Secret draft documents from Australia’s official COVID-19 recovery taskforce call for massive public investment in natural gas infrastructure and the abolition of “red & green tape” to get those projects off the ground, despite serious concerns for the nation’s carbon emissions.
In short, it looks like the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC), the crew the Australian Government assembled to come up with new ideas to get us out of the crisis, is thinking about rolling with some old ideas at the potential cost to the taxpayer and the environment.
The leaked document, obtained by The Guardian and the ABC, suggests that more than 170,000 jobs could be created by revving up Australia’s natural gas industry.
But it calls upon the government to help “create the market” for those jobs, and advocates for the feds to take a “non-operating equity position, minority share, or underwriting position” to kick things into gear.
Read: policy interventions and subsidies, for an energy source which still pumps carbon into the atmosphere.
Given the enormous number of job losses caused by the ongoing pandemic, and the cost of power being a serious concern for many Australians, it makes sense the NCCC would think about retooling Australia’s energy market.
Still, according to critics of the draft document, there are a few reasons to be wary of such a big shift towards natural gas.
Speaking to the ABC, Tim Buckley of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis called the draft document a “pathetic” attempt to sure up the gas industry, which he believes is already unviable in the face of increasingly affordable green alternatives.
Then there’s the whole emissions thing. The Guardian points out the 11-page paper only brushes over alternatives to gas, and doesn’t quite address the looming threat of continual carbon expulsion (Carbon emissions might dip thanks to the COVID-19 lockdowns, by the way, but experts warn there might be a rebound unless we seriously shake up our energy habits).
It would be remiss not to mention the makeup of the NCCC itself, which includes heavy hitters in the Australian energy industry. You can read more discussion on that issue in Aunty’s piece here, and the Guardo‘s bit here.Image: Getty Images