More anti-gas health claims have emerged this summer – but for those watching the industry over the past five years, they have a very familiar ring.
The latest claims are published in the International Journal of Environmental Studies.
Finding it is not easy, but it is very easy to find internet references to the author of the latest publication.
The author is Geralyn McCarron, an anti-gas activist and a prominent member of the National Toxics Network – though she fails to mention this in the citations in her latest publication.
In compiling her latest paper, Dr McCarron was assisted by Dr Rye Senjen – a National Toxics Network committee member – and Lock The Gate campaigner Shay Dougall. Again, there is no mention of the activist background of these contributors.
Dr McCarron, Lock The Gate and many other activist groups have been trying for years to establish a link between natural gas development and ill health in animals and humans. As with similarly motivated efforts in the US and the UK, this endeavour has proven fruitless.
Health authorities on three continents have investigated the claims by Dr McCaron and others and been unable to accept the assertions. Some have been more blunt in their assessment of the scientific integrity of studies and the impartiality of those compiling them.
A court case in the UK was an example. Dr McCarron was a witness in a case in which one side tried to make a link between ill health and hydraulic fracturing.
The merit of Dr McCarron’s testimony was questioned, to say the least.
Dr McCarron’s health claims about CSG in Queensland pop up from time to time, including a little over a year ago when a ‘cancer link’ claim was reported by a regional newspaper and then withdrawn.
We addressed the UK court case and the ‘cancer link’ claim in this piece.
Dr McCarron’s claims about health impacts in Queensland date back to the time when activist Dane Pratzky was ‘in the field’ doing publicity stunts for his lead role in the ‘Frackman’ film.
Following Dr McCarron’s lead, the ‘Frackman’ spent three years trying to prove a link between CSG and health or environmental damage in south-west Queensland. As he admitted in the film, he failed to do so.
Frackman’s claims of the imminent destruction of the world (yes, he predicted CSG would destroy the world) are looking more and more shrill as time goes by. The claims, dire warnings and rhetoric are slowly — but surely—being eroded by lived experience.
The CSG industry has now been operating safely in Queensland for a decade. A world leading LNG industry has sprung up, to the great benefit of Queensland and the nation.
In NSW, a coal-seam gas plant has operated at Camden, just out of Sydney for almost 20 years without impact on workers or nearby residents, of which there are many because of the proximity to Sydney.
Dr McCarron’s latest work seeks to paint a picture of increasing incidence of illness associated with air pollution. Yet in the USA there has been a significant drop in carbon emissions as a result of the increased use of natural gas as a substitute for coal.
This is the first time in history that the USA has reduced carbon emissions – and it has done so at a time of economic buoyancy off the back of natural gas use in power generation and manufacturing.
And what are two of the biggest economic challenges facing Australia at present? Rising energy costs and declining manufacturing. Like the US, Australia has abundant natural gas. Unlike the US, Governments here – particularly Victoria and the NT – are choosing not to use it.
Without a practical, regulated approach to natural gas as an essential complement to intermittent renewable energy, our economy will get worse before it gets better. Manufacturing jobs will be lost in their thousands and energy prices will continue to rise.
Meanwhile, healthy people in the US enjoying a natural gas boom and improving air quality will look Down Under and shake their heads in disbelief.