Great Barrier Reef saved from shale oil exploitation

Feature story - September 1, 2008
It's a victory for the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef, with a 20-year moratorium on all new shale oil projects in the region. Led by the Save Our Foreshore group, the success shows just how powerful local, grassroots campaigns can be.

Global warming and its effects on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia feature. Aerial view of the Great Barrier reef off the Whitsunday Islands. Based on figures from The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) it is estimated by government, media and environmental activists that export coal expansion plans in Queensland would create additional global greenhouse pollution equal to 125% of AustraliaÕs total current emissions; or the same as the CO2 pollution from 65 average sized coal-fired power stations. Australia is considered by environmental activists as one of the world's highest per capita polluters and exports more CO2 than is emitted domestically. In 2006/7, Australia exported around 243 million tonnes (Mt), 30% of the world's total coal exports, equal to 656 Mt of CO2.

The ban has been welcomed by just about everyone but the Queenland Resource Council, whose proposal was set to mine millions of tonnes of shale rock each year on a site just 10 km from the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. The shale oil mine threatened to drain precious water supplies, and to risk toxic leaching and air pollution from waste rock. Shale oil production is extremely greenhouse gas intensive - emissions from this project, combined with the company's other planned operations, would have raised Australia's current total emissions by 30 percent within 20 years.

This is a great win but it is madness that such a project could have even been considered. We are facing catastrophic climate change - we must urgently cut emissions, not increase them. We don't need to endanger the Great Barrier Reef or anywhere else by mining fossil fuels. There are better energy sources that are ready to go right now. If Queensland Premier Anna Bligh can block this proposal for climate reasons, we look forward to her blocking other major fossil fuel projects in the state, including export coal expansions, for the same reasons.

Greenpeace joined Save Our Foreshore in their fight against the shale oil mine last month when the Esperanza sailed into Airlie Beach flanked by a flotilla of 90 local vessels as part of its six-week energy [r]evolution tour

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