Daring climate protest targets polluting aluminium smelter
Media Release 9th June 2009
Climate change protestors have halted production in Australia’s largest aluminium smelter by attaching themselves to a weigh bridge that is a pinch-point of the operation.
The protestors are angry that heavily polluting industries, like aluminium smelting, will receive 90% of their pollution permits free from the Federal Government under the controversial Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, allowing them to carry on largely unaffected by pollution constraints, and leaving the public to pick up the cost of reducing greenhouse emissions.
Aluminium smelting is an extremely energy intensive industry, and the Tomago plant has a constant demand of around 900MW of power, which is supplied from greenhouse polluting coal-fired power stations.
The Hunter’s two aluminium smelters, at Tomago and Kurri Kurri, use 15% of NSW’s electricity, yet are charged just one sixth of the cost per mega watt paid by ordinary energy consumers. The annual electricity subsidy to the aluminium industry has been estimated to be at least $210 million.
“The Tomago Aluminium smelter alone is excepted to receive over $250 million in free permits in the first year of the CPRS. It is half owned by mining and aluminium giant Rio Tinto, which last year posted a profit of $15.8 billion,” said Steve Phillips, spokesperson for protest organisers Rising Tide Newcastle.
“The Government is pursuing a backwards climate policy that rewards big polluting companies like Rio Tinto at the expense of the rest of the community and the world.
“Aluminium smelting in Australia is two-and-a-half times more greenhouse polluting than the world average, because our energy comes almost exclusively from coal burning.
“At this crucial hour in world history, we should be forcing plants like this to use renewable energy – not paying them to use coal power. The Aluminium industry needs to clean up, or clean out.
“The Federal Government needs to shift focus from compensation to restructuring. We call on the Federal Government to reverse the perverse subsidies given to coal-powered aluminium smelters and make assistance under any emissions trading scheme conditional on an urgent switch to renewable energy for all smelters.”
Further comment: Steve Phillips 0437 275 119
Photos or video: Annika Dean 0403 567 911