Push for gas reignites energy debate

Rebecca Gredley
(Australian Associated Press)

 

The possibility of gas playing a key part in Australia’s economic recovery after the coronavirus has reignited debate about the energy source’s credentials.

Chair of the government’s COVID-19 recovery committee Nev Power is advising the government on how gas could play a role.

A gas pipeline from Western Australia, more production on the east coast and moving energy-intensive manufacturing west are reportedly being considered.

“In terms of gas, the critical thing is it is the mechanism that allows us to transition to baseload renewables in the fastest way,” Mr Power told the Australian Financial Review.

“The key is more supply.”

Former Liberal leader John Hewson is wary of the government taking advice from people with resource industry backgrounds.

“You simply can’t be taking the climate science seriously when you rely on the advice of ex-fossil fuel executives in relation to emissions reductions and recovery from Covid,” he tweeted.

In a speech delivered on Wednesday, Industry Minister Karen Andrews called for cheaper gas to be one of the building blocks of a new era in manufacturing.

GetUp’s Larissa Baldwin says there’s no such thing as cheap gas.

“Gas pipeline projects aren’t viable, they won’t create jobs and they will have catastrophic climate impacts,” she said.

“Gas is a carbon-bomb. Opening up one new basin would make meeting our Paris targets impossible.

“To lift us out of this health and economic crisis we need solutions that prioritise workers and a clean energy transition – not the vested interests of the fossil fuel lobby.”

The Australian Industry Group says the nation’s approach to energy needs to change.

“Energy is a critical part of the future of Australian manufacturing,” Ai Group chief Innes Willox said.

“Australia could build a more durable energy advantage by reforming and investing now to deliver an energy system that can sustain durably low prices, reduces emissions and radically improves our energy productivity.”

The Australia Institute says gas isn’t the way forward, releasing a report showing that it creates few jobs and will lock in high energy prices.

It says that even though Australia is the world’s largest LNG exporter, less than 0.2 per cent of the nation’s workforce is in the gas industry.

The think tank says that by subsidising gas, lower cost renewables will be displaced, resulting in higher prices and higher emissions.

The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis says a gas-led recovery is a poor investment as there’s an oversupply of gas globally.

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