Reasons why gas mining in Victoria must be stopped

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A radio podcast for politicians and decision makers in the Victorian state parliament about the prospects of turning farmland into industrial gasfields.

1.3 million hectares of land in Victoria is threatened by onshore gas mining. The 80th Sustainable Hour on 94.7 The Pulse contains an ‘audio submission’ produced for the Victorian Premier Andrew Daniels, Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosia, their colleagues and staff, where Victorian experts explain why it is unhealthy, economically unwise and ethically immoral to turn Victorian farmland into industrial gasfields.


Andrew Daniels, Lily D’Ambrosia, we invite you to listen to The Sustainable Hour no. 80:

» To open or download this programme in mp3-format, right-click here (Mac: CTRL + click)


» Subscribe to ‘The Sustainable Hour’ podcast — via iTunes or via your own podcast/RSS software



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‘Audio submission’ and CD distribution

You can burn the one hour audio file on a CD, print this cover – and then give it as a gift to a friend – or a local politician.

This ‘audio submission’ has been sent on a CD to the Victorian State Government – along with an edited print of this webpage. Consider doing the same with people and politicians you know.

If you would like the audio file in better resolution (128 kbps instead of 32 kbps), then contact us.

» To download the audio-file (mp3-file in 32 kbps), click here

» To download the cover (jpg-file in 210 dpi), right-click here




Interviews and audio-quotes in the hour, in order of appearance:

» Kieran Kennedy, mayor of South Gippsland, Victoria
» Gavin Mudd, Senior Lecturer and Course Director, Environmental Engineering at Monash University
» Merryn Redenbach, paediatric doctor, Doctors for the Environment Australia
» Mark Ogge, researcher and a public liason officer to The Australia Institute.
» Cam Walker, campaigns co-ordinator at Friends of the Earth Melbourne
» Danielle Mulholland, mayor of Kyogle, New South Wales
» David Suzuki, scientist, and Naomi Klein, author

Music credit
A big thank you to Leo Sayer and The Aussies Against Fracking Allstars for their song ‘No Fracking Way’. For more music information and links, see below.


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Reasons why we don’t need to frack for gas

1) The local community bears the burden while the profits go elsewhere:
• Gas prices go up – the gas is exported
• Landscape mutilated by industrial gasfield zones. Tourism ruined. Real estate value drops
• Local pollution and noise 24/7. Risky gambling with drinking water and health

2) Fracking is intergenerational theft, short-sighted and morally wrong.
Here’s why:
• It is only profitable because costs of cleaning up and climate damage are not part of the equation
• Gas causes more climate damage than coal and oil when methane and fugitive emissions are accounted for
• Removes focus and economy from the transition
to renewables and sustainable jobs
• Unnecessary detour. Fossil fuels are to be phased out
• So-called ‘scientific’ figures are taken out of thin air. Scientists’ statements are for hire.

What drives the gas mining industry forward is a desire to make profits. Local communities in Queensland are seeing the devastating consequences of this industry: Only a few people benefit financially from it, and they are not held accountable by authorities to pay the bills for the damage they create in the ground as well as in the air.

Australia is being fracked not for the greater good but for irresponsible private profit. The Victorian government will have to make a permanent ban on fracking or lose all credibility in local communities all over the state.


 INQIRY 

You must write a letter

You have until this Friday afternoon to get submissions in to the State Inquiry on unconventional gas extraction.

This is the best chance we will ever have to knock this toxic industry off before it gets a foothold in our state.
Please write a brief submission by close of business Friday. A short letter is all that is required.

It is important that the submission is in your own words, but you can copy-paste the arguments according to what you believe is the most important to mention.

More information and help here:

» www.melbourne.foe.org.au/ucg_inquiry

» www.frackfreegeelong.org

» www.coalandgasfreevic.org/how-to-make-a-submission

» An easy submissions format by Ellen Sandell

» Click here to download six examples of submissions for your inspiration.
They were compiled by Frack Free Moriac, who wrote:
“You are welcome to use the attached submissions, you’ll just have to put your name and address at the bottom, before sending. The submissions can be personal, how you feel about this industry. It can be technical, quoting research, or just concerns you have. You may like to edit some of the attached submission, to suit you.”


» Click here for a tip sheet which Friends of the Earth have put together (which includes how to lodge the submission), a draft submission from Cam Walker (this is to be used as a guideline, do not copy-paste) from Friends of the Earth, and an email from Ali from the Frack Free Moriac group – for your inspiration.


Environment Victoria put in their submission to the inquiry into unconventional gas. If you haven’t yet put your own submission in and you’re looking for points to make. The key points in the submission are that an unconventional gas industry:
• Would not protect Victorian gas consumers from rising prices;
• Would not solve gas supply problems, because there are no gas supply problems;
• Would threaten existing jobs in areas dependent on agriculture and tourism;
• Would create a risk of unacceptable and irreversible environmental damage to vast areas of the state;
• Would lock-in additional greenhouse gas emissions when emissions urgently need to fall;
• Cannot be made safe through close regulation, because regulatory systems inevitably fail.

» Read more on www.environmentvictoria.org.au


 SIGN PETITION 

Call for a full and permanent ban

Friends of the Earth Melbourne are building the petition calling for a full and permanent ban on unconventional gas. This will be delivered to the Premier in September:

» www.melbourne.foe.org.au/ban_ucg_in_victoria


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Beyond Zero Emissions flyer about why we don't need gas – short, straight and to the point
Beyond Zero Emissions flyer about why we don’t need gas. Recommended reading.



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 EDITORIAL 

Compare gas and renewables

Our political leaders need to make a comparison between gas and renewable energy sources – and then choose the right path. There are many reasons why the proposed gasfield madness in Victoria both socially, morally and environmentally is simply the wrong path to enter.

Wind turbines, especially when they are on land, are the cheapest energy source, according to a report from the Danish Energy Agency – a governmental body.

