Peter Khalil MP supports gas, backtracks on climate emergency message #climateelection

May 1, 2019 at 7:44 pm Leave a comment

Local residents at the Wills candidates forum on climate and sustainability were dismayed – horrified even – that local Labor MP Peter Khalil is now supporting government funding for the expansion of the fossil fuel industry in Australia.

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Full house at Merlynston Progress Hall to hear Wills candidates policies

Peter Khalil was speaking to a capacity crowd at the Merlynston Progress Hall on Monday April 29. Within one hour, he had gone from calling for immediate action to address the climate emergency to endorsing the expansion of Australia’s natural gas industry.

All four candidates addressing the forum have signed the Climate Emergency Declaration. The other candidates – Sue Bolton (Victorian Socialists); Chris Miles (Animal Justice Party) and Adam Pulford (Greens) – all called for action consistent with their recognition that we face a climate emergency. However, the statements by Peter Khalil MP endorsing gas were completely at odds with his claim that we face a climate emergency and his call for urgent action.

In his opening remarks, Peter Khalil stated:

there is no doubt we are in a climate emergency. It is not a matter of believing it. It is a matter of knowing it because of the science. … Action is critical and the time to act is now.

Peter Khalil had hitherto been one of the few Labor MPs calling for strong action on climate change. As well as being an earlier supporter of the climate emergency declaration, he was the first Labor MP to say publicly that the Adani coal mine should not go ahead on environmental grounds, something that he proudly acknowledges in his speeches.

However, later in the forum, we saw a completely different view. In response to a question from the audience about why Labor was supporting a $1.5 billion subsidy for gas pipeline development in NT and Queensland, Khalil responded by arguing that gas is a transitional energy source. 

Khalil’s support for gas seemed to rely on several arguments:

  • Gas is currently used for power and heating in much of Australia
  • Gas is required for manufacturing and for flexible power generation
  • We need new gas pipelines to support out gas export industry.
  • it is better that China and India use our gas than our coal as gas means lower emissions compared with coal.

We have transcribed Peter Khalil’s statement in support of gas at the end of this article.

Peter Khalil answering an audience question on gas expansion

What is Labor’s new gas infrastructure announcement?

On April 23, the federal Labor Party announced it would replace the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) with a Northern Australia Development Fund.

… to identify and support projects of national economic significance – such as gas pipelines – in Australia’s north. As part of these changes, up to $1.5 billion will be set aside to unlock gas supply in Queensland’s Galilee and Bowen basins and connecting the Beetaloo to Darwin and the east coast. This project would support Darwin as a manufacturing and gas export powerhouse as well as increasing supply to Queensland and the eastern seaboard to put downward pressure on prices for gas users.

We need infrastructure to support renewables, not gas

Atmospheric carbon is now well above 400 ppm. The idea that we should lock in a fossil fuel energy source that produces less carbon dioxide in combustion is ludicrous. This will still increase atmospheric carbon. We can’t afford to keep increasing carbon emissions. We need to stop them plus draw down carbon from the atmosphere.

Australia needs to transition rapidly from away from fossil fuels to sources that do not emit carbon. Only this is consistent with the carbon emergency message. Most Australians want us to transition to renewable energy sources (rather than say nuclear).

We need substantial funding in new infrastructure to do this. We need new renewable generators, particularly those that are flexible and dispatchable, including biomass and solar thermal. We need large scale storage, particular pumped hydroelectric storage. We need batteries for load shifting and to support the grid. We need a strong electricity grid to handle the flow of renewable electricity. We need our buildings, transport systems, and industry to be much more energy efficient. And we need much greater attention to managing electricity demand, to ensure a better match between the availability of energy and usage patterns.

What we do NOT need is gas infrastructure. We cannot lock in gas usage for decades. This will delay the transition to renewables and will exacerbate climate change. 

New gas infrastructure will not help Australian consumers

Aside from gas developments exacerbating climate change, there is the argument that Australian consumers need access to cheaper gas. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) explains why Labor’s announcement is “a poor decision that assists an already profitable gas cartel while detrimentally affecting Australian consumers“. 

