Brownlee blowing smoke – or is it Coalfinger in disguise?

Written By: - Date published: 11:26 pm, January 21st, 2009 - 16 comments
Categories: cartoons, Environment, humour - Tags: , , ,

Artists impression of Coalfinger

Artists impression of Coalfinger

Gerry Brownlee was puffing smoke this Wednesday morning about his daft (in terms of the Kyoto agreement) decision last month to remove the ban on thermal generation of power. It reminded me of something I’d seen recently, so I dug back through the mental archives. Eventually I re-discovered the mysterious coincidences between the decisions of Brownlee and the plans of the nefarious Coalfinger… See the artists sketch on the right (by THE LINESMAN)

Here is the story to date in a rather amusing parody of a movie franchise by Greenpeace. With the kind permission of, we have Brownlee ummm – Coalfinger blowing greenhouse gas and spewing soot. Perhaps he landed here, and has taken up his old habits again – in a thinly veiled disguise….


Along with his dopey sidekick Dr. Anthracite, Coalfinger plans to cover the world in coal-fired power stations and destroy the climate in Operation Browncloud. Can Green stop them with the help of his glamorous assistant Katrina Hurkane? Is a top secret hideout involved? Are there plenty of double entendres?

With a soundtrack by composer David Arnold (Quantum of Solace, Casino Royal), the animated Bond spoof features David Mitchell (C4s Peep Show) as secret agent Gaverson Green fighting to stop the evil plans of Coalfinger, voiced by Brian Blessed.

16 comments on “Brownlee blowing smoke – or is it Coalfinger in disguise?”

  1. tsmithfield 1

    Well, under the previous administration we banned new thermal generation in NZ. At the same time we were exporting huge volumes of coal to Asia for others to burn. Smacks of hypocrisy by the previous administration. If they were truly principled they would have stopped all exporting of coal as well.

    When the Chinese economy was really cooking I understand that they were building a new coal-fired generator every week. So, one or two more here in NZ is like pissing in the sea, especially when we are quite happy to send it overseas for someone else to burn anyway.

  2. lprent 2

    ts: That is simply a line about our coal exports – a bad one. It is meaningless.

    There is quite a difference between exporting high-energy coal for carbonizing iron (ie making steel) and using brown coals for generating power. The first releases far more energy relative to the volume of gases released. Much of the carbon is used in the formation of the steel. Our coal wasn’t being used to generate power in China – they have brown coals for that.

    So basically your comparison is invalid and just another daft joke from the comedians of the CCD.

    Now the power generation issue in NZ isn’t really much of an issue at all. It is the nearly free market (ie capitalistic version) doing what it does best – maximizing the return from capital. Of course that also means that there will be occasional blackouts and brownouts when things go wrong. After all in a free market all that means to the producers and sellers is that prices go up. The barriers to entry mean that competition is minimal.

    Just at present it means that we are short of transmission capacity between the north and south islands because it was not worth putting a new cable in unless one of the two failed.

    Anyway, it kind of looks like even the Nats (it takes them a while) have figured out why freeing the electricity industry to the extent that they did in the 90’s wasn’t such a good idea. It takes a while for the plant to run down, so it is likely that a lot of the breakage will happen over the next few years (has been for the last few). Be interesting to see how they deal with their mates – because they won’t be amenable to responding to ‘suggestions’.

  3. lprent 4

    Nick – it is a great video…..

    I put the link to the ‘making of…’ rather than the ‘official site’ because they will be able to navigate from there and the former was more interesting 😈 . It meant that I could use my one ‘about the video’ link available on the post more effectively as the making of had more cross-links.

    From google, it looks like this video popped up all over the place.

  4. grumpy 5

    It’s taken a while for people to realise that “Free Market” infrastructure companies make profits by deferring capital investment and maintenence. (See Tranzrail).

    NZ needs new generation and also vital transmission upgrades. Local thermal generation is the “cheap” way to provide it. Ironically Bradford’s stupid reforms made it inevitable.

    I agree with tsmithfield about coal exports to China’s magic chimneys which have no CO2 impact at all. Maybe we just need to import some of these chimneys?

  5. tsmithfield 6

    Iprent “There is quite a difference between exporting high-energy coal for carbonizing iron (ie making steel) and using brown coals for generating power.”