So why would anyone invest in an energy technology that pollutes drinking water, makes people sick, is noisy, destroys landscapes, emits methane and which – when taking fugitive emission into consideration – is no more “climate-friendly” than coal?

The answer to that is: they shouldn’t! But they do it anyway, because there is a little group of people who currently are able to earn some good money by doing it – and it’s not small sums of money we are talking about.

In the ‘fracking game’ there are some winners and some losers. Once you realise this, then the only obvious question that follows is: Why should we – the residents of ‘fracking-zones’ who stand to lose big on a number of frontiers in this game – just put up with that?

We don’t have to.

Our numbers are high – in most areas we represent the majority of voters in the Victorian communities – and as such, we have a basic democratic right to not only oppose and pause, but to stop this toxic and invasive industry, and to insist that our governments come to their senses and do what they should have started doing long time ago: begin investing full-hearted in the energy source which is cheapest and which benefits the general population as well as the environment.

Making the right choice
Let’s not just talk about ‘fracking’ and the problems with it. Fracking and renewables should always be mentioned in the same sentence. Because it is about making that choice.

The need to move to renewable energy sources for climate reasons is urgent, and so are the prospects of creating new, secure jobs, and the dynamic prospects of community engagement in the transformation process.

When comparing the two paths we can choose between – fracking and renewables – we must talk about about the risks involved. ‘Risks’ is something else than ‘Facts’ or ‘Evidence’. The point being that while we don’t have all the scientific facts in yet about how dangerous and damaging fracking is, we can and must make our choices based on which risks we are prepared to take and for what reason.

I.e: Why should citizens of Victoria risk their water being polluted just so that a company can extract and sell some gas to Asia, which at the same time will create higher gas prices in Australia?

It makes no logical sense to take such a risk to other than that company which profits from it plus those who’ll be getting royalties or compensation payments.



Interviews

Information about the interviews in this ‘Audio Submission’


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Gavin Mudd


» Right-click to download audio file in 128 kbps (broadcast quality)

Gavin Mudd is Senior Lecturer and Course Director, Environmental Engineering at Monash University. He is a ground water expert who has looked into the sustainability of mining in Australia.

» www.eng.monash.edu.au



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Mark Ogge


» Right-click to download audio file in 128 kbps (broadcast quality)

Mark Ogge is a researcher and a public liason officer to the Australia Institute. He talks about the physical impact on the landscape and the economic impacts, and about the fact that the gas is for export, and why this will make gas prices go up for us, the consumers. The gas price in Asia is about five times the gas price in Australia. So exporting it is going to triple or quadruple the gas prices here, he estimates.

Mark Ogge: “I think the unconventional gas issue is an enormous thing that people have to come to grips with because it’s going to have a huge impact on the area around Western Victoria and also Gippsland if these huge projects go ahead. It’s so important for a number of reasons – the first reason is that the infrastructure is huge.

If you look over at the US at what they actually look like, a commercially operating type gas or shale gas field has thousands of wells and they tend to be very closely placed – between 500-750 metres between wells – and all of those wells are connected by roads, pipeline and interspersed with water treatment plants, compression stations and all of those kinds of big, industrial infrastructure.

So it has a really huge impact on the physical landscape. If you have an economy that’s largely based on tourism, amongst other things, and the landscape is transformed into an industrial landscape, then that’s going to have a big impact on tourism and industries like that, where people come to the west coast of Victoria largely because it’s such a beautiful area. If it’s industrialised, it can have a very big effect.

Now, the gas industry – and sometimes the government – say that we need these industries because they provide jobs and economic benefits, and it is true that these industries do employ some people. But what we need to understand is that they are very small employers overall – the entire oil and gas industry in Australia employs around 0.2 percent of the workforce.

Because of the nature of gas fields, they don’t need very many people to run them, so they are very small employers and, in a local economy, the effect of a big gas project can actually have crowding-out impacts on other industries, so there are some real economic downsides.

Often the benefits the industry claims can be very exaggerated. One of the things you need to understand is that when companies try to get approval for their projects, they are essentially spruiking their projects – so they will try and talk up jobs claims and the economic benefits – and there’s a big tendency to exaggerate those and to use dubious jobs multipliers and things like that, and not talk about the downsides of the negative impacts that gas and big gas developments is having on the rest of the economy.”


“But we see examples, for instance in the United States, where the gas industry moves in on a farm, and this farmer becomes rich…”

“Yes, there are some people who will do well out of the gas boom; some farmers will be paid for gas wells – it won’t be a huge amount – but that is definitely a benefit to those farmers. Some people will be employed by the gas industry, and so there will be some winners, but what you need to remember is there’s going to be a lot of losers.

The first thing to remember is that, because the gas industry is a small employer in the first place, the jobs that it does provide – it actually employs quite a lot of people during the construction phase, which is one odd years – there is a sort of peak of construction over a couple of years, and after that there are very few operational jobs. And when you have a big construction workforce coming in within a couple of years, it’s quite disruptive to other industries.

Most of these workers will be pretty much entirely drive-in drive-out, or fly-in fly-out workers. They are generally not recruited from the local area. And when they are, the people who are employed are generally highly skilled people. Now, highly skilled people aren’t people who are unemployed looking for work, generally. They are people who are already employed in local industries. So what happens is the gas industry comes in and offers huge pay to the skilled employees who have been trained up by the manufacturing and agricultural industry, by and large, and essentially poaches them from those industries, and that means that those industries, over this two year construction period, have to compete with the gas industry for employees and pay really huge wages – and that drives up their cost and makes it difficult for them to recruit and retain staff. That can have a really devastating impact on some of these industries.”


“But Mark, for instance here in Geelong, we have gas pipes everywhere. All the houses are using gas for cooking and warming their houses and so on, so there’s a lot of infrastructure there already for gas. So doesn’t it make sense to get some gas in there?”

