Cougar Energy has been ordered to shut down its trial underground coal gasification plant near Kingaroy by the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, after traces of the cancer-causing chemical benzene were found in groundwater monitoring bores last year.
There is huge rural concern over increasing coal seam gas (CSG) exploration on private farmland and the use of untested fracking chemicals:
“Governments — state and federal — have two separate laws..
The first insists that the landholder promote the sustainable use of natural resources, while the other allows CSG and coal companies to damage and obliterate natural resources without proper governance or penalty..
In rich farming regions such as the Darling Downs and the Liverpool Plains, a staggering 90 per cent of the land is estimated to be under some form of mining permit..
Coalminers and the CSG industry [want].. governments give them the right to extract water from the delicate Great Artesian Basin in Queensland as well as aquifers in NSW..
Safe water systems [are at risk] with fracking, a process of fracturing underground aquifers by blasting 600 dangerous chemicals down to release methane gas; and there are other deadly chemicals used such as benzene, toluene and formaldehyde.
Mariann Lloyd-Smith from the National Toxics Network, a member of the federal chemical regulatory National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme, says 21 out of 23 chemicals used in fracking have not been assessed for use in this country.”
Based in the Tweed Valley, the Lock the Gate alliance is growing – the website video is quite disturbing.
A thought provoking article on this new country/city divide by environmental writer Graham Lloyd says:
“the issue is morphing into really an issue about people’s empowerment. About taking on the big guys, people who don’t care, people who won’t listen, including governments.”
The Australian negative reaction to China buying farmland to develop coalmines is part of an ogoing battle about our need to import foreign capital to develop says John Wanna, from ANU’s School of Politics and International Relations. He believes there are a lot of unresolved issues breeding dissatisfaction and,
“food security has become the proxy for fear of foreign capital”.
John suggests the Greens might craft a fairly powerful political argument that says:
“Protect farms, protect the food bowl, protect the regions, the secenery of the regions and link that to the belief we ought to be moving away from coal and not simply exporting the carbon.”
John believes the political system is not spending enough time educating, explaining, bringing along community views to the direction they are taking.
Belinda Robinson CEO of APPEA (Australia Petroleum Production Exploration Association) puts the argument for the success story of CSG here.
Treasury Secretary Martin Ferguson explains that while Australia’s non-mining sector is coming to terms with the increased exchange rate,
“We have still not begun to appreciate.. the implications of the emergence of a massive middle class in Asia arising from the success of China and India in lifting hundreds of millions of people from poverty..
I am continually surprised that Australian investors have not yet realised the potential benefits of this new middle class for our agricultural industries.”
There is a danger our unbalanced trade with China plus the feeling that Australia discriminates against Chinese investment – possibly on a ‘yellow peril’ racism basis – will breed business resentment there.
In Adelaide this week, in a frank overview of how China views this key economic component of our relationship, a mid-ranking Chinese diplomat said:
“Australia’s two-speed economy risks damaging the relationship, which he sees as too focused on mining. He wants more engagement in finance, agriculture, telecommunications and civil aviation. He criticises the Foreign Investment Review Board for taking too long to make decisions and holding up projects.”
The consultancy ‘Think Global’ says:
“Every entrepreneur, company of institution should be looking to position itself as an attractive target for Chinese investors..
Australia has the third largest amount of funds under management in the world available to invest. It has modern technology, management skills and expertise. How welcome is that in China?”
More listening, less politicking and more entrepreneurship?