Gippsland and the Victorian Gas Program by Susan Quinn

Excerpts from an article in Just Community No 6

“Energy policy has enormous implications for climate change and gas does not provide a climate solution, it is a climate problem. Gas produces fossil fuel CO2 emissions when burned, albeit about half as much as coal. However, a key concern is leakage of methane – a strong greenhouse gas – during gas extraction and across the distribution supply line. Knowing these concerns leads to another: there are large known reserves of gas in the ground, which gas companies want to exploit.

“Opening up onshore gas fields contrasts with the Victorian Government’s positive move to increase its Renewable Energy Target (VRET) to 50 per cent by 2030, and Victoria’s Climate Change Act 2017, which established a longterm target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The IPCC said we must reach net zero carbon emissions globally by about 2050 to give the world a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5C.

“A workshop presenter described gas as a transition fuel to firm up supply as Victoria moves to renewables. I put this to the Climate Council and they responded: “There is no need for gas to play a role in ‘transitioning’ to renewable energy. Australia has everything it needs to make deep, enduring and immediate cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. We already have the storage technology available (such as pumped hydro and batteries), we just need the political will to implement these solutions.”

“Australia produces a lot of gas (it is now the world leading LNG exporter) and we don’t need new gas development. We need to transition out of fossil fuels not into new fossil fuel reserves.

“Whilst federal energy policy direction is acceptable to the fossil fuel industry, it is not compatible with addressing the climate crisis.

“East Gippsland experienced a summer of unprecedented bushfire this year. A bushfire prone region containing active gas wells would seem a dangerous mix, particularly as the Australian bushfire season and catastrophic bushfire conditions increase under climate change. Yet bushfire risk does not appear to have been mapped into the VGP model of ‘landscape sensitivities’ in the Gippsland Basin. Recall that the Hazlewood fire was ignited by a bushfire burning into the brown coal reserve.

“Abundant, affordable carbon-free energy is an essential requirement for solving the climate problem. Australia’s summer of shocking bush fires are symbolic of the consequences of global warming if we do not alter our trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions. Energy policy that includes new gas exploration and development needs to be rejected. 

Fish Creek