“Well, in terms of whether we need the gas… At the moment the industry is trying to argue that if we don’t mine a whole lot more gas, then there’ll be a gas shortage and gas prices are going up. The first thing to understand is there is no gas shortage. On the east coast of Australia it’s all one big gas network, and for the amount of gas being extracted, it is a massive increase. It is historically an unprecedented increase in the amount of gas being extracted through unconventional gas.

Gas demand in Victoria and the rest of south eastern Australia is actually falling, but the reason there is such a huge drive for more gas is to export it through the export terminals up in Gladstone. So this expansion isn’t for domestic consumption. It is for export.

The gas industry argued that we need to extract more gas to keep gas prices down, but it’s a really disingenuous argument because the reason that gas price is going up is that gas companies are now able to sell their gas to Asian customers, and the gas price in Asia is about five times the gas price in Australia. So they were selling it for $4 a gigajoule, which is just a measure of the amount of gas, in Australia – but they can sell it for $16 a gigajoule in Asia. So that’s a huge incentive for them not to sell it to Australian customers, but to sell it to Asian customers. And what it means is that Australian customers have to compete with those prices.

So, Australian customers who used to buy their gas for $4 will probably now have to pay about $11 or $12, because otherwise the big gas companies are just going to sell it to Asia. The fact that we are exporting the gas is probably going to triple or quadruple the gas prices for domestic customers. And it doesn’t matter how much more gas you drill for – you could cover all of Gippsland and all of western Victoria in gas wells – it won’t bring down the gas price at all, because the reason that gas prices are going up isn’t because of the lack of gas supply, it’s because we are part of a market that is now linked to Asia through export, and our gas prices are linked to the Asian gas market.”

The interview was transcribed by Elizabeth Hines.

» More information about Mark Ogge can be found on: www.bze.org.au



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Merryn Redenbach

Merryn Redenbach is a paediatric doctor who works for Doctors for the Environment Australia. She is based in Melbourne.


» Right-click to download audio file in 128 kbps (broadcast quality)

In the interview, Merry Redenback explains about the latest scientific ecidence and studies of the negative health effects of fracking. She recommends to take a look at the home page of Concerned Health Professionals of New York on www.concernedhealthny.org



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Kieran Kennedy, Mayor


» Right-click to download audio file in 128 kbps (broadcast quality)

Credit: This soundbite and photo is from the documentary ‘Gippsland Is Precious’a documentary by Pennie Brown

“We’ve got a main industry of dairy, beef, and potatoes, the industry is worth billions over years, and it’s always been that way. We have very rich soils, and the most important thing of all is our water resources. Coal Seam Gas mining companies can drill within hundreds of meters of any water reserve or dam, so, look – it is just crucial: water is the link of life, and if we let these people in to destroy that for a short term profit and a few fly-in fly-out jobs, our community will just disperse and we will end up barren.”
Kieran Kennedy, mayor of South Gippsland, Victoria

‘Gippsland Is Precious’ is a documentary about Coal Seam Gas mining which explores what is at stake for Victoria’s Gippsland region, and what communities and individuals are able to do in order to stop the invasive gas mining industry.



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Danielle Mulholland

On 23 November 2013, the people of Kyogle in northern New South Wales, Australia, came together for a moving ceremony to declare their region gasfield-free. Speakers included local and federal politicians, community members, and health experts.

In the documentary about the event, CSGFree NorthernRivers interviewed Mayor of Kyogle, Danielle Mulholland. Here is a transcript of what she said:

“We are seeing democracy in action. We are seeing people flocking to this event to say ‘We don’t want unconventional gas in our area. That is essentially what it comes down to. And as representatives of the people, we should be enforcing that position. So that is why I am here today.”

“They are afraid for the children, their grandchildrens’ futures. They are afraid for their health. Air. Farmland. Water. There are so many issues around Coal Seam Gas that are unresolved.”

“The chemicals in particular concern me – in terms of our groundwater. Because without water, we die. That is what it comes down to. Whether it be your cattle, whether it be your crops. Anything. We have talked today about the contamination of these things.”

“The state government has introduced a range of regulations which are the most stringent in Australia whilst at the same time we can acknowledge that governments of all persuasions have a poor track record of regulating industries when questionable promises of large sums of money flow into depleted government coffers.”

“I am proud to represent a community that stands up for social justice and is so committed to preserving its way of life that it demands to be heard.”
Danielle Mulholland, Mayor of Kyogle


The quotes of Danielle Mulholland are from this video-clip:

‘Gasfield Free Kyogle’

Published on youtube.com on 23 December 2013.

» Right-click to download audio file in 128 kbps (broadcast quality)



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Cam Walker

Cam Walker

Cam Walker is an organiser and coordinator at Friends of the Earth Melbourne.


» Right-click to download audio file in 128 kbps (broadcast quality)

In this one minute excerpt from the interview with Cam Walker, he talks about the climate aspect of fracking: the fugitive emissions.

“State government and councils need to put good public money into renewables and into transition plans. We throw vast volumes of public money at the pipe dream of “clean coal”. We need to stop doing that. In the last state budget I think we put 100 million dollars into a project called “Gas for the regions” which is about the roll-out of natural gas. We should be putting that money into meaningful green manufacturing transition jobs in places like Geelong.”
Cam Walker, Friends of the Earth, in The Sustainable Hour in August 2014





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“The economic impact of climate change is going to be incredible. What government that says the economy is its highest priority can continue for over 10 years to ignore climate? If they really care about the economy, they’ve got to focus on that. Because the economic implications of climate change are catastrophic.”
David Suzuki, Canadian scientist

» The Star – 5 July 2015:
March for Jobs, Justice and Climate draws on allies for a clean-energy revolution

At the ‘March for Jobs, Justice, and the Climate’ on 5 July 205, thousands marched through downtown Toronto representing diverse environmental, union, anti-poverty, health, faith and aboriginal causes, forming a powerful alliance with a single goal in mind: “a justice-based transition to a clean-energy economy in Canada.”

