World's Largest Mining Company: We Must Move Away from Coal


Photo credit: wsilver via Flickr/CC BY

While we've received a healthy influx of signs that the world's heavyweights aren't planning on diversifying their energy portfolios to any radical degree in the near future -- China building a submersible to dive 7,000 meters underwater to explore for oil among them -- there are still reasons yet to be optimistic. Take this for example: the CEO of the largest mining company in the world, Australia's BHP, has recently stated that the nation must move away from coal in order to remain competitive in the future. Here's Bloomberg Businessweek:

BHP Billiton Ltd., the world's largest mining company, said Australia needs to move away from coal as its main source of power to avoid competitive disadvantage once a global price on carbon emerges.

"With about 90 percent of the carbon emissions from our electricity sector coming from coal-fired power stations, Australia will need to look beyond just coal towards the full spectrum of available energy solutions," Marius Kloppers, chief executive officer of the Melbourne-based company, said today. "Failure to do so will place us at a competitive disadvantage in a future where carbon is priced globally."

Kloppers says that his preferred solution is an international climate framework, and barring that, a national penalty (tax?) on carbon emissions. But he argues that "industries that face higher costs for their products will need to receive rebates to avoid relocation to a different country where a carbon price doesn't crimp margins." He maintains that the consumer must pay a price for carbon emissions, so as to discourage polluting behavior and encourage investment in cleaner products and technologies.

Now, I haven't been following Australian climate politics closely, so I can't say with authority that these remarks are free of doublespeak -- we all know how companies like Exxon have a habit of publicly calling for things like carbon taxes to bolster their public image while lobbying against climate policy behind the scenes, and knowing that such policy could never pass. But, giving BHS the benefit of the doubt, the remarks do seem prudent, especially for a country so tied to coal, both for meeting energy demand and for exports.

And, of course, it's advice that should strike the corporate and political leadership of this nation as well ...

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