Gas skeletons, that’s what I fear most from the decision by the Morrison government to use gas as the transition fuel to take Australia into a low carbon future. Many business leaders, economists, conservationists and a mixed-bag of others are far from impressed. However, despite the sound arguments put forward rejecting the policy, it will happen and further, the Prime Minister has committed tax-payer dollars, should business decided not to step up.
Therefore, let’s not dwell on the argy bargy and focus on the key word “transition”. Mr. Morrison understands very well that fossil fuels are winding-down, no longer does he mention coal in the same sentence as the future. Gas is the go; it certainly has support from manufacturers, the unions and most importantly, it keeps his coalition partner, the Nationals, happy.
What worries me most is the time gas comes to its end. What about all the infrastructure skeletons left criss-crossing Australian farmland? For example, if Santos is given the tick for its plan of 800 plus gas wells in the Pilliga, what happens to them? What if that is just a beach-head for further exploration? Will the company just cap the wells and walk away? What about the proposed gas pipe line from Narrabri to the expected, and perhaps tax payer funded power station in the Hunter? Will it be dismantled?
Get my drift; let’s start thinking of the future now about when gas dies, as it most certainly will. While I am sure that transition is the last thing on the mind of some connected to the industry, the PM, and most economists, consider it is merely a transition. The end could be less than 20 years away, according to some experts.
Thus, my immediate concern is that nothing has been said about the clean-up after gas has joined coal as a thing of the past. And, once deals are done, it is far too late to seek fully funded performance guarantees by Santos, and others. With gas companies currently making huge profits, helped by charging Australian customers at higher rates than they do for foreign buyers, our farmers need assurances now. Finally, it is immoral for country folk to stress about what happens when the gas companies walk-away, surely the Morrison Coalition government needs to provide some answers now.