David Suzuki, Jane Fonda, and Naomi Klein marched along with the thousands of others. Listen to what they had to say in the video:




Dig even deeper


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The spin

“It is the future…”

“We believe that the US shale gas revolution is about to hit Australia’s shores.”

“The potential size of Australia’s shale gas resources is truly enormous…”

“Time to Ride the Wave”

Quotes from RFC Ambrian’s Australian Unconventional Oil and Gas report from 2013


“Gas is in growing demand from consumers and industry. At a time when manufacturing is contracting and unemployment growing, there is a big opportunity for regional Victoria to create jobs and generate additional income for land and business owners – all from responsibly managed, government-regulated resources.”
Steve Wright, Director, Energy Resource Information Centre – in a letter to the editor of Geelong Advertiser


“Lakes Oil executive chairman Rob Annells asked that his company be permitted to drill two gas wells near Portland as part of the Victorian inquiry into onshore gas.”

» The Weekly Times – 8 July 2015:
Lakes Oil calls on inquiry to permit gas drilling
“A Victorian oil company wants an exemption from the government ban on onshore gas so it can drill in southwest Victoria.”


Gas industry “postponed”

If you would like to have an insight into how people in the gas industry talk about that land which you may be perceiving as “yours”, it is worthwhile spending a bit of time with this 2013-report from RFV Ambrian. For instance, when they write:

“However, in August 2012 the Victorian Government issued a moratorium on fracture stimulation, which has postponed the proposed fracture stimulation of the Wombat-4 and Boundary Creek-2 wells…” (on page 114 in Australian Unconventional Oil and Gas)

… it becomes clear to everyone that in the gas industry, the state government’s moratorium, which runs out in June 2015, is only “postponing” the gas drilling projects – the potential prospects of an extension of the moratorium or a permanent ban are not even considered.

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“Let’s Grow Victoria”

“It’s Cleaner. It’s Safer. It’s Jobs. It Is The Future.”

‘Let’s Grow Victoria’ is a publication of the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA). They write: “Its aim is to broaden understanding of how Victorians can benefit from the sustainable development of natural gas from coal seams.”

» Find ‘Let’s Grow Victoria’ on APPEA’s website:  www.naturalcsg.com.au

“The state has extensive coal bodies and could have considerable natural CSG potential. But assessment of this potential is being held back by unnecessary restrictions on onshore gas operations.”
Natural Coal Seam Gas

If/when the Victorian gas mining moratorium is lifted, here is what the Otways has in store:

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Gas production is proven to be healthy
Article by Paul Fennelly published on appea.com.au on 16 August 2014

About Lakes Oil

“Melbourne-based Lakes Oil (LKO) is the oldest Australian oil and gas explorer still operating in the country. It owns a package of onshore Otway and Gippsland basin tight gas assets. The government of Victoria has imposed a fraccing moratorium that has hindered the appraisal of LKO’s Victorian assets. (…) In January 2013 Gina Rinehart invested U$4.25m in LKO by purchasing unsecured notes.”
(Page 192)

 

“Otway Basin, Australia. In PEP 169 (Lakes Oil: 49%) Armour Energy drilled Moreys-1 to earn its 51% interest in the permit in 2Q12. It is considered a tight gas and condensate discovery due to indications of tight gas during drilling and the recovery of hydrocarbons during drill stem testing in the Eumeralla Formation. A further well, Otway-1 is planned up-dip from the Iona-gas field.”
(Page 192)

» RFC Ambrian’s Australian Unconventional Oil and Gas Report


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What they are saying about ‘natural gas’…

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Click to see / share image on Facebook

“Victorians can benefit from the sustainable development of natural gas from coal seams,” according to the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association. In other words, unconventional gas which could actually be labelled ‘extreme gas’, is framed as ‘natural gas’. In 2013, the government instructed all departments and bodies to start using the term ‘natural gas’ rather than Coal Seam Gas, Shale Gas, Tight Gas and Unconventional Gas, simply as an attempt to change the bad name, which CSG has in the general population.

Gas retailer SP AusNet has carried out works costing more than $580 million to bring natural gas to more than 92,000 homes and businesses in western Victoria over the last five years.

 

“Premier and Minister for Regional Cities Denis Napthine was in Winchelsea recently with Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan to announce the agreement between the Victorian Coalition Government and SP AUsNet.
Dr Napthine said the Coalition Government would contribute $4.156 million towards SP AusNet’s $5.568 million project to connect the town to Victoria’s natural gas network.

“This investment will build a more prosperous future and a better quality of life for the Winchelsea community,” Dr Napthine said.

“We are helping to keep the cost of living down by making sure the local community has access to natural gas, which is a cheaper and more affordable source of energy.”

» G21 News – 5 June 2013:
Winchelsea connects to natural gas
“More than 600 homes and businesses in Winchelsea will be connected to natural gas, giving residents access to cleaner, more reliable and cheaper energy.”

G21 is the formal alliance of government, business and community organisations working together to improve the lives of people within the Geelong region across five member municipalities – Colac Otway, Golden Plains, Greater Geelong, Queenscliffe and Surf Coast.

“Natural gas has 50 per cent fewer CO2 emissions than coal”
Shell – in a video advertisement



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“Gas – and tourism”

“Dan Simmonds cites a Deloitte report of above-average GDP prospects around the world for the next 20 years, and Australia’s respective competitive advantages. Mining aside, he offers five: gas, agribusiness/agriculture, international education, wealth management and tourism.

“In four of those, Geelong is as well placed as any area in Australia to take advantage of them,” he says, noting that even the fifth, gas, is available in the Otway Basin.”

The Weekly Review – 27 May 2014:
More than a business
Interview with lawyer Dan Simmonds





The ‘bridge-fuel’ nonsens


Gas causes more climate damage than coal and oil

Dr Robert Howarth: Replacing coal and oil with natural gas will not help fight global warming

“Both shale gas and conventional natural gas have a larger greenhouse gas footprint than do coal or oil, especially for the primary uses of residential and commercial heating.

