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Kangaroos and Coal Plants12.02.2008

Tags: Australia       Comments: 0

Picture of the day

On his quest in the Solar Taxi for solutions to global warming Louis Palmer visits a huge coal-fired power station, whose director turns out to be a solar energy fan.
Unique animals like black swans, kangaroos and pelicans are a welcome diversion over the long Australian distances and he's even almost got used to kangaroos leaping out in front of the car.


We enjoy the sight of a group of dolphins in the bay at Merimbula for almost an hour. On the highway we see a wombat, but it hardly notices us and later a lyrebird runs across the road just in front of us.
The road weaves through endless forest. In Bairnsdale, the first large town, we have to go to the vehicle registration authority because we are now in the state of Victoria and every state has its charges. Here it's 20 Euros for mandatory personal liability insurance. We leave the Solar Taxi with the Fire Brigade and later commandant Allen accompanies us out of town with his blue light flashing. Asked about global warming he says, "We had no rain here for five years, but lots of bushfires", adding, "We always had fires though."

The Biggest Problem: CO2
Still seeking solutions to the greenhouse effect, I drive to Morwell to find out more about coal, the biggest climate killer. The largest coal-fired power station in the Southern Hemisphere is here and the world's second-biggest brown coal field lies under the earth. The plant produces 53 percent of Australia's electricity from 60,000 tonnes of coal a day. Ian, the director of the visitors' centre, admits without hesitation: "Yes, coal mining is cheap. We filter sulphur and ash out of emissions, so only water and CO2 comes out, but it's the CO2 that's the problem."

As far as I'm aware, about a quarter of CO2 emissions worldwide come from coal burnt to generate electricity. I ask Ian whether there's a solution to the problem. "We're working hard to find one. We must find a solution. We can already change coal into gas, which would allow us to reduce CO2 emissions by a quarter." Would that be enough? "Of course not. We have to reduce emissions much further. Our people are working to find a way to make CO2 liquid so that it can be stored under the Earth, but nobody knows if it'll work". "And if it doesn't work?" I ask. "Then we'll have to close the power station sooner or later."

Ian's answer surprises me. Is Australia about to become a model global citizen in terms of environmental protection? Ian is a solar energy fan and is building a new house that's "completely solar". He shows me around the mining area and the town he lives in. Like so many Australians, he's friendly and helpful.

My next destination is Philip Island where Jenny and Peter are to be our hosts. Jenny is a vet and has worked to save some of the penguins living on the island. We are amazed when we arrive at the world-famous "Penguin Parade". About 1,000 penguins go down to the sea every evening and almost twice as many people come to watch them do it. The hustle and bustle of spectators in the grandstands is almost like Disneyland. The island is our last stop before Melbourne. We might be feeling like the penguins in Melbourne, because 120,000 visitors are waiting to see us there at the Sustainable Living Festival.


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