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    Australian PM Talks up Gas


As Australian coal-mining comes under pressure, the government is hoping to pre-empt an attack on the next fossil fuel.

by: William Powell

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Australian PM Talks up Gas

No credible energy transition plan exists for Australia that does not involve more gas use, prime minister Scott Morrison told journalists in Canberra January 29. “We need to get the gas from under our feet," he said. “Gas can help us bridge the gap while our investments in batteries, hydrogen and pumped hydro energy storage bring these technologies to parity to traditional energy sources … so right now, we’ve got to get the gas.”

Responding to Morrison's remarks, upstream industry group Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (Appea) said that the prime minister was right to highlight the critical role gas has to play in supporting increasing investment in renewable energy generation – both in delivering reliable and affordable power when solar or wind generation were not available, and in doing so with less than half the emissions of existing coal-fired power generation, which continues provide over 70% of Australia’s electricity.

Appea has pointed out that "arbitrary restrictions on gas development in states including Victoria and New South Wales are not only forcing homes and businesses to pay higher gas prices, but they are slowing the transition to a lower emissions economy."

“Natural gas has a key role to play, and not just when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining,” Appea said. “If industry can further explore and develop onshore and offshore resources with support from governments, Australia’s natural gas can continue to underpin a nation building shift to a lower carbon, sustainable energy economy."

Morrison's speech could be seen as a pre-emptive defence of a major export earner: the country has been ravaged by months-long forest fires that have been widely linked to climate change and by association, to the domestic coal industry. Gas is also vulnerable to attack on environmental grounds, although defenders say it displaces coal from the power mix in export markets so the net result is less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.