Continued robust use of coal and broad deployment of clean coal technologies is crucial for Australia’s energy and economic future, according to a multi-disciplinary study released by The University of Queensland (UQ): “Coal and the Commonwealth.” Coal has shaped Australia’s history and is essential to its prosperity, creating 20% of the nation’s mineral wealth, 81% of its electricity and the largest coal export platform in the world. The study is edited by UQ Professors Peter Knights and Michael Hood and presents findings of UQ experts from a number of disciplines. Commissioned by Peabody Energy, the study analyzes the historical, social and economic contribution of Australia’s coal and outlines the importance of Australia’s leadership in advancing carbon technologies.

“It is important to recognize coal’s important relationship with Australia,” said Professor Knights. “By providing information on coal from the history of Captain Cook’s Endeavour to the progress toward carbon capture and storage, the study promotes informed and balanced discussion at a critical time of public debate.”

Key highlights of the study include:

  • The world will continue to rely on coal for electricity generation, with coal forecast to continue to fuel a significant portion of the world’s power generation (up to 38%) by 2015;
  • Access to affordable electricity, largely fueled by coal, has lifted people to a better quality of life for the past 300 years;
  • Coal was the first fuel discovered and produced in Australia and is the nation’s most important commodity (A$55 billion in export revenues).
  • The Australian coal industry employs more than 32,000 people and indirectly creates an additional 126,000 jobs in Queensland and New South Wales.
  • Australia is a global leader in developing clean coal technologies and is advancing solutions to address concerns about climate.

“Australia has the equivalent of hundreds of years of coal. It produces some of the best quality coal in the world and is acknowledged as a global leader in advancing low emissions solutions through the development of carbon capture and storage technologies,” said Professor Knights. “UQ is a world authority in mining and engineering research and is working with industry to progress solutions such as carbon capture and storage and coal seam gas to develop and support an environmentally sustainable future for coal in Queensland.”

The Paris-based International Energy Agency is calling for 100 large-scale global carbon capture projects by 2020, each trapping at least a million tons of carbon dioxide per year and the United States has called for broad deployment of carbon technologies in as little as eight to 10 years.