Labor Expanding gas extraction in Victoria against the climate science

September 19, 2021 at 6:48 pm 1 comment

The Labor State Government has been pro-active with some climate action and the energy transition in Victoria, but on gas the Government still subscribes to the view that gas production needs to be expanded, that gas is a transition fuel.

Minister for Resorces Jaala Pulford answering a question on Beach Energy gas well under the 12 Apostles

This is despite key several scientific and energy assessments that argue that no more new fossil fuel projects should be embarked upon.

This includes:

  • Recent research published in Nature – Unextractable fossil fuels in a 1.5 °C world.
  • Internal Energy Agency Roadmap to Net zero by 2050
  • The IPCC 6th Assessment report highlighting the emissions gap and the physical science of increasing emissions
  • Climate Council report: Passiing Gas. Why Renewables are the Future
  • Climate Council report: Kicking the Gas Habit: How Gas is Harming Our Health

Gas has a very limited role as an energy transition fuel. The residential gas use capacity will reduce as citizens move to electrify their homes with efficient electric inverters for heating and cooling, Induction cooktops, Inverter water heaters and solar hot water. The government should be supporting this transition with innovative means tested subsidisation programs.

Use of gas in houses also poses health impacts, including adding to the level of asthma, and carbon monoxide poisining from faulty gas appliances (that can even on occasion contribute to death). Read the Climate Council Report Kicking the Gas Habit: How Gas is Harming Our Health published Maty 2021.

At every level of the gas extraction and distribution network (including within homes) there are fugitive emissions – greenhouse gas emissions. Fossil gas is predominantly methane, which is 84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. If there is just 3 percent total fugitive emissions from the whole process, gas becomes worse than coal for its climate impact. But audits of fugitive emissions are seldom carried out.

So the Labor Government has banned fracking for gas, and inserted this into the State constition. But it has now opened up onshore and offshore conventional drilling for oil and gas.

Beach Energy is one of the companies keen to exploit and open up new gas fields and this includes starting a well on land near Port Campbell next to the National Park and drilling a well under the the 12 Apostles within the 3km state waters limit, to access the gas basin.

State Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio gave permission for drilling to proceed underneath the Port Campbell National Park.

Dr Samantha Ratnam asked a question in the Legislative Council addressed to the Minister for Resources Jaala Pulford on 7 September 2021.

The Minister for Resources Jaala Pulford answered, but her response seemed to be ignorant of the climate science imperatives and the climate emergency we face and the need to not start new fossil fuel projects, like the Beach Energy project for gas drilling under the 12 Apostles.

The Minister argues that Victorian households are dependant on gas for cooking, heating and hot water without any consideration for the need to transition of gas to minimise emissiomns and also for the health of Victorian citizens.

Many Victorian citizens are already undertaking conversions away from gas to electric appliances for cooking, heating and cooling, and for water heating based o shared advice in the Facebook Group My Efficient Electric Home, established by Tim Forcey in June 2015.

This is the interchange with Dr Samantha Ratnam asking the question on the Beach Energy drilling under the 12 Apostles and Minister Pulford’s response:

Question on Gas Drilling by Beach Energy at the 12 Apostles


Tuesday, 7 September 2021 Legislative Council-

Dr RATNAM (Northern Metropolitan) (11:35): My question today is to the Minister for Resources, and I congratulate you on your new portfolio, Ms Pulford. I understand that Beach Energy is seeking to produce gas from an under-ocean well called Enterprise-1, just off the Victorian coast, underneath the Port Campbell National Park and right next to the Twelve Apostles marine park. Minister, can you please outline the remaining regulatory processes for Beach Energy’s application and when a final decision on their application is likely to be made?

Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Resources) (11:35): I thank Dr Ratnam for her question, my first in the resources portfolio, which I have been in now for all of two weeks. I will do my best to provide an answer to that. In terms of the Beach Energy proposal, this is a commonwealth approval process, and again, I might take the opportunity to take that part of your question on notice and provide you with some more detail about the commonwealth approval process and its time lines if that would be of assistance. But I just want to put on the record that I completely reject the notion, that is very much part of an active campaign that the Greens party are running, that there is some exploration risk to the Twelve Apostles. It is just completely untrue. My predecessor, Minister Symes, and before her Minister Pallas and before him Minister D’Ambrosio, have all played important roles in our gas energy transition, which is of course part of our broader, bigger energy transition. We have the Victorian gas plan, which has provided significant support to greater understanding of available resources and will continue to do so. We have now enshrined—and Minister Symes led the charge on this—the ban on fracking in the Victorian constitution. We also have a recommencing of conventional gas activity onshore as well.

