Having a National Government voted in again we know that their Energy Strategy will continue to lead our country's energy priorities for the next three years. Sadly the government's support of Solid Energy's plans of turning the Mataura Valley into huge, opencast lignite mines will probably continue. So far Solid Energy have successfully blocked public involvement to establish their briquette plant and will probably continue to operate in a similar fashion unless enough of us make a strong stand.
The New Zealand Institute's report card on how our country measures up compared to other developed nations shows we rank 26th out of thirty nations for our carbon emissions per capita. For Jeanette Fitzsimons, ensuring that her grandchildren will have a real future on our planet is what has driven her since retiring from parliament and she sees the management of our carbon emissions as the most important issue in determining that future. One of the world's most respected climate scientists, Dr James Hansen, was appalled with what Solid Energy and our government's has been planning and he recently toured New Zealand to explain why mining coal should be considered our planet's biggest threat. Dr Hansen even wrote an letter to our Prime Minister regarding this and it appears to have been largely ignored.
Dr Jan Wright, New Zealand's Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, has also strongly opposed the mining of lignite and her report on the negative aspects of this low grade energy form is very convincing. Dr Wright has appeared on television to debate the issues with Solid Energy's CEO, Dr Don Elder. The telling statement from Dr elder during this debate was when he was challenged over the management of the carbon released by the lignite and he explained that Solid Energy would do something about the carbon if New Zealanders demanded it, hardly reassuring. One carbon sequestration solution that has been suggested by Dr Elder involves the use of the Great South Basin, the implausibility of this as a way to manage the Mataura lignite carbon is obvious, especially when international experience of carbon storage has had mixed results. A ten year moratorium on lignite mining seems a perfectly reasonable stance given the number of technological concerns still to be resolved to allow the resource to be safely used.
The Coal Action Network Aotearoa is dedicated to ensuring that the worst contributor to climate change is recognized and managed properly in Aotearoa. The network has been proactive in supporting Jeanette's lecture tours around the country and also organised Dr Hansen's tour. Given the intractable position of the National Government regarding the mining of coal and lignite and their brushing aside of all the warnings and sound advice from the Commissioner for the Environment and the worlds most respected climate scientists, other action has been deemed necessary.
The Keep the Coal in the Hole Summer Festival (20-23 January) is a gathering for all those who care about our climate, our planet and the future of the next generations and want to make a difference. Mike Dunbar's farm is now surrounded by Solid Energy owned farms and he has refused to sell them the land owned by his family for over seventy years. The Festival is on Mike's farm, over 120 people had registered at last count and I hope to see you there too.