If Solid Energy’s newly announced briquette plant ever goes into production, it will be a crime of global significance, for which New Zealand’s biggest company, Fonterra, and the New Zealand Government, will be to blame.
“Today’s announcement that Solid Energy wants to build a pilot lignite briquetting plant is the thin end of the wedge – a massive push by Fonterra and the extractive industries, partnered with the Government, to open up the six billion tonnes of lignite in Southland,” says Greenpeace Senior Climate Campaigner Simon Boxer.
While Solid Energy is keeping quiet about who the plant might supply, it is well known that Fonterra uses enormous quantities of coal (it already burns over 450,000 tonnes in its dehydrators each year); the site of Solid Energy’s proposed plant, at Mataura, is just 12 kilometres from Fonterra’s Edendale milk powder factory; and industry commentators regularly acknowledge that the briquetting plant is intended to serve Fonterra.
“The Government refuses to stop Fonterra from either burning coal in its milk dehydrators, or from buying palm kernel, and will have to share the blame with Fonterra for the climate damage that would result from burning these briquettes,” says Boxer.
A briquette is a compressed coal ‘brick.’ Solid Energy wants to make its briquettes from lignite, or brown coal, the dirtiest type of coal there is.
“Burning lignite is one of the worst crimes that can be committed, given that it will bring us closer to the point of irreversible climate change – and Fonterra and the Government would be responsible,” Boxer says.
Greenpeace is not alone in its opposition to the push towards new coal. In December, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, said in her report Lignite and climate change: The high cost of low grade coal, that the plans to exploit lignite were of great concern, because of their climate impact.
Greenpeace is calling on Fonterra to commit to stop using coal, and to not buy any products from this proposed project.