    Well, if the issue is C02, then more efficient burning coals will actually produce more C02 than less efficient ones, because they burn more completely. I don’t see that the purpose for what the coal is used is at all relevant. From an AGW perspective it is still pumping C02 into the atmosphere. So, as I said, to happily ship coal overseas where it will be burned (for what ever reason) so C02 is pumped into the atmosphere, while banning any more coal-powered generation to reduce C02 emissions in NZ is hypocrisy. Plain and simple.

    Let me ask you, would you have a problem if we diverted the high grade coal from export and used it for its lessor purpose of powering a new coal-powered generator in NZ? If so, why?

  6. tsmithfield 7


  7. lprent 8

    Let me ask you, would you have a problem if we diverted the high grade coal from export and used it for its lessor purpose of powering a new coal-powered generator in NZ? If so, why?

    It is easy (and obvious).

    Anthracites and the high end coals actually burn too efficently, and at too high a temperature. That causes all sorts of issues for power stations. In particular it means that they have to go up a few orders of magnitude on all of the engineering. Especially the cost of refactories (I used to do a lot of tech work with those). High temperatures cause chemical reactions to proceed a lot faster, so the refractories have to be a lot more pure and of higher quality. That massively increases the cost of power production because refractories are expensive maintenance items (as are most high temperature engineering systems).

    Power stations work best with lower grades of coal which burn at lower temperatures – after all they are only trying to cook water, not iron. They are often mixed with mid-grades to get a consistent burn pattern.

    Perhaps you’d better go and dig out some info about coal and its variants – wikipedia is a good start. I’m coding at present… But I think I should write a post on coal, if only to stop this type of conversation. It is the third time it has come up

  8. tsmithfield 9

    Iprent, I can understand your explanation. However, you have avoided my question.

    Lets say, for arguments sake, that we developed a generator here that ran best on the high grade coal (say for the benefit of lower soot emissions for instance).

    Would you object to us building an additional coal-fired generator here to use the coal we currently export given that the net change to carbon emissions from a world perspective is 0? If so, why?

    BTW, I see someone has highjacked my tag. Can you sort this out? I am at work and don’t have my log-on details so has probably made me vulnerable to this sort of nonsense.

  9. Slarty 10

    Interesting in the context of this interview with Stern in New Scientist….

    But then, what does one expect from a bunch of crusty old white men?

  10. roger nome 11

    It’s a shame that Gerry Brownlee takes a similar approach to the environment as he does his own body – polluting it it with rubbish until it becomes unsightly and unhealthy . It’s like having a flat mate that won’t clean-up after themselves – you have to put up with their crap polluting your environment, or bust your gut cleaning up after them just so you can live in a nice place.

    Where’s the justice in that? Sometimes i wish captain planet was real!

  11. Matthew Pilott 12

    tsmithfield, if our hypothetical new coal power plants could run on high-grade coal and have fewer emissions, then your question is flawed because ther would be an effect on net emissions.

    It’s a hypothetical question that has so much ‘hypothetical’ that it’s not really worth asking, but here’s a few things to consider:

    You say that if the coal is burned the net effect of emissions will be 0, but this simplisticly ignores what that coal is replacing in terms of energy. Say we set up these power plants to run on expensive coal instead of cheap nasty stuff, we won’t need to generate x amount of power from another source. That source could have had far lower emissions (renewables).

    Also net emissions wouldn’t stay the same because China would still get the coal to make steel from elsewhere, and we’d be adding to the total burned with our new power plants.

    I think there are too many things to consider to make that a viable comparison- which also makes the ‘hypocircy’ point a bit too simplistic for my liking.

    P.S. can tell the other one isn’t you – it’s got a different picture. I knew you wouldn’t say ‘poop’ anyway.

    [lprent: Just looks to me like he/she went to work and managed to use a different IP and slightly different e-mail from the cookie.]

  12. gingercrush 13

    Oh roger nome, somehow I can’t imagine you being a perfect example of what the human species should look like.

  13. roger nome 14

    Ginge – um, not to brag – but, you have no idea.

  14. Peter Burns 15

    Talking about ideas roger nome, have you sent anymore naked photos of Californian Governors lately? Really roger, do all learned academics do that childish stuff? Yeah right!! What a waste of money and resources.

  15. roger nome 16

    Hey dad – Arnold was a legend in his time, and judging by how often you have been bringing his name into political debate for the last two years, you can well appreciate that.

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