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Letter to Peter Khalil MP on gas lead recovery announcement for Australia

Dear Peter,
I hope you and your family are keeping well during these pandemic times. I am occupying myself with a thousands small jobs from the local to the international on climate advocacy. I appreciate your confidence in speaking up in recent months, and in debating Dave Sharma with Patricia Karvelas on international policy areas.

I am writing to you in your role as my Federal MP for Wills, on the Government gas lead covid recovery announcement by Prime Minister Morrison..

I write as a Victorian voter, a parent and grandfather being very concerned about increasing climate change and as a person who has attended 4 UN Climate Change conferences (COP21, COP22, COP23, and COP25)

I am very concerned about the “gas-fired recovery from COVID-19” as announced by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison today (September 15).

I am also very concerned that the Labor Party took a gas expansion policy to the last election including the $1.8billion subsidy for a new gas pipeline project.

I am writing to you to ask that the Labor Party should propose to the Federal Government that Covid recovery funds be spent helping Australian households, businesses and manufacturing to move to the cheaper alternatives of renewables. What we need is Government support for manufacturers to change production away from using gas and to instead use renewable based electricity production. Renewables can also be used for producing hydrogen for use in manufacturing processes including in steel production, and as a possible low emissions export fuel.

Gladstone is currently a hub for LNG export, but has the capability to become a hub for renewable energy revitalizing aluminium smelting, according to a new report by IEEFA. Excess electricity could generate hydrogen to make use of the gas export facilities at Gladstone.

My reasons for this request are that we face an existential crisis with the impacts of climate change. We are already feeling those impacts in extreme weather events such as increased intensity of tropical cyclones, increased torrential rain events and flooding, increased prevalence of drought conditions, longer hotter and more frequent heatwaves, and longer more intense bushfire seasons.

The black summer bushfires that we just experienced were no accident but were predicted from climate science trends from 30 years ago. 33 people directly lost their lives in the bushfires, but 417 excess deaths were attributed to the smoke particulate pollution, according to a study in the Medical Journal of Australia. Professor Chris Dickman and others from Sydney University have said up to 3 billion wildlife animals were killed or displaced in the summer bushfires. For some species this is likely an extinction event.

If we don’t reduce emissions as rapidly as possible we are condemning the fate of ourselves and our children to a chaotic future. Gas is not a transition fuel.

The science is clear:

  • The Current Australian greenhouse gas emission trajectory is a failure in climate Policy. I highlight the comments by the Climate Action Tracker on Australia’s present commitments and emissions:

    “Australia’s emissions are set too far outpace its “Insufficient” 2030 target. Emissions excluding the LULUCF sector have increased by around 1% per year on average since 2014, the year in which Australia’s national carbon pricing scheme was repealed.In developments over the last year the Australian government dismissed the findings of the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C , discontinued its funding to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), ignored the call by the UN Secretary General and its Pacific Island neighbours to increase its climate action, let alone the expressed desire of Australians for more action – and its emissions continue to increase, despite Government protestations to the contrary. Australia’s emissions from fossil fuels and industry continue to rise. The rapid ramp-up in the production of liquified natural gas (LNG) for export means LNG processing has driven huge increases in greenhouse gas emissions in Australia.”

  • Gas is far from beneficial In replacing coal generated energy due to fugitive emissions along the whole production, transport and consumption of gas. All it takes is greater than 3% fugitive emissions for methane in gas to be worse than coal in terms of emissions. See Dimitri Lafleur, Tim Forcey, Hugh Saddler, Mike Sandiford, A review of current and future methane emissions from Australian unconventional oil and gas production, (October 2016)
  • AEMO does not expect ANY new gas is needed for Australia’s electricity supply to stay on the safe side of 2 degrees of warming. “AEMO’s Draft 2020 Integrated System Plan (ISP)3 projects that investment in a portfolio of variable renewable energy (VRE), storage, and new transmission infrastructure will be the lowest-cost way of replacing Liddell’s generation.”

The economics are clear:

  • Gas production produces very few jobs with almost the lowest job intensity of all industries. Government investment in the gas industry at this late stage will not substantially increase jobs nor deal with unemployment
  • There is evidence that increasing gas production or supply will not lower the price of gas for Australian consumers. Cheaper gas is exported.
  • Subsidies to the gas extraction companies primarily goes to large overseas owned multinationals companies who pay very little or no company tax in Australia. This will not help Australians nor the Australian economy

The health imperatives are clear:

  • I made my own transition away from gas to an all electric home by converting from a gas cooktop to magnetic induction cooktop in 2017. This reduces indoor pollution from gas and reduces fugitive emissions associated with residential gas supply.

Programs need to be put in place to transition from using gas by residential, commercial and industrial customers.

But above all the government should not be subsidising under any circumstances the gas industry contributing to increasing climate damage and locking in stranded assets. This is poor economic management. Picking losers which fail the pub test. The Labor Opposition needs to hold them fully to account.

Lastly, I wish to highlight the view of the former leader of the parliamentary Liberal Party, John Hewson. I was not a supporter of Hewson in his fightback campaign in 1993, but on climate policy he has been consistent and is now a voice of non-political reason. He said on twitter on 15 September.

“Aust Govts have been very sensitive about accusations that they were picking “Winners”. Morrison has taken this to a new level in picking a clear “Loser” in backing new gas generation for which there is no commercial or systemic case except as a backup “peaker””

Sincerely

John Englart


Moreland residents were highly critical of Peter Khalil’s support for Labor’s policy on gas expansion in May 2019.

Since I wrote this letter a draft of the Labor Party National Policy has become available to the media , with gas expansion still included as part of ALP Policy.

The draft reads: “Labor supports the responsible development of Australia’s gas reserves, subject to environmental approvals to ensure communities’ concerns are addressed through rigorous science-based processes, including gas from coal seams, shale and tight gas formations.”

It says a future Labor government would ensure “gas development is environmentally sustainable, science-based and safe, managing environmental impacts and ensuring sustainable local economic activity”.

“Labor will ensure the industry operates at the highest environmental standards and will ensure the coal seam gas industry assesses and manages environmental and other impacts, including on water reserves and co-existence with other agricultural activities, and engages constructively with landholders.”

Not a mention of taking into account fugitive emissions and emissions of gas when burnt, when we can nolonger afford new fossil fuels due to the climate emergency.

Source: The Guardian, 22 Sep, 2020, Labor commits to ‘environmentally sustainable’ gas development

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