The good news is the government wants to spend a fucktonne of cash to help the economy recover from the pandemic. The bad news is that the cash is going to go towards a slew of new natual gas projects which will do nothing but double down Australia’s love affair with fossil fuels.
Obviously, at a time when the effects of climate change are becoming more and more noticeable, the last thing we should be doing is setting ourselves up for another few decades of runaway greenhouse gas emissions.
And yet that’s exactly what the government thinks is the best solution to the current economic situation.
“To help fire our economic recovery, the next plank in our JobMaker plan is to deliver more Australian gas where it is needed at an internationally competitive price,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced.
“We’ll work with industry to deliver a gas hub for Australia that will ensure households and businesses enjoy the benefits of our abundant local gas while we hold our position as one of the top global liquefied natural gas exporters.”
If you think it sounds bad, you’re right. Here’s why.
How much more gas does the government want to extract?
As part of the plan, $28.3 million will go towards “unlocking” five major gas basins. They include the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory, and Queensland’s North Bowen and Galilee basins.
Among a frankly huge laundry list of reasons why these existing coal projects shouldn’t go ahead, one is that exporting them via sea will completely wreck the Great Barrier Reef.
Liquefied natural gas is often transported by – you guessed it – ships, and they may well contribute to ruining the world’s largest natural reef.
On top of that, the government also wants to set supply targets for the states, pushing them to produce more gas. And for licence holders, a “use-it or lose it” requirement may come into play meaning a bunch of potential projects would suddenly become very real.
What will this do for us?
Supporters of the government’s plan will say more gas means cheaper energy prices, and that includes electricity, as well as cooking and heating if you have gas at home.
“We are building a robust and competitive gas industry that will allow both gas producers and users to thrive, with lower prices and lower emissions benefiting all Australians,” Energy Minister Angus Taylor said.
The thing is, these new infrastructure projects will take years to get up and running, so there’ll be absolutely no positive impacts to the cost of electricity in the short term.
#3 EXTRACTION – this one has nothing to do with energy prices (in the 3-5 year time frame as stated). It would cost tens of billions, take decades & likely not generate “cheap gas”.
I cannot see how it can _possible_ be compatible with our emissions targets.
— Mike Cannon-Brookes ???????????????? (@mcannonbrookes) September 17, 2020
Also, the government wants a to supposedly “level the negotiating playing field for gas producers and consumers through a voluntary industry-led code of conduct,” which, if gas producers’ previous conduct is anything to go by, will be weak as shit.
The one thing that’s not debatable is that these projects will create jobs, but many of those jobs could’ve been created by investing in renewable energy instead.
Isn’t natural gas supposed to be better for the environment?
Firstly, there’s nothing more “natural” about natural gas than there is about coal, coffee or the coronavirus. So don’t be fooled by the name – it’s still a dirty, environmentally-unfriendly fossil fuel.
Gas is bad for the environment the from the moment it’s extracted. Many of the projects the government wants to carry out, for example, will depend on fracking, which is already polluting the ground, crops and water in Australia and around the world.
Then there’s the gas which leaks from the wells when it’s being extracted. This goes straight into the atmosphere, and for some gasses like methane, they’re literally among the worst greenhouse gasses out there.
Finally, all this gas is supposed to be burned one way or another. Sure, burning gas is usually cleaner than burning coal, but it’s still shit for the environment, especially when zero-emission alternatives like solar and wind are *waves hands at the entire continent* right there.
Is the government only focusing on fossil fuels and ignoring renewables?
Not entirely, but renewables really aren’t in the spotlight compared to all the aforementioned shit.
The government’s pledging $95.4 million to help the agricultural, manufacturing, industrial and transport sectors become more energy-efficient. That’s a small step in the right direction.
However, it’s also pledging $50 million to support carbon-capture projects, which is a relatively unproven way to keep fossil fuel plants running on their last legs.
For transport, the government wants to invest in hydrogen and biofuels, two solutions which sound decent in theory but are far more inefficient than existing battery technology.
Thankfully, there is an alternative. The Million Jobs Plan, backed by tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, aims to create 125,000 jobs by next year through $25 billion in renewable energy investment. Beyond that, hundreds of thousands more jobs could be created by the plan.
But for the time being, as far as the government’s concerned, renewables have clearly taken a back seat to yet another goddamn fossil fuel.