Premier Anna Bligh chose to announce plans for the massive expansion of Queensland’s export coal industry at the same time as the Rudd government was releasing its so-called Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme earlier this week. In hindsight, it was easy to see there was no contradiction between the two, because Penny Wong’s policy more closely resembles a Carbon Polluters’ Reward Scheme than a responsible mechanism for reducing carbon emissions. Nonetheless, the announcement is extremely alarming.

Bligh thinks that the future development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology justifies the continuing expansion of the Australian coal industry. In this alternate reality, Australia will become a leading exporter not only of coal but also CCS. It is a vision shared by the Rudd government.

The fact that CCS has not yet been proven on a commercial scale is consistently ignored. So too are the numerous examples of pilot CCS projects that have been shelved due to their prohibitive cost. Likewise, the liability for future generations of safely storing toxic carbon dioxide waste is conveniently overlooked; a liability the government is obviously keen to profit from by exporting it to the developing world along with our abundant coal.

But the most terrifying omission is the glaring reality that CCS is not a climate change solution. Bligh and Rudd are relying on technology that they hope will be proven by 2012, by the $1.7 billion ZeroGen project near Rockhampton in Queensland. By 2012, according to the IPCC, developed countries’ emissions need to have peaked and be well on the way down. There’s not a chance of that if we rely on CCS: it will take another 15 years or so to bring the technology online commercially.

Yet this is the profit-driven logic behind Bligh’s recent announcement of a new coal mine, rail line and coal port to be built in Queensland, totalling $5.3 billion. Yet again this highlights the urgent need for federal government responsibility for climate policy in Australia. Instead of supporting such developments through its unwavering commitment to CCS, the Rudd government must call a halt to the expansion of our export coal industry. If it doesn’t, Queensland’s tourism industry and its beautiful, wild environment will be the ones that lose out.