Scott Morrison is doubling down on fossil fuels in the face of climate disaster, backing more gas mining as a path out the COVID-19 crisis.
“Gas is the important transition fill for the changes in our energy needs for this country, for the future,” he told parliament. “That is why we want to see more of it and get more out of the ground”.
And he’s signalled he will have “a lot more to say” on it in the months ahead. Morrison is working hand in glove with mining company executive and head of his hand-picked COVID Commission, Nev Power. The Commission has recommended the government provide funding to underwrite investment in new pipelines, to encourage new gas developments.
This would assist Santos’ gas fracking development at Narrabri in NSW, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The NSW Independent Planning Commission has put back the date for its decision on the project until 30 September.
It plans to build up to 850 gas wells on Pillaga scrub, involving land clearing in the state forest in the largest remaining temperate woodland in eastern Australia, with important spiritual significance for the local Gamilaraay people.
The Coalition argues that an increase in gas supply is necessary, not just for power needs, but to lower gas prices for domestic manufacturing. Massive export developments have pushed up domestic prices because gas producers can sell at much higher prices on the international market.
But the 25-year project is incompatible even with the Paris Agreement aim of keeping climate change to 2 degrees, former chief scientist Penny Hackett wrote in a submission against the development.
“About 50 per cent of Australian gas reserves must remain in the ground to achieve a 2°C [global warming] scenario. Thus, approval of new fossil fuel development or expansion is incompatible with keeping global warming to 2°C”, she argued. Over its life it would spew out the equivalent of close to a whole year of NSW’s total emissions.
We need a rapid transition away from fossil fuels to avoid climate catastrophe. The bulk of gas used for household cooking and heating could be phased out immediately and replaced with electric alternatives, powered by renewable energy. This could free up gas for manufacturing use while producers work to switch to renewable energy alternatives.
And a climate-friendly recovery would create far more jobs. Beyond Zero Emissions has outlined measures in renewable energy, building design, transport and land management that could create up to a million jobs. That’s the kind of recovery we need.