As to Khalil’s claims that gas is needed for power generation, the IEEFA notes:

Gas usage for power generation is at its lowest level in a decade, at just 7.6% of the National Energy Market in 2018. While wind and solar have increased from less than 0.5% to 11.9% over the last decade, gas usage has fallen. Simply put, gas is not a transition fuel in Australia. It is too expensive.

Emissions from fracking may be worse than from coal

The Lock the Gate Alliance has released a statement on the carbon pollution from this project. They note:

Fracking for gas in the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo Basin could unleash a carbon disaster that would make it impossible for Australia to meet our Paris targets. It will raise Australia’s emissions by 6%, at a time we need to be bringing them down.

Fracking the gas out of the Beetaloo Basin has been measured to be the pollution equivalent of building and operating at least 50 new coal fired power stations – it’s the wrong move for Australia. The CO2 emissions created during the extraction and transport process are far greater than any offsets created by burning the gas for power. The industry has also still been unable to address the issue of releasing methane emissions from gas wells.

Federal Labor has ruled out NAIF funding for the climate wrecking project of Adani, how can it justify propping up an industry that will trash the Northern Territory with fracking? There is a growing body of evidence which suggests that the scale of methane emissions from unconventional gas mining and fracking makes it potentially more polluting than coal when burnt for electricity.

Gas exports to China and India

Peter Khalil claims that Australia should export gas to China and India to reduce their dependence on coal. Yes China is moving away from coal in a bid to reduce air pollution and India wants to reduce coal imports. But the world is already awash with Liquified Natural Gas capacity. Both India and China also have very ambitious targets to increase renewable energy capacity. In a world where all countries carbon emission reductions will increasingly ratchet up under the Paris Agreement, and where the cost of renewables continues to plummet, it is irresponsible for Australia to be pushing more fossil fuels on developing countries.

Developing countries certainly need considerable support from richer countries so they can decarbonise and adapt to climate impacts. If Australia was concerned about helping developing countries in their efforts to combat climate change we would see Australia providing substantial funding for this rather than pushing fossil fuels onto them.

The current Coalition government has a terrible record in obstructing the aspirations of developing countries and has stopped payments to the Green Climate Fund, which was set up by the United Nations to help them with mitigation and adaptation.

We hope to see a far more constructive approach from Labor. However, their policy platform mentions only support for developing countries in our region to help them adapt to climate change. They make no mention of supporting developing countries to accelerate their transition to renewable energy.

No more fake support for climate action

It is unacceptable for our politicians and candidates to claim they support a climate emergency declaration while supporting new developments of fossil fuels. We recommend that Wills residents who want a strong local voice on climate action vote for one of the other candidates who attended the forum: Sue Bolton (Victorian Socialists); Chris Miles (Animal Justice Party) or Adam Pulford (Greens).

You can also Take action – Tell Labor to keep public money out of carbon bombs! by visiting Market Forces and sending an email. The more people that do this the louder our voice is, and Labor needs to here this strongly from all of us.

Peter Khalil’s statement in support of gas.

The video of the candidates forum can be seen here. Peter Khalil’s response to a question from audience on the $1.5 billion subsidy for gas pipeline development can be found just after the 1:00:00 mark.

Questioner: My name is Danny, I’d like to hear from Peter about Labor’s announcement to pour $1.5 billion into coal seam gas pipelines in the Northern Territory and Queensland. And I’m speaking as someone with two small children who are very very frightened for the future, particularly as it is estimated there is over 37 billion tonnes of carbon in those basins. It is estimated more than 20 times Australia’s annual output. So where does that leave your renewable energy changeover, and where does it leave me wasting time with energy efficient light bulbs.

Applause from the audience.

Reply from Peter Khalil MP: On the gas question that you asked, there has been some misinformation about this particular announcement that occurred.