Dr Robert Howarth, a professor of ecology and environmental biology, came to this conclusion after assessing the best available data and analyzing greenhouse gas footprints for both methane (including shale gas and conventional gas) and carbon dioxide over a timescale of 20-years following emissions. The findings are published in Energy Science & Engineering.

“While emissions of carbon dioxide are less from natural gas than from coal and oil, methane emissions are far greater. Methane is such a potent greenhouse gas that these emissions make natural gas a dangerous fuel from the standpoint of global warming over the next several decades,” said Dr. Howarth.

“Society should wean ourselves from all fossil fuels and not rely on the myth that natural gas is an acceptable bridge fuel to a sustainable future.” ”


» Open or download the 14-page report document:
ESE_Methane.pdf

» Wiley’s Global Research – 21 July 2014:
Replacing Coal and Oil with Natural Gas Will Not Help Fight Global Warming


See also:

» National Geographic – 24 September 2014:
Switch to Natural Gas Won’t Reduce Carbon Emissions Much, Study Finds
» Switching from coal to natural gas for power generation won’t do much to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and might even raise them slightly, in part because it will discourage the use of carbon-free renewable energy, according to a study released 24 September 2014.


» AP / SF Gate – 10 October 2014:
Satellite sees hot spot of methane in US Southwest
“A surprising hot spot of the potent global-warming gas methane hovers over part of the southwestern U.S., according to satellite data. That result hints that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies considerably underestimate leaks of methane, which is also called natural gas.”


» ABC Radio National – 3 August 2014 at 8:00am:
The price of gas
Report on why gas is so expensive and how the government is selling Australian gas to other countries, driving the price up in Australia.


» The Guardian – 18 August 2014:
UK energy dependence – five hidden costs expose truth about fracking
The shale boom is a bubble waiting to burst as economics of extraction falter and the trickle of bad environmental news starts to swell. Five sets of problems are emerging with the shale narrative: economic risk; local environmental cost; global environmental cost; social cost, and opportunity cost. Article by Jeremy Leggett

» More about fracking and the economy


The ethics – the moral aspects

Uniting Church pamphlet
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Uniting Church: “Get your town to vote to be CSG free”

If you would like to see some real leadership in a religious community, take a look at what they have produced in the Uniting Church. Here is an Australian church that not only takes a clear stand for everyone to see, but also invests special efforts into advicing it members on how to respond to the invasive and toxic gas mining industry.

In this pamphlet, Uniting Church explains its stand on unconventional gas mining – also known as ‘fracking’ or ‘Coal Seam Gas’. The following is an excerpt of the pamphlet’s text:


“Uniting Earth Ministry:
Coal Seam Gas – What is it? Why does the church care? How can you respond?

UNITING CHURCH RESPONSES

What does the Assembly say about the environment?

The Uniting Church has a longstanding commitment to the environment, both because social justice and environmental sustainability are linked and because the environment has intrinsic value.

The church believes that God, as the Creator of the universe, calls humanity into a relationship of mutuality and interdependence with the creation. God’s will for the earth is renewal and reconciliation, not destruction by human beings.

The church is particularly concerned about human-induced climate change, regarding it as a serious threat to the future and integrity of life on earth. The church is especially worried about the impacts on vulnerable communities such as those in the Pacific. Over the last decade, the Assembly has responded to Pacific churches’ requests that churches throughout the world act in solidarity to reduce the causes of climate change.

In 2006, the church adopted the statement “For the Sake of the Planet and all its People”, which lays out the church’s position on climate change and fossil fuels: “The scientific evidence on global warming and its potentially disastrous impacts is now indisputable. Also beyond dispute is that the burning of fossil fuels and subsequent creation of greenhouse gas emissions… is seriously exacerbating the problems we face.” The Assembly therefore called upon church members to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions and to advocate for government to implement policies to reduce Australia’s dependence on fossil fuels.

The 2009 statement “An Economy of Life” concerned inter-linked crises confronting human and ecological wellbeing. The statement named these crises (including climate change, militarism, the energy crisis, the food crisis, and the global financial crisis) as deeply rooted in our social, political, and economic systems. The Assembly called upon all parts of the church to participate in “a vision of flourishing, abundant life, of peace and reconciliation, justice and transformation, love and inclusion for all creation,” and upon governments to develop policies and structures that support human and ecological flourishing.

See these statements and others at:
www.unitingjustice.org.au/environment

NSW/ACT Synod position
The Synod of NSW/ACT has also expressed its environmental concern over the decades. The Synod has adopted various resolutions, including several about renewable energy, energy efficiency, climate change and fossil fuels. In 2008, the Synod stated that “a commitment to ecological sustainability is an essential part of the church’s discipleship” and committed itself to “integrating ‘creation care’ into all aspects of its worship, witness and service”.

The Synod passed two important resolutions in 2013 in relation to the fossil fuel industry. The first was that the Synod “call on the NSW Government to amend the NSW Strategic Regional Land Use Plan so that it identifies and protects from coal mining and Coal Seam Gas exploration and mining:

(a) areas which should be kept strictly for sustainable agriculture and food production;

(b) irreplaceable water resources including underground aquifers; and

(c) high conservation value areas including forests and wilderness areas.”

The second resolution noted that:
• the vast majority of fossil fuels will need to remain untouched to avoid the worst excesses of climate change;
• Australian governments and the international community are not adequately addressing the threat of climate change; and
• the rapid expansion of fossil fuel mining in Australia “is directly threatening agricultural land, human health and biodiversity”.

The Synod therefore resolved to stop investing in fossil fuel corporations and move instead to investing in renewable energy stocks.
(…)

What can we do about it?

