Governments around Australia are under pressure to allow development of coal seam gas and shale gas reserves. The pressure is from the gas industry and associated industries which will profit from gas mining - as well as the Federal Government.
The Federal Government is pushing the expansion of the on-shore gas industry in NSW, Victoria, the Northern Territory and elsewhere because it claims this is necessary to ensure cheaper gas is available for Australian households, manufacturing industries and electricity generation.
Currently there is more than enough on-shore gas being produced for domestic purposes but it is all being exported due to the failure of successive federal and state governments to have sufficient reserved for domestic use.
The Northern Territory situation has been in the news in recently because of an inquiry into the risks of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) if the industry is allowed to go ahead there. The current moratorium on the industry and the inquiry is the result of an election pledge by the government elected in August 2016.
If the moratorium is lifted, there will be serious climate implications according to the Australia Institute.
In its submission to the inquiry the Institute stated, “Even a 5% increase in Australia’s emissions from a single gasfield is a large and unacceptable increase. It is completely inconsistent with Australia’s carbon budget and our commitments under the Paris agreement.”
The Institute claimed that burning the NT’s total gas resource would emit 12.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Then there is the problem of fugitive methane emissions from seepage and leaks. And methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide – particularly over shorter periods.
However, carbon emissions are only one of the major problems noted by those who oppose the development of the industry. Others include concern about water use and contamination of aquifers, the risks to human health and the poor record of the government in ensuring compliance with mining development conditions.
It will be very interesting to see what the NT Government decides.
- Leonie Blain