The commitment we have made to a new federal Environment Act with a much stricter assessment criteria around water and climate which doesn’t exist under the current federal Environment Act. We made a commitment under our national party platform for a new federal Environment Act and an independent EPA to monitor that. So they are going to be setting high benchmarks around water and climate as impact or assessment statements that projects would need to pass to get approval.

Not like the shonky approvals that we have seen under the current Act and by the current Environment Minister Melissa Price, on Adani, where there was a real question around the pressure she was put under by some of her colleagues in Queensland at 5 minutes to midnight literally. I think the day before the election was called she gave the final approval to the groundwater management plan at federal level, and she basically did that under duress in many respects. So there are a few questions to answer around that.

We obviously don’t have all the information and submissions. The shadow Minister Tony Burke doesn’t have the submissions that she has in making her decision but I know he will be looking very closely at that if we win government.

The same point I make around any of these gas development projects. They have to meet very strict environmental approvals and we’ll be guided by the best expert environmental and scientific advice on those projects to protect water resources, to make sure that they stack up environmentally. As I said, with our new Environment Act there will be much higher benchmarks in respect to that.

Fracking is determined by state and territory governments. The Victorian State Government has banned fracking. Obviously the Federal government has powers over the Environment Protection Act to make those assessments.

On the point about what’s called Labor’s Northern Australian Development Fund, it is not about supporting fracking. It is actually, the investments in infrastructure and pipelines which you did mention, to ensure the gas developments that do meet those environmental standards are able to supply those areas that need gas. There are a lot of manufacturing jobs that are a part of that; flexible power generation to support a greater for renewables in our electricity system.

Now a lot of people say to stop gas entirely, but if you look at energy sources particularly in the ACT, Victoria and the south-east of Australia it is largely gas.

It is a transitional energy source.

We can, with our policies if we are elected can start putting those policies in place, transitioning away from fossil fuels and into renewable energy infrastructure.

That is what the $10 to $15 billion [to the CEFC] is to do – to start moving the market towards renewable energy sources.

The transitional fuel that is gas will be part of the mix until we can really do that quite successfully. We hope to do it, and accelerate it, as quickly as possible, but we need to get into government. We need to win, we need to actually put those policies into place.

Questioner: I have studied what they are doing in Canberra and they are not using much gas there, if in fact at all, very little gas. They are now working on other dispatchable power solutions like batteries much more than gas. There is a lot of misinformation coming out about coal seam gas being a transitional fuel.

Khalil: I was making the point that gas is used in Victoria quite a lot for energy and heating. That is something that exists.

Obviously we need to transition away from fossil fuels and we have a set of policies that will accelerate that transition.

You have gas, that is still part of the mix for the time being, you want to move away from that over time.

Questioner: How can new gas projects pass the environmental criteria, if one of the criteria is greenhouse gas emissions?

Audience applause.

Khalil: Let’s look at the global situation. Part of the project that is investing in those pipelines is for a gas export market.

Now we know that India under Prime Minister Modi has made a decision to stop thermal coal imports by 2020. China has shifted away from thermal coal back in 2013. They are looking at clean renewable energy sources, alternative energy sources. New gas as an export is part of that mix.

We can’t dictate to those countries what they buy, but they are making a decision to move away from coal. Gas is a good transitional source for them which means they don’t have to burn coal, and then we don’t have coal mines and we won’t be exporting coal.

These are realistic arrangements around making sure there are alternatives, but for massive power and energy consumers like China and India I would much prefer they are not using coal, we’re not exporting coal to them.

Gas is an alternative in the intermediate period because it reduces emissions, it’s not as high as the coal. We know that, we know that coal is far higher in emissions than gas.

=======End Question====================

Images from the Climate Forum:

Our thanks to Climate Flags for decorating the hall with flags by Newlands Primary school students, to Angela from Crochet for Coral not Coal., and to Moreland Council for Merlynston Progress Hall venue.

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Entry filed under: Adani, climate change info, election, Event, Labors Climate Record, news, Vote Climate. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Open letter on unprecedented threat to health by climate change #climateelection Media Release: Wills MP Peter Khalil reverses climate stance; now spruiks new fossil fuels

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