• Be fully informed about the church’s position, the effect of fossil fuel extraction on the environment, CSG processes and dangers, and the local issues in your area

• Inform your faith community, your town and the surrounding farming communities

• Make submissions to the government

• Write letters to politicians and newspapers

• Join or start a group such as “Lock the Gate”

• Attend public protests

• Get your town to vote to be “CSG free”

Visit www.unitingearthweb.org.au/csg for links to useful organisations for information and support (e.g. Lock the Gate, Our Land Our Water Our Future, ARRCC).”



Health concerns


people-get-sick

» Infographic from www.thinkprogress.org



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British Medical Journal: adverse birth outcomes

“Public Health England’s draft report thoroughly assesses the peer reviewed scientific literature on the public health implications of extracting shale gas. Unfortunately, the conclusion that shale gas operations present a low risk to public health is not substantiated by the literature. The correct conclusion that Public Health England should have drawn is that the public health impacts remain undetermined and that more environmental and public health studies are needed.

Furthermore, the report incorrectly assumes that many of the reported problems experienced in the US are the result of a poor regulatory environment. This position ignores many of the inherent risks of the industry that no amount of regulation can sufficiently remedy, such as well casing cement failures and accidental spillage of waste water.

More attention should have been paid to drilling in areas that are densely populated. Recent evidence suggests a higher prevalence of some adverse birth outcomes for those living in closer proximity.”

These summary points are from a recent editorial in the British Medical Journal in response to Public Health England’s draft report regarding the safety of unconventional gas mining: ‘Mistaking best practices for actual practices’



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American compendium of scientific and medical findings

An American summary of some of the emerging health concerns is the ‘Compendium Of Scientific, Medical, And Media Findings Demonstrating Risks And Harms Of Fracking (Unconventional Gas And Oil Extraction) 10 July 2014 – by ‘Concerned Health Professionals of New York’ where the State Assembly recently passed a three-year moratorium on fracking.

» See the Fracking-Compendium.pdf which includes some quick facts and a summary of the emerging paediatric data.

One of the studies referenced in the compendium (and which was also quoted in the BMJ editorial above) monitored a cohort of 124,842 births between 1996 and 2009 in rural Colorado, reporting an association between density and proximity of natural gas wells within a 10-mile radius of maternal residence and found that Neural Tube Defects e.g. Spina Bifida (NTD) prevalence was associated with the highest exposure (OR = 2.0, 95% Confidence Interval: 1.0 to 3.9, based on 59 cases), compared to no gas wells within a 10-mile radius. Also the prevalence of babies born with Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) increased the closer the pregnant mother lived to natural gas wells within a 10 mile radius, with the closest exposure group being 1.3 times more likely to have a heart defect (95% Confidence Interval: 1.2 to 1.5).

This is one of many concerning associations in the emerging scientific data, and while it is statistically significant, it does not yet demonstrate causation. It does however warrant further scientific enquiry, and caution by decision makers in potential onshore gas mining regions such as ours.

Doctors for the Environment Australia’s concerns

The potential human health impacts has been explored in the submission to the Australian Chief Scientist by the Doctors for the Environment Australia group:
‘Review of CSG in NSW – Chief Scientist Submission (PDF)



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The Lancet Commission’s concerns

Most recently, the second Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change has been released. This report argues that tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century, an opportunity that now requires political will to realise.

The following excellent 3 minute video summary of the current health risks of ongoing fossil fuel based energy consumption at current or increasing levels is sobering. It highlights the health co-benefits of policy directed at shifting to renewable energy development:

Specifically regarding further gas infrastructure investment, the Commission reports “The time when fuel switching could decarbonise the global economy sufficiently quickly to avoid dangerous climate change has almost certainly passed. It is increasingly difficult to justify large-scale investment in unabated gas-fired infrastructure.”




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PublicHealthAss_CSGreport2013cover

Report from Public Health Association Australia

Here is a report that has weight and authority as it is coming from the Public Health Association Australia. After reading the report, it becomes even more scary and horrendous that our elected leaders, Labor as well as the Liberal / Coalition, aren’t listening to this kind of facts and evidence even when they are delivered by The Public Health Association of Australia Incorporated (PHAA) which is recognised as the principal non-government organisation for public health in Australia and which works to promote the health and well-being of all Australians.

The report is from 26 April 2013 and is called ‘The independent review of coal seam gas activities in NSW’ (human health and environment effects).

An excerpt from the first chapter:

Overview of health effects – a framework and summary

“The health consequences of unconventional gas extraction might be framed in a classical medical primary, secondary and tertiary effects manner. Primary are the direct, secondary the indirect, systemic effects and tertiary the flow on effects.

• Primary / direct effect on air quality | Cause: Methane, volatile hydrocarbons

• Primary / direct effect on water quality (surface and underground) | Cause: Drilling and fracking chemicals. Volatile hydrocarbons and methane from coal. Salts. Heavy / radioactive metals from coal and rock

• Primary / direct effect on water availability | Cause: Use of water in production. Inadvertent linkage of aquifers and water loss

• Primary / direct effect on soil quality | Cause: Chemical leakage / spillage from production or waste water

• Primary / direct effect on seismic activity | Cause: From fracking and pressure changes below ground

• Primary / direct effect on erosion | Cause: Increased travel over roads and country

• Primary / direct effect on spread of weeds | Cause: From increased vehicle access

Secondary / follow on effects
(Note: these effects arise from several primary effects synergistically)
• Compromise of agricultural land
• Adverse effects on livestock
• Adverse effects on ecosystems and the biosphere
• No reduction in GHG emissions and continued global warming


Tertiary / Flow-on effects on well-being and health
• Conflict in mining affected communities
• Loss of control over access to property
• Reduced water availability
• Fears of loss of land, livelihood and community
• Actual loss of agricultural productivity impacting food security for Australia
• Loss of wellbeing due to concerns about health
• Psychological effects from several of the above sources


Examples of such effects in Australia include:
• Benzene, xylene and toluene were found in monitoring water bores. Connectivity and cross contamination of the Springbok aquifer by the Walloons coal measure was demonstrated post fracking at Myrtle 3.
• There was widespread habitat destruction after a spill in the Pilliga forest.
• There are flammable water bores at Kogan and gas fuelled bush fires at Dalby.
• The Condamine River is bubbling methane along several kilometres of its length.
• There is a cluster of ill health amongst people living in the gas fields near Tara and Kogan. Their symptoms are similar to what have been reported in gas fields in the US. These include daily headaches, epistaxis, rashes after bathing, nausea, eye irritation, metallic taste and respiratory problems.”


