Gas, agriculture and renewables can work well together

February 10th, 2017

Some telling statements emerged in the political world this week as the focus again turned to blackout-stricken South Australia.

The bottom line was that gas and agriculture do co-exist and that renewables energy needs gas-powered back-up if there is to be environmental gain and assuredness of supply.

Without availability of gas-fired back-up, 40,000 homes went black in SA this week in the third such event since the unprecedented whole-of-State blackout in September.

Again, the wind was not blowing and the sun was not shining.  SA’s renewable energy plant was unable to satisfy demand and nor was its lifeline, the interstate connection, providing coal-fired electricity, inefficiently transported 1000km from a plant in eastern Victoria.  Natural gas electricity was not online.  It was fire up the day following the latest blackout, ensuring as it did in September, that businesses and consumers did not have to endure the same fate two days running.

The situation prompted SA Senator Nick Xenophon to question the SA renewable energy rollout and to call for more consistent gas-fired

“We have relied too much on wind rather than baseload renewables, rather than baseload power, including gas which is a fossil fuel but it is 50 per cent cleaner than coal and a good transitional fuel,” Senator Xenophon said.

At the same time as the blackout scenario was being replayed in SA, Victoria’s Parliament was pasing legislation blocking development of the very natural gas which will be badly needed in the years ahead if Victoria (and Queensland) go ahead with their policies to follow the SA fast-track into renewable energy.

The Victorian ban makes no sense at all, especially as it is based on the supposed mutual exclusivity of agriculture and natural gas drilling.

Federal Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce belled the cat on that topic, saying co-existence was a reality and that natural gas projects should not be banned, but considered on a case-by-case basis.

Mr Joyce has plenty of scientific evidence on his side in making this statement.  The Victorian Government has nought to offer in terms of serious, reputable study to show that natural gas and agriculture can’t co-exist.

All they have is push-poll surveys – the result of scaremongering conducted by activists with an overtly political agenda.  These are the same people who say all fossil fuels should be banned, then run social media campaigns asking for petrol money to get to and from their protests

But what is happening right now in SA, and possible on the East Coast in the near future is much higher stakes than mere petrol money.  It is thousands of businesses, and hundreds of thousands of jobs on the line.  It is about higher energy prices and lower standards of living for millions of Australians who currently use gas.  Just don’t expect any acknowledgement of this from those who say passionately that we can easily shift to 100% renewables right now – across the entire country.


Steve Wright AFR 10.02.17

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