Gas: Dangerous, Expensive and Unnecessary

04.02.20 By
This article is more than 4 years old

Gas cannot fix price, reliability or emissions.

Gas in Australia is dangerous, expensive and unnecessary. It is in no way a form of ‘climate action’. Expanding gas supply will fix none of the problems that those pushing such an expansion claim it will. The real solution: a rapid transition to renewables, leaving all fossil fuels in the ground.

Gas is a fossil fuel: pure and simple

Burning fossil fuels – coal, gas, and oil – is driving climate change, which is making extreme weather events more frequent and more extreme. The United Nations Environment Program last year showed that the international community is already on track to emit twice the level of greenhouse gases required to blow past internationally agreed temperature goals. Australia is the world’s biggest supplier of coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG). The global community has a narrow window in which international goals might be achieved. The fossil fuel resources Australia opened through the 1990s were dangerous brinkmanship. Those opened in the early 2000s were harmful by any measure given our growing understanding of climate change. Planning to open new reserves in 2020 after decades of unconstrained growth is highly irresponsible.

Gas is highly polluting

Extraction of gas, and particularly unconventional gas (or coal seam gas), is a highly polluting activity. Gas is primarily made up of methane, a greenhouse gas which is up to 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the short-term. Massive quantities of methane are released into the atmosphere through gas exploration, extraction, processing, and consumption.

An infographic showing the cost of investing in gas
Investing in gas comes at a cost. 

Gas is expensive

Much has been made of increasing electricity prices in the south-eastern states in recent years. Recent increases have occurred specifically because of increased gas extraction. This is the outcome of complex contracting dynamics with our largest export partners that have seen us paying more for Australian gas than our export partners overseas. This has been the primary driver of increasing electricity prices since at least 2016. Renewable energy, on the other hand, is the lowest cost form of new electricity generation and is still coming down in price each year.

We just don’t need it

After 30 years of inaction on climate change from successive Australian Governments, there is no room to develop further fossil fuel infrastructure. Fortunately, there is no need for it. Australia is the sunniest and windiest inhabited continent on the planet. Australia has everything it needs to make deep, enduring and immediate cuts to greenhouse gas emissions that far outstrip the marginal — and possibly non-existent — benefits of gas. By refusing to step up to the immense opportunities a zero-carbon economy offers, Australia is being left behind countries with far more meagre renewables potential.

Read more about gas in our new report, ‘Passing Gas: Why renewables are the future’