Once the fog had lifted from the Latrobe Valley, the old Hazelwood Power Station near Morwell showed the true colour of its emissions — brown. Of course the real toxic output of such an outmoded technology — CO2 — is colourless, and all the more insidious for being invisible and thus unacted upon. Hazelwood produces 16 million tonnes of greenhouse gases each year — 15 per cent of Victoria’s total emissions.
It is also Australia’s largest single source of dioxin pollution.
Due to close in 2005, its private owners asked, and were given permission, to keep pumping them out until 2031.
The brown sky trail edged around the valley for kilometres, still clearly visible beyond Traralgon where it seemed to bank up against the hills in what was, for a Hunter person, a more familiar milky pollution mist. It was not fog.
In the newer power stations like Loy Yang A and B, the only visible output is the water vapour from the cooling towers. Looks harmless, doesn’t it? Almost clean! But while the CO2 emitted is less than at Hazelwood, it is still more than our planet can stand.
Brown coal contains about 65 per cent water, and is 33 per cent dirtier than black coal as a CO2 emitter.
There is much research afoot into various ways of drying it and reducing emissions — but mostly only to as much as black coal. Not good enough!
A few scraps of fog hung in the mine void, but no dust. For local impact, brown coal mining is amazingly clean and tidy compared to our Hunter open cut black coal mines. Loy Yang uses big excavators and conveyor belts, all run on its own electricity — very little diesel machinery.
I was sorry to hear that Yallourn mine had not replaced its excavators, but went to diesel power. I thought of the infrasound impacts of that, as well as the fossil fuel consumption.