» Right-click and use dropdown menu to download the report (PDF):  ‘The independent review of coal seam gas activities in NSW’ (human health and environment effects)


» Read more about health concerns on  www.frackfreegeelong.org/health



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A toxic and secretive industry

“As the U.S. fracking boom continues to expand, tapping vast deposits of previously unreachable oil and natural gas, scientists, regulators and even the industry itself still do not know much about fracking’s impact on human health or the environment. Study after study has highlighted the lack of toxicity information available on fracking fluid—the mix of chemicals, water and sand injected deep into the ground to fracture oil- and gas-trapping rock.

Now a new study, presented at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society, says that out of 190 commonly used compounds, hardly any toxicity information is available for a whopping one-third of them. In addition, another eight fracking fluid compounds, the researchers found, are proved to be toxic to mammals.”

» Continue reading Newsweek article

» The study: www.eurekalert.org

» More about studies:
www.news.wisc.edu
www.huffingtonpost.com



» Common Dreams – 10 September 2014:
Research Shows Frightening Correlation Between Fracking and Rates of Illness
Respiratory and skin issues likely caused by air or groundwater contamination as a result of natural gas drilling, says new study
By Lauren McCauley

» Medical Journal of Australia – March 2014:
Harms unknown: health uncertainties cast doubt on the role of unconventional gas in Australia’s energy future
By Alicia Coram, Jeremy Moss and Grant Blashki

» Business Insider – 3 March 2014:
Australian Doctors Have Raised A Health Red Flag Over Coal Seam Gas Developments
Uncertainties about the health implications of unconventional gas production should be a factor in putting the brakes on the industry in Australia, say researchers in the Medical Journal of Australia.



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USA: Letters from over 1,000 doctors

On 20 February 2014, Environment America Research & Policy Center and its state affiliates delivered letters from more than 1,000 doctors, nurses and other health professionals to President Obama and state decision-makers asserting that fracking should be stopped, given the overwhelming threats to public health.

The letters come as public awareness of the health and environmental impacts of fracking is on the rise. For example, in a peer-reviewed study published last month, researchers found an increased rate of birth defects in babies born to mothers in Colorado who lived in close proximity to multiple oil and gas wells.

“Fracking is making people sick – period. Families from Pennsylvania to Colorado to North Dakota are already suffering from dangerous air pollution and water contamination caused by dirty drilling,” said Courtney Abrams, clean water program director for Environment America. “The time for action is now. And more than 1,000 doctors, nurses, and health professionals nationwide agree. This should serve as a wake up call for our decision-makers.”

» See article on:  www.ecowatch.com

» Concerned Health Professionals of New York:  www.concernedhealthny.org


Simple 3-minute animation with a brief overview of the problems with fracking and why we need to place a permanent ban on this invasive industry. Share it with your friends and family.



Water safety


USA: Thousands of cases of water contamination

In August 2014, Pennsylvania for the first time made public 243 cases of contamination of private drinking wells from oil and gas drilling operations.

In 2013, the American chemical engineer Robert Jackson from Duke University reported that his researchers had found methane in 115 of 141 shallow, residential drinking-water wells. The methane concentration in homes less than one mile from a fracking well was six times higher than the concentration in homes farther away. And here is an ever-growing list of the over 6,000 individuals and families that have been harmed by fracked gas and oil production in the United States.

» Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection:
Regional Determination Letters (PDF)

» The Wall Street Journal – 28 August 2014:
Online list IDs water wells harmed by drilling

» ClimateProgress – 29 August 2014:
Pennsylvania Finally Reveals Fracking Has Contaminated Drinking Water Hundreds Of Times



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Published on youtube.com on 21 February 2013

The Project’s Charlie Pickering produced this 7-minute video report about unconventional gas mining in Australia in 2013. Still worth watching. The video clip contains, among others, an interview with Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith.



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Protestors at City of Greater Geelong Council meeting in July 2014
Protestors at City of Greater Geelong Council meeting in July 2014

Growing resistance


In Victoria, the movement against fracking started in Gippsland in 2011, when a lot of drilling licenses were given out in Western Victoria for the exploration of unconventional gas: coal seam gas, tight and shale gas.

Frack Free Geelong is a newly formed community group which is concerned about the risk that gas mining will have on Geelong and the Surf Coast. Similar groups have formed in the Grovedale, Bellarine Peninsula, Surf Coast, Colac, and Moriac & Deans March.

Also, citizens in the area around Warrnambool and Apollo Bay have formed groups.

In 2014, an Otways Basin Alliance of the various groups in the region was established, named ‘Protect the West’.

moriac-poster-declaration14sept
Moriac is declaring itself “frack free”

corowa-moratorium_mayor

NSW: Corowa places a moratorium

Corowa Shire has reinforced its position on coal seam gas mining by placing a moratorium on exploration and seismic testing on all land under its care and control.

Corowa’s mayor Fred Longmire echoed concerns raised by the Corowa community regarding the impact of exploration activities on the shire’s valuable groundwater supply and the sustainability of key industries:

“The potential of groundwater and land contamination during the mining process is of major concern to the council and community members. We cannot afford to take any risks with this,” he said.

Corowa council is calling for a full assessment from the NSW government to determine the impact coal seam gas mining will have on the agriculture production and aquifers in the area.

“This is a big issue for us,” Cr Longmire said. “We need to ensure people have all the facts they require to make an informed decision.”

