Coal Action Network Aotearoa applauds Fonterra for no longer accepting milk from farms that have converted marginal land into dairy pasture using oil and gas drilling waste (known as “land farming”). Fonterra say the perception of a safe clean dairy industry was a factor in this decision.

It’s not a good look for Fonterra to collect milk from farms contaminated with toxic waste from the fossil fuel industry and they are right to stop that practice.

But if Fonterra are worried about perception, they should stop using coal in their milk drying plants. Fonterra milk comes at a terrible cost to the environment and the climate, tainted as it is with coal.

did you know your chees comes with coal ACA action outside Fonterra HQ, Auckland, 2013

“Did you know your cheese comes with coal?” ACA members handing out Fonterra products in Auckland in March 2013.

Mining and burning coal is the highest emitter of carbon dioxide on the planet. If we don’t phase out all coal before 2030, says retired NASA scientist-turned climate activist Professor James Hansen, and begin significantly reducing all fossil fuel emissions, it’s game over for the climate. That’s game over for our children’s future.

Fonterra have options. They could use less polluting wood waste in their boilers, but instead choose coal.

Fonterra could use wood waste

ACA sign near proposed new Mangatawhiri coal mine, Easter 2013

Pure milk and green pastures aren’t normally associated with dirty coal, or are they? Surprisingly, Fonterra are the third biggest users of coal in the country after the Glenbrook steel mill and the Huntly power station.

Their Southland Edendale factory, currently the biggest milk drying plant in the world, dries 25% of Fonterra’s powdered milk, processing enough powder to fill 35 shipping containers every day. This powder gets marketed worldwide as a pure, natural product, yet Edendale uses low grade lignite coal to power its boilers. 60-70% of nearby New Vale mine’s lignite goes to Edendale. Lignite is the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

Fonterra’s newly built Darfield milk powder plant in Canterbury could have chosen a cleaner burning fuel but chose to burn coal – because it’s cheaper. They don’t have to pay the real cost because our emissions trading scheme allows them to dump carbon into the atmosphere for free. When fully up and running Darfield’s CO2 emissions (the real cost), in just 22 hours, will cancel out all the emissions savings achieved by EECA’s (the government’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority) 31 school coal-to-wood pilot scheme conversions in 2007-2010.

The new “Milk in Schools” programme is great, Fonterra, not only for the kids, but also for your image. But what’s the use of strong bones and teeth when our children’s future existence is being threatened by the greenhouse gas emissions from your use of coal? What’s more important to you? Higher profit margins, or our children’s future survival?

Auckland Coal Action (ACA) have been protesting against Fonterra’s plans to open a new coal mine at Maungatawhiri in the Waikato.

coal cooks the climate

In the midst of the drought, Easter 2013, ACA banner near Mangatawhiri

On their website Fonterra say “Climate change is a genuine issue and greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced.”

Come on Fonterra, actions speak louder than words. You did the right thing with your decision not to collect milk from land farming. For the sake of our planet, and a safe clean dairy industry, you need to quit coal.