Victorian election a chance to address energy challenges

October 31st, 2014

With job creation and economic development identified as key themes for the November 29 election, it is incumbent on all major parties to address the energy challenges facing Victoria in the years ahead.

Government, business and union leaders have all identified the likelihood of significant price increases and potential shortages in the supply of gas to millions of Victorians during the next four-year term of Government.

Business closures and major job losses are looming.

Some experts believe that policy inertia in Victoria and NSW means this supply shock is now unavoidable.  However, a move to allow tightly regulated and monitored natural gas development could help ease the impact and bring forward security of supply and put downward pressure on prices.

It is the responsibility of the next Victorian Government to ensure it does what is necessary to protect the interests of manufacturing and agricultural businesses, workers and consumers.  With good regulation it is possible to achieve coexistence of agriculture and natural gas, while at the same time protecting water resources and creating jobs and economic activity in regional centres in eastern, western and northern Victoria.

Experience both in Australia and internationally proves that coexistence can be achieved without undue environmental risk.

Nonetheless, to avoid any uncertainty, the NSW Chief Scientist undertook Australia’s biggest ever study into that State’s coal seam gas industry.

After an eighteen month  investigation in Australia and overseas, the Chief Scientist concluded recently that the industry was mature and able to manage any risks.

The findings aren’t surprising.

Hydraulic fracturing has been used more than 2.5 million times worldwide since 1947, and despite repeated claims, there’s not a single confirmed and proven instance of aquifer contamination.

While Victorian farmers have been understandably concerned about the impact of natural gas development, including coal-seam extraction and the use of hydraulic fracturing, the reality is that most of their concerns are unfounded, and are based on highly emotive and misleading misinformation from anti-fossil fuel activists.

It is also reality that most of the planned gas extraction in Victoria will be from rock formations, not coal seams. These formations are typically much deeper, with layers of non-permeable rock separating the resource from aquifers. Well casings are designed, engineered and built with multiple layers of concrete and steel to ensure integrity for decades.

There are significant benefits that can accrue from gas development:  regional towns in Queensland have thrived from the services required by the gas companies and their workers.  Gas for energy is also good for the environment, as it produces about half the carbon emissions of burning coal.

In short, there are many good reasons to allow responsible development of natural gas resources.  The science is in:   co-existence of agriculture and the gas industry is a reality..

With proper education and a balanced debate about the science and the facts, most people will agree it is time to remove the shackles and allow sensible development of the State’s extensive resources of natural gas.

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