mild cigarettes ‘healthy’. The ACCC wouldn't let the tobacco companies claim that they were selling 'healthy cigarettes' so it shouldn't let polluters get away with using the term 'clean coal'. Commercial proposals to catch pollution from coal-fired power stations are decades away, if they ever eventuate. In the meantime there is no such thing as ‘clean coal’ and the law needs to catch up.”

For further information contact:
Louise Clifton, Greenpeace media officer 0438 204041
Mark Wakeham, Greenpeace energy campaigner 0409 542753
Phil Freeman, Australian Climate Justice Program 0438 043 049

Footnotes

[ 1 ]The ACJP uses the law to fight for climate protection (www.cana.net.au/ACJP). It is based at Climate Action Network Australia (CANA), and linked to the London-based international Climate Justice Program (www.climatelaw.org).

[ 2 ]HRL & a Chinese Joint Venture partner plan to build a 400MW brown coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria. The HRL Power Station would be fired with brown coal using IDGCC technology. While IDGCC would (if successful) be regarded as an improvement on conventional brown coal fired power generation, it is no cleaner than black coal fired power generation and substantially dirtier than other forms of power generation such as gas and wind-powered generation. HRL has not announced any plan to de-commission an existing conventional brown coal fired power generation in conjunction with the commissioning of the HRL proposal.

[ 3 ]Hansard 21 June 2007 Victorian Legislative Council: Energy and resources: clean coal power. For the purposes of comparison, the proposal would put over 3 times more greenhouse pollution into the atmosphere than will be saved under the Federal Government’s plan to phase out incandescent light bulbs in Australia (0.8 tonnes/year).

[ 4 ]The Victorian Government has committed $50 million and the Federal Government $100 million to the $700 million project. In effect, 21.4% of the cost is being borne by taxpayers. Neither Government appears to have sought an equity share of the project (and any profits) in return for their investment. At the same time, HRL CEO Gordon Carter indicated that the project would be economically competitive: “the project would deliver lower greenhouse emissions at a lower power cost than any other existing coal-fired power technology in Australia” (HRL media release dated 17/11/06).

 

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