No fossils but please give us petrol money

January 20th, 2017

NC 270117

 The following is the text of a letter to the Narrabri Courier newspaper

A favourite saying of the Lock The Gate activists and their affiliates is that fossil fuels should be left in the ground.

They have no explanation as to how Australians would be expected to live their daily lives without soap, clothes, glue, plastics, phones, frying pans, fertiliser and myriad other industrial, manufacturing and agricultural products…including machinery and transport fuels (cars, trucks, tractors, ships, trains and aircraft and the fuel they need to run).

And nor do the activists seem to care, judging by the way they are happy to oppose fossil fuels and at the same time ask for petrol money to undertake their protest activities.

It may seem hypocritical, but that is precisely what the Pilliga Environment Group is doing with its “Pilliga Fuel Card Call Out”.  According to the group’s fundraising webpage, it has already raised $275 in donations to buy petrol to fuel its driving to and from the Pilliga.

While its “action camp” was closed down by the Shire council last May, the Group is apparently still intent on its work to “survey the forest for flora and fauna that has not yet been detected by other agencies” and “finding rare species of both flora and fauna that have never been found in the Pilliga before!”.

Court cases and flora and fauna ‘concerns’ are familiar tools in activist tactics to frustrate resource development proposals.

One court case trying to stop the Leewood water treatment plant has already been dismissed, but an appeal remains afoot – put forward by activists and subsidised by taxpayers via the grant-funded Environmental Defenders Office.

This is going on against a backdrop where the Federal Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg last week said it was “just not good enough” that individual States were getting in the way of responsible natural gas development.

East Coast industry, thousands of small businesses and millions of consumers face the prospect of gas shortages and rising prices if supply is not opened up, Mr Frydenberg said.

His remarks were pointed primarily at Victoria, where the State Government has banned natural gas development despite having decades of history of safe extraction and a current operation in place on the western coastline.

Meanwhile, Victorians and taxpayers everywhere are being forced to fund a $240 million bailout for the Alcoa aluminium smelter at Portland, also on Victoria’s western coastline.  The reason the bailout is necessary?  The cost of electricity is too high.

A natural gas solution is available, but this would be at odds with the Government ban.  The result – taxpayers foot the bill for higher emitting brown coal electricity to be sent hundreds of kilometres from eastern Victoria when a lower emission, lower cost solution is available much closer.

This is the kind of illogical and costly policy contradiction which results from decisions made for election politics rather than good sense.  It is what the Australian Financial Review this week called the “High price of energy policy failure”.

Hopefully this type of taxpayer slugfest does not happen in NSW, where two thirds of the State has already been closed off to development because of political pressure.  Narrabri and NSW need a more sensible  outcome – especially as the time draws nearer when the State’s only gas producer, AGL, will shut down its facility at Camden, where natural gas has been safely and inconspicuously produced from coal seams for the past 15 years.

When that closure occurs in the next couple of years, NSW will be completely at the behest of other States for its needs – an important challenge for the new Premier.

Steve Wright

Director, Energy Resource Information Centre.


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  1. Bruce on 27 January, 2017 Reply

    Good letter by Mr Wright.
    He hit the nail on the head – Hypocrisy is the stock in trade of Lock The Gate and its associates.
    if there is no petrol for them – they will squeal the loudest – no gas BBQ – raw meat – what is this.
    Petrol money ??? – the bastards ought to cycle or ride a horse (and catch the horses farts so the methane doesn’t upset the ecological balance and create climate change)
    Maybe a job would be a better solution for these ingrates?


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