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Dr Gideon Polya
Dr Gideon Polya

Australian National University sells shares in Coal Seam Gas

Australia and indeed the World are increasingly threatened by massive investment in coal seam gas (CSG). CSG expansion has drawn vehement opposition in Australia from urban environmentalists and also from farmers opposed to despoiling of prime agricultural land and potential pollution of aquifer resources. Now the Australian National University (ANU) has disinvested in coal seam gas (CSG) development after student opposition to such investment (see “ANU removes itself from coal seam gas operationsâ€).

Key quotes from report: “The Australian National University will sell its shares in Metgasco, a company involved in coal seam gas extraction in Northern NSW, following student opposition to the investment… The ANU currently holds a 1% share in Metgasco, worth around $1 million, making it the 12th largest shareholder. The ANU’s total investment portfolio is valued at over $1 billion. Students from the Collective say they discovered the investment in Metgasco’s annual report. They were spurred on by contact from several people in areas affected by Metgasco operations, who urged a push for divestment. The students launched their campaign by installing a ‘gas rig’ made out of milk crates in Union Court on campus and starting a petition.â€

I made the following science-informed comment on Woroni:

“Great news! The students are correct - gas is dirty and can be dirtier than coal greenhouse gas (GHG)-wise. Most of natural gas is methane (CH4) which leaks (at 3.3% US average or up to 7.9% from fracking) and is 105 times worse than carbon dioxide (CO2) as a greenhouse gas (GHG) on a 20 year time frame and with aerosol impacts included. In Victoria [a major Australian state] burning gas for power is half as dirty GHG-wise as burning coal but at 3.3% systemic leakage it is 1.2 times as dirty as Hazelwood (Victoria's dirtiest coal-fired power plant) and at 7.9% leakage it is 2.1 times as dirty as Hazelwood (

In 2009 the WBGU (that advises the German Government on climate change) estimated that for a 75% chance of avoiding a disastrous 2 degree Centigrade temperature rise (would you board a plane if there were a 25% chance of it crashing?) the World must emit no more than 600 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) between 2010 and zero emissions in 2050. Australia as a world leading annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) polluter has ALREADY used up its "fair share" of this terminal GHG pollution budget and is now stealing the entitlement of other countries, including impoverished, climate change-threatened countries such as Somalia, Bangladesh and Kiribati (see “Shocking analysis by country of years left to zero emissionsâ€).

Australia should be stopping gas and coal extraction and not opening up new mines for more carbon pollution.

Congratulations to the student activists! I worked at ANU as a Queen Elizabeth II Research Fellow 40 years ago and so am doubly pleased with the ANU action. Disinvestment represents a significant means of cutting greenhouse gas pollution and anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Pro-environment students, activists and investors around the world should follow the example of the ANU students and ANU management.

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Threatened by CSG investment?Unfortunately, until the true renewable technologies mature to the stage where they can supply our bulk energy needs, stifling CSG development can only mean one thing.And that is more development of coal mines.Which in turn mean:Masses of methane vented to the atmosphere, especially from open cut mining.Masses of CO2 production in inefficient power stations.Surface subsidence and damage from longwall mining, plus more methane leakage and loss of river flows to fractures.Massive mine footprints and equally massive effects on road and rail infrastructure. It’s not about CSG or no development but CSG development or more coal mining.That is the reality of the situation today.I know which I’d Druther!! Get serious guys, and research the facts! BTW Dr Polya, you completely ignore in your figures, the methane that is either released as a matter of course during open cut coal mining or leaks from farcturing due to longwall mining or finally, that which is pumped out and vented as part of the mine safe ventilation systems

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The use of sophisticated software systems for coal mining that is mostly burnt for power generation and steel production and adds to the greenhouse effect is valid for western countries who may allocate resources and funds to alternative and more greener sources of power. Some of the alternatives may be "safer" than the traditional mines. Unfortunately, coal statistics show developing economies are more likely to increase their use of thermal coal & metallurgical coal in coming years because of its affordability and to meet increasing demands for electricity and steel. Whether they will embrace and utilise sophisticated software systems that no doubt add to the cost of production is yet to be seen. Cherry of www.coalportal.com

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This is crazy! The ANU made an investment in a good environmental company like Metgasco. The students are at university to be EDUCATED, not dictate their naive views to University policy! For shame ANU, your leaders should have contained your students and explained the technology better. Importantly, the ANU should have educated the students on “mob†mentality and extreme leftist thinking. The movie maker of GASLAND made off with millions of dollars on the back of making a movie about United States shale gas extraction (NOTHING to do with what Metgasco are doing) yet he walks away laughing at all the dumb Aussies who bought up his leftist propaganda…. LOL

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