Mining giant Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO) finds the current climate change policy debate too idealistic and over focused on renewable energy. Rio Energy Division Chief Harry Kenyon-Slaney is pushing instead for the Australian government to place more investment in clean technologies such as carbon capture and storage.
Mr Kenyon-Slaney, who spoke on Friday at the Energy Policy Institute of Australia meeting, said the mining industry can't just wish away fossil fuels and any solution to climate change must recognise the ongoing major role of fossil fuel in the global energy mix.
He said that coal, gas, uranium and renewable would all be needed to meet the anticipated 69 per cent growth in energy demand in the next two decades.
However, while pushing for cleaner energy technology, Rio has stopped paying the mining industry's Coal21 group, a $1-billion industry fund to finance clean coal technology as response to difficult trading conditions in the mining industry. Coal21 amended its aims in 2013 by refocusing beyond carbon emissions but also to push for use of coal in Australia and overseas.
The Rio executive's views was criticised by Giles Parkinson who wrote in RenewEconomy that "As if to highlight Rio Tinto's own lack of faith in the CCs, Kenyon-Slaney said the company had invested $100 million in the technology. This from a company that earns billions from coal mining each year - earnings that most analysts say is at risk if the world gets serious about climate change."
Tristan Edis wrote in Climate Spectator that based on volume of coal use in the last 10 years and projections for the next 10 years by the International Energy Agency, Mr Kenyon-Slaney has a reasonable point. He cited the numerous new coal-fired power stations in China and India, and improving the efficiency of these plants move be extremely difficult.
BHP Billiton CEO Andrew Mackenzie shared Rio's view that coal would continue to be the world's main energy source even if there is growth in discovery and use of natural gas.
But federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane believes the carbon capture and storage is a pipedream, while on senior Liberal calls it a vaporware, which is a term used to describe new computer software promised by developers for delivery in the future but never did, although it scares off rival software development.