I know the Greens do not like people using gas, and on that we are just going to have to agree to disagree. We are doing, and Minister D’Ambrosio is leading, a significant transition of the energy resource and energy mix for Victoria, but it is still a fact that the overwhelming majority of Victorians need and use gas as a reliable and affordable form of energy for their cooking, for their heating, for their daily needs. The Greens, I would urge, would probably do themselves a better service by sticking to the facts rather than trying to scare people into some fantasy idea that the Twelve Apostles are in any way at risk. There are significant environmental and other regulatory approval processes that ensure that we can be confident about security of supply, accessing resources that we all need to continue with our daily living as our energy transition continues.

Dr RATNAM (Northern Metropolitan) (11:38): Minister, thank you for your response. In response to a couple of assertions you made, I respectfully disagree with you on your minimisation of the risk to the Twelve Apostles, let alone that explorations happen under a national park in the first place. The facts are that exploring for gas and burning gas in a climate crisis is dangerous for everyone; that is a fact. Minister, you might anticipate, particularly as a representative of Western Victoria, there is significant community concern about planned gas drilling right next to the Twelve Apostles. During the assessment of Beach Energy’s application, what consultation will be undertaken with the local community, environmental experts and First Nations custodians?

Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Resources) (11:39): I thank Dr Ratnam for her further question. The Beach Energy project will make an important contribution in providing more local gas and driving down prices. Again, I understand the Greens do not mind much if people are cold in the winter, but in the Western Victoria electorate some of these coastal communities and indeed in cold old Ballarat, where I have been most of the last few months, you know, gas heating is pretty important—an affordable source of energy for people. We will continue of course. My government has done vastly more for energy transition than any Greens government anywhere has ever done. Again, I would indicate to Dr Ratnam the commonwealth government’s process. There is a great deal of publicly available information, but I will take that part of the question on notice and provide what I can.

Dr Ratnam: On a point of order, President, just regarding the minister’s earlier response that she would look at the commonwealth regulatory processes, I just want to clarify: these are state waters. I just wanted to clarify—potentially it is in the response she provides me on notice—whether the state has a regulatory role or no regulatory role, given these are state waters. I just wanted to clarify it is not just a commonwealth process we are talking about.

Question to the Premier on drilling under the 12 Apostles

Two days later Ellen Sandell, MP for Melbourne asked the Premier given the recent IPCC 6th assessment report is “sounding the alarm about the worsening climate crisis and how it will affect all of us, with more bushfires, heat, floods and extreme weather events”, then “why has the Victorian Labor government giving consent to a gas company, Beach Energy, to start gas drilling beneath one of our national parks and close to the Twelve Apostles marine sanctuary?”

The Premier responded by not answering the question, but instead deflecting to the Government’s interim emissions targets, residential solar PV rollout and progress with the energy transition with the Victorian Renewable Energy Target installing grid scale windfarms, solar farms and grid sized battery storage. These are all important and strongly supported projects, but still dodges the question.

“We have been criticised for not doing enough to limit gas. We have been criticised as having done far too much. If I might say, I think that the position we have arrived at is a very balanced one. It also happens to be 100 per cent in accordance with the commitments we made at the last election.” said the Premier Dan Andrews. But what this ignores is the disjuncture between new fossil fuel extraction projects and what the climate science says is imperative: we need to stop all new fossil fuel projects.

Of course there are environmental risks associated with the Beach Energy proposal given the location under the Port Campbell National Park and near the 12 Apostles Marine National Park and the Archies Marine Sanctuary.

Ellen Sandell Mp explains:

We do not need more gas

The Climate Council argue that we do not need more gas. Most of the gas Australia produces is exported as LNG and is used for energy in processing gas to LNG. The issues are explained in the December 2020 report Passing Gas: Why Renewables are the Future.

“We do not need new gas when renewables are cheaper and cleaner.

“Seismic shifts in the economics of renewables over the past decade mean new gas infrastructure is not needed. The cost of the core components of lithium ion batteries, used for battery storage, have fallen by nearly 90% in the past decade, from $1,100 per kilowatt hour in 2010 to a mere $156/kWh in 2019.

“It will be more expensive for Australia to transition from coal to gas. Wind and solar powered generation, even after being backed by storage, is the cheapest form of new electricity generating infrastructure.

“The Australian Energy Market Operator sees a steadily shrinking role for gas over the next 20 years. In most scenarios, more than two thirds of gas power stations will retire, without being replaced with new ones.”

“Incentivising gas-powered generation means disincentivising cheaper and smarter options. As the sunniest and windiest inhabited continent on the planet, and with careful planning of infrastructure, Australia can transition to 100% renewable electricity supply firmed by a mix of storage, and demand side solutions.”


Entry filed under: climate change info, gas transition, Labors Climate Record, news. Tags: , , .

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