Brunswick MP opposes Victorian Labor Government vote to lift gas ban

June 8, 2020 at 12:50 am Leave a comment

Dr Tim Read and Dr Samantha Ratanam – Don’t mention the Climate Emergency

We saw the real vandals in Victorian state parliament on June 3, 2020 in worsening the climate crisis – members of the Labor Party, Liberal Party and Nationals who all voted to lift the moratorium on onshore gas exploration and extraction. They all justified their actions saying gas is a transition fuel, but due to the underestimation of fugiture emissions and methane’s much greater global warming potential over 20 year time frame, it is far worse than coal. The Labor Party have no plans to transition residential, commercial or industrial customers away from gas.

“At some point opening up fossil fuel reserves so we can pump more carbon into the atmosphere will start to look like vandalism, and I believe we have reached that point now.” said Dr Tim Read, the Greens MP for Brunswick.

” And if it feels like vandalism now, what will it feel like in a decade when global heating is worse, when we have seen more climate change here and around the world and the damage it has caused?”

Dr Read has a background in medical research, and is across much of the scientific detail of the impact of fossil fuels, and what opening up new fossil fuel projects will do for limiting temperatures as part of United Nations climate targets.

“If passed, this bill will stand out to future generations who will be bearing the brunt of its myopia as one of the last acts of appeasement of a government to the dying fossil fuel industry. In a decade Victorian teenagers will be in their 20s, and they will be wondering whose idea it was to repeal the ban on drilling for gas in 2020 and prolong our dependence on fossil fuels.

“Will you tell them that knowing what you knew in 2020 you voted to drill for gas?”

Unfortunately Premier Dan Andrews has not taken note of the science, would have Victoria expand fossil fuel production rather than be a true climate leader.

Voting in favour of gas drilling were: Labor, Liberals, Nationals, two independents.

Voting against: the independent member for Mildura, Ali Cupper MP, and Dr Tim Read (on behalf of the Greens). Dr Read asked Ali why she was voting against gas. Her response: “I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history on this one.”

Watch the speech:

Dr Read’s Full speech

So it is the year 2020, and the Victorian government has introduced the Petroleum Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 to lift its three-year-old ban on the exploration for underground methane, euphemistically known as natural gas. Twenty-five years ago, this might have seemed like a reasonable idea. It seemed like even forward thinking. Back then we knew that fossil fuels were causing global heating, and because methane had around half the emissions of coal, it seemed a way to reduce carbon emissions from electricity generation while we waited for renewable energy to become cost-effective. But a lot has changed; so much has changed in that 25 years.

First of all, solar and wind power are now the cheapest form of new electricity generation. They undercut gas by a wide margin. Even the cost of battery storage is falling so fast it is becoming competitive with gas-fired power. But still, you want to drill for gas.

Second, the planet is hotter than it was. I will spare you the details, because you know them. You know that after a severe drought in eastern Australia we lost a record amount of forest in our worst ever fire season. It went up in smoke, forming a cloud so big you could see it from space, and it circled the planet many times. It was an indescribable climate catastrophe, but still the dozen or so speakers from Liberal, Labor and The Nationals this afternoon all want to drill for gas.

Thirdly, you know that the coastline is retreating from rising sea levels in many parts of the world, from Miami to Perth—and Inverloch, even—but still supporters of the bill want to drill for gas.

And we know that this methane—this so-called natural gas, which is mostly methane—when it leaks from the pipes and the wells and the great reticulation of pipes that snakes underneath Melbourne, and is added to every day as new houses are connected, when it escapes as fugitive emissions, is more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas—84 times more potent over a 20-year period. If just 3 per cent of it leaks, unburnt, into the atmosphere, it is no cleaner than coal. If it is no cleaner than coal, then we now know that gas is not a transition fuel. And to confirm this, a paper published in Nature this year found that the amount of gas leaking into the atmosphere, unburnt, is fully 10 times what had previously been estimated. Not only is it not a transition fuel, it is basically just coal that you can squirt down a pipe. And when we heat our homes with it, or cook with it, we inhale nitrogen oxides, ultrafine particles, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde, increasing our risk of heart and lung disease. Gas is no cleaner than coal any more than low-tar cigarettes are safer than high-tar cigarettes; they are not, and they kill you. But still, you want to drill for gas.

And there is something in the past 25 years that has not happened. No government, certainly not this Andrews government, has made any effort to reduce gas consumption. New homes are still being connected to gas every day in Victoria, while the Netherlands has already started to disconnect them.

Local gas production is declining and consumption, mainly household heating, has increased. But this government has not even taking any of the small, obvious and I would say inevitable steps to reduce demand, such as encouraging the use of reverse-cycle air conditioners for heating or mandating standards of home energy efficiency. And while we are taking a historical perspective, let us think about the next 10 years. What is going to happen over the next decade? Well, solar, wind and batteries are likely to be even cheaper, the planet will be hotter and Victoria’s rainfall will likely continue to decline.

Who knows what droughts and fires we will face in that time or how much we will be paying for our fire services? Sea levels will be higher, and so will insurance premiums. Even now you struggle to get insurance for houses in low-lying coastal areas, and I am not sure that it will be any easier in 10 years time, but you still want to drill for gas like an emphysema patient wanting to switch to low-tar cigarettes.

Now, this bill does have some window-dressing. It is presented as science led—never mind the mathematical error in calculating the emissions. It delays the lifting of the ban for a year, and it has been fascinating listening to a dozen speakers arguing back and forth about the merits of lifting the ban at the end of this month or in a year; it shows just how close they are.

The bill includes some community consultation. After 700 communities declared themselves gas-field free in the Lock the Gate campaign, I doubt that many of the rural people directly affected by gas drilling really want this. Supporters of this bill in fact are at pains to emphasise their opposition to fracking, unless of course it is in the Northern Territory, but we will not talk about that. When something directly threatens our biosphere in the way that opening up new fossil fuel reserves does, a 12-month delay, some consultation and a report written by a scientist do not make it okay. Natural gas was responsible for about two-thirds of the global increase in carbon emissions last year, yet we are watching the gas industry write the energy plan for the federal Liberal-National party government, and this Andrews Labor government is just going along with it.

At some point opening up fossil fuel reserves so we can pump more carbon into the atmosphere will start to look like vandalism, and I believe we have reached that point now. And if it feels like vandalism now, what will it feel like in a decade when global heating is worse, when we have seen more climate change here and around the world and the damage it has caused? If passed, this bill will stand out to future generations who will be bearing the brunt of its myopia as one of the last acts of appeasement of a government to the dying fossil fuel industry. In a decade Victorian teenagers will be in their 20s, and they will be wondering whose idea it was to repeal the ban on drilling for gas in 2020 and prolong our dependence on fossil fuels. Will you tell them that knowing what you knew in 2020 you voted to drill for gas?


Entry filed under: Labors Climate Record, Victorian Government. Tags: , , .

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