Federal Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg will apply the Finkel blowtorch at today’s meeting of State and Territory energy Ministers – and a particular emphasis will be on his home State, Victoria.
Mr Frydenberg will tell Ministers to lift their impediments to development of natural gas, as a means of addressing tight supply in the East Coast market. This puts a spotlight on the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Victoria – which has what may be the world’s only moratorium on all new gas drilling.
Mr Frydenberg has let it be known he is impatient with States pushing the Federal Government to implement the recommendations of the Finkel Review of Australia’s energy needs, while at the same time ignoring a key Finkel recommendation to remove blockers to gas development.
It was critical that development blockers were removed, Mr Frydenberg said.
“It’s a bit ironic for States like Victoria to call for the Federal Government to adopt the Finkel Review recommendations on the CET when they are ignoring Finkel’s recommendation to unlock their gas,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“Given the size of their resources, Victoria alone could alleviate gas and electricity prices by allowing more exploration.”
Mr Frydenberg could have added that Victoria has the nation’s biggest residential gas market and the biggest manufacturing base, dependent on gas as a feed stock and an energy source. It is this important section of industry which has been warning of business closures and jobs losses in the tens of thousands if the supply problem is not resolved and downward pressure applied to prices.
Despite the apparent good sense in Mr Frydenberg’s exhortation, only the very optimistic or politically naïve expect Mr Frydenberg to emerge from today’s meeting with a consensus.
While Labor Government Ministers from South Australia and Queensland are actively supporting further natural gas development in their own States and elsewhere, there is continuing dedication to supporting the green vote in Victoria and Tasmania, as well as a question mark over use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of gas resources in WA and the NT.
This irrational capitulation to enviro-political campaigning persists despite the fact that fracking has occurred, without environmental calamity, for many decades in SA and the NT and for 15 years in NSW and a decade in Queensland.
Resources Minister Matt Canavan said he hoped the recalcitrant Ministers would see sense.
It appears there is little hope of this as far as activist group Lock The Gate (LTG) is concerned.
Speaking to the ABC, LTG spokesperson Carmel Flint tried to write off the whole issue as some kind of conspiracy.
“We have oodles of gas; we’re drowning in it,” Ms Flint said.