Underground coal gasification is a technique used to create fuels with similar properties to natural gas from large coal seams that are too deep to be profitably mined. It has already been developed in Uzbekistan, but the plan near the town of Orroroo is the first example from a non-Muslim nation.
What Renfrey Clarke does show is that underground coal gasification is extremely greenhouse-intensive and that it is likely to eliminate entirely pressure for improved fuel efficiency in cars in Australia. What is likely to occur is that greenhouse-spewing four-wheel-drive vehicles will become even more the dominant mode of transport for cities that sprawl over even vaster areas of desert than Phoenix or Tucson ever have or will – and quite likely a more arid desert than Arizona, too.
The message Green Left Weekly give is dreadful. One cannot but despair that the nation that should have by an absolute mile the lowest per capita greenhouse emissions in the world has and always will have the highest. Nonetheless, the simple truth is that brains that could develop renewable energy have been drawn like a magnet from Australia because of the surfeit of dirt-cheap fossil fuels and land, whilst tightly-bound families have been driven away from countries ecologically able to support far larger populations by the greater housing space and the same dirt-cheap electricity and (today) car prices.
This is one thing that Green Left Weekly – just as much as the other side of politics exemplified by Human Events and suburban Australia – have no hope of grasping. They (both) are wedded to the cultures in which they develop, and have no experience of the possibilities offered by different ways of doing things. The result is that they – just as much as Human Events do with Europe, Canada and New Zealand – hope for outcomes that are culturally and economically impossible no matter how desirable they would be ecologically.
That the gap between Australian emissions and European or East Asian one will grow and grow there is, with the discovery of underground coal gasification, no doubt at all.
That families will be lured to sprawling desert cities in Australia and away from the more pleasant (even for the migrants themselves) and ecologically more sustainable climates of Europe, Canada and New Zealand there is equally little doubt. What is not grasped by anybody but economists is how the immense majority prefer this low-quality, slow-paced, limited-choice lifestyle to the high-quality, mass transit-based, hectic, “big choice” lifestyle the free market gives to Europe and East Asia. Sensitive feeling types simply cannot handle this fast pace or crowding, so they are drawn to Australia and Red America to escape it in huge numbers. More than that, it shows the intellectual thinking types who support journals like Green Left Weekly as elitist in the extreme and having no knowledge of what Australia’s masses want – or at all events want most.