GOT GAS: Greens saving their strength for the real fight against coal and gas
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The Australian Greens’ decision to support the Government’s bid to enshrine its 43% emissions reduction target into law has been widely touted as a win for Labor, given that it achieves one of its election promises.
Or is it?
While the Greens appear to have stepped back from pushing their far more ambitious 75% emissions reduction target by 2030, their support – and those of the Independents – comes with amendments such as ensuring that the target is a floor rather than a ceiling, greater transparency around reporting on emissions reduction, and stronger protections for regional Australia.
These however are all to be expected from such legislation and honestly seem to be the result of a healthy dose of common sense.
However, while the Greens might seem to have elected to back a lesser emissions target in the interest of having at least some target in place at all, it actually hides their true goals.
Greens leader Adam Bandt openly voiced his party’s opinion that Australia would not be able to meet even the 43% target if the Government continues to approve new coal and gas developments.
He also called out the Beetaloo Basin in particular, saying that its development could lift Australia’s pollution by up to 13%, a claim that appears completely opposed to developers’ claims that the gas sourced from that shale province has very low levels of CO2.
Bandt flagged the party’s shift towards opposing the development of new fossil fuel projects and backing stronger safeguard mechanisms, which will seek to penalise bigger polluters that exceed a set carbon emissions ceiling.
Taking a cynical view, the Greens have elected to bank up their political capital by backing legislation that is inline (if not quite as strong as they would like) with their beliefs for the fights that they really want, which is to put an end to new coal and gas developments.
What does this all mean for companies looking to develop new gas fields?
Simply put, they are about to face a very challenging time getting their projects approved and even if they do manage to get across the line, they will likely have to fulfil onerous environmental requirements.
That is likely to aggravate the already concerning gas crisis on the East Coast, where gas supplies are already starting to decline even as the export LNG projects continue to maintain contracted shipments.
This of course fits neatly into the Greens’ belief that doing so will accelerate the move towards renewable energy – though there’s a strong suspicion here that they haven’t really taken the scale and time required to make this transition into account.
And if increasing the amount of renewables in our energy mix is challenging, doing the same for energy storage to ensure that power continues flowing even when the sun is down or the wind is not blowing is even more challenging given the expected shortage of lithium for batteries.
Gas of course presents a stop gap measure to provide that bit of base load while the transition occurs. Got Gas maintains that while new gas fields are required to keep us going until we have enough clean energy and storage, government support should be limited strictly to approvals, and approvals that require greater ESG compliance at that.
Left unsaid but very much in the Greens sights is blue hydrogen.
Their opposition to fossil fuels will also extend to this somewhat controversial source of hydrogen given that it will use either coal or natural gas as its feedstock and rely on carbon capture and storage to address emissions.
Green hydrogen will likely get a free pass, if not outright support, given its clean energy credentials.
It is not hard to see where the Greens are coming from, but there is a sense that practicality has not really entered into the equation.