» Article by David Johnston in The Bordermail on 26 July 2014:
Corowa coal seam gas mining on hold



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Anti-fracking resolution from the municipality peak body in Victoria

What this resolution basically says is that the State Council of Munical Association of Victoria – the legislated peak body for Victoria’s 79 councils – opposes any exploration for and extraction of fracking and gas mining within the state.

Coal Seam Gas
Resolution: The State Council of MAV to oppose any exploration for and extraction of Coal Seam Gas within the State.

» www.mav.asn.au



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CarbonBrief-fracking-infograph

A second opinion – from United Kingdom scientists

This is what Carbon Brief – a climate science and energy policy newsprovider written by scientists and researchers – has to say about fracking. They try to summarise the key questions about shale gas’ impacts and, where possible, draw some conclusions in this way:

“• If shale gas replaces coal – and methane leaks are minimised – it could be used as a bridging fuel while decarbonisation happens. But there is limited room for continued use of fossil fuels without CCS if we are to stay within UK carbon budgets.
• Some fears about water pollution are overblown. Surface spills or leaky wells could contaminate water. A lack of water could constrain the industry, and dealing with wastewater will be a challenge.
• Fracking is unlikely to cause earthquakes.
• Shale gas is unlikely to bring down household energy bills.
• Fracking isn’t that noisy, but could cause some local disruption.
• Any health risks are low if fracking is done responsibly.
• Fracking’s impact on wildlife is unclear.”

Carbon Brief sees gas as a ‘bridging fuel’ even though at the same time they admit that the question whether unconventional gas is more or less polluting (and therefore climate-damaging) than coal and oil remains unresolved. Some say it is, others say it is not. Carbon Brief writes:

“According to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) shale gas is better than coal as long as the methane leakage rate is below 11 per cent. Others put the threshold at 3.2 per cent. But again, lack of data is a challenge – leakage rate estimates currently range between 0.6 and nine per cent.”

» Continue reading on www.carbonbrief.org



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icon_small-arrow_RIGHT Gas rush – information page
Gas fact sheets from independent Australian organisations

icon_small-arrow_RIGHT Why you should be concerned about ‘fracking’
Gathering of articles, links and videos


» The Sustainable Hour on 16 April 2014:
Impacts of unconventional gas extraction
Podcast about the seminar ‘Unconventional gas extraction and the social, economic and environmental impacts’ which took place in Melbourne on 26 March 2014. It was transmitted via video conference to 11 different locations in Victoria – one of them at Deakin in Geelong.

Learn more about onshore gas mining

» On www.frackfreegeelong.org
» On this website



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Germany: 600 page report about fracking risks

In Germany, the Federal Environment Agency released a 600+ page report giving a detailed outline of the many risks involved in fracking. This research led its president Maria Krautzberger to this conclusion (translated from German):

“Fracking is and remains a risky technology and therefore requires considerable limits to protect the environment and health. As long as the significant risks involved in this technology cannot yet be predicted with certainty and controlled, there should be no fracking in Germany to extract shale gas and coalbed methane.”

» Download the report from:  www.umweltbundesamt.de (PDF)

» Food & Water Watch Europe – 6 August 2014:
Germany’s Environment Agency Calls for an End to Fracking

“In Australia, fugitive emissions from coal mining, oil and gas production account for about 8 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions…”
Damian Barrett and Stuart Day in The Conversation

» The Conversation / Climate Spectator – 1 August 2014:
Coal seam gas emissions lower than US: first Australian study
One of the most common questions Australians ask about coal seam gas is whether the gas wells leak – and if so, how much? In the first Australian study of its kind, new CSIRO research now gives an indication of how much those “fugitive emissions” might be, and how we can start to reduce them.


» The Standard – 8 July 2014:
Local communities express their opposition to fracking in south-west
More than 1100 people across western Victoria turned out for state government-held community consultation on fracking, with an overwhelming majority opposed to the industry. An approximate breakdown of public sentiment was 75 per cent opposed, 20 per cent undecided and 5 per cent not opposed, according to one of the independent facilitators, Mick Maguire. Nine communities have declared themselves coal and gasfield free, with another 20 communities in the process of making the same declaration. Article by Brittany Stewart


» Sydney Morning Herald – 9 October 2013:
Industry’s coal seam gas campaign is a con
The gas industry is working a scam on the people of NSW, in collusion with other business lobby groups and federal and state politicians. It’s trying to frighten us into agreeing to remove restrictions on the exploitation of coal seam gas deposits. Failing that, the various parties want to be able to lay the blame for an inevitable jump in the price of natural gas on the greenies and farmers. 3-minute video and article by Ross Gittins, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Economics Editor


» The Spectator – 25 July 2014:
Energy giants’ donations boost Coalition and Labor
Australia’s major political parties have accepted almost $2.7 million in donations from companies associated with fracking and unconventional gas between 2010 and 2013. Article by Spectator’s Rex Martinich

The National Party Victoria accepted a $3,000 donation from Santos in 2010, while the Liberal Party Victoria Division accepted more than $98,600 from unconventional gas companies and their investors between July 2010 and June 2013.
In Victoria, the Australian Labor Party state branch topped the charts by accepting almost $112,000 during the same time frame from donors associated with unconventional gas.

 



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Music

Leo Sayer and The Aussies Against Fracking Allstars: ‘No Fracking Way’

Published on youtube.com on 16 December 2013.


David Holmes: ‘The Fracking Song’

Published on youtube.com on on 12 May 2011


Seize the Day: ‘Frakka Hakka’

Filmed in Balcombe at the controversial Cuadrilla fracking site in West Sussex, Seize the Day’s ‘Frakka Hakka’ song is performed by the band and protestors at the Balcombe Community Defenders Camp. Published on youtube.com on 12 January 2014


Songs about Coal Seam Gas
By various artists



How does Australia compare...
How does Australia compare…


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