The gas fallacy

Drought, floods and the recent catastrophic bushfires have brought home the reality of the climate crisis to Australia – the burning of fossil fuels is destroying our world. The COVID-caused recession creates an opportunity to transition rapidly to renewables as part of economic recovery, but the federal government maintains a gas-led approach to recovery is necessary. This is despite the fact that gas produces unacceptably high greenhouse emissions and that renewables are now cheaper than fossil fuels.

In this zoominar, Port Phillip Emergency Climate Action Network (PECAN) and Glen Eira Emergency Climate Action Network (GECAN) are bringing together key experts to help us understand the proposal for a so-called gas-led recovery, and how an alternative renewable-led recovery would work. The forum was supported by many other climate action groups throughout Melbourne’s South East, from Melbourne Central to Western Port Bay and The Mornington Peninsula.

The panel
Professor Penny Sackett is professor at the Climate Change Institute, ANU and was previously Australia’s Chief Scientist. She speaks about the impact of plans for gas expansion on the climate.

Dr George Crisp, a GP and committee member of Doctors for the Environment Western Australia speaks on the less well known effects of gas on people’s health.

Mark Ogge, Principal Advisor and gas expert at the Australia Institute, speaks on The National COVID Coordinating Commission’s plans as well as the renewable alternatives to gas.

The webinar is moderated by Esther Abram, Consultant and Strategic Advisor at Estuary Resources and formerly the inaugural CEO at the Moreland Energy Foundation and Director of Environment Victoria.

The issues
The speakers at the webinar cover these questions:

  • What impact on Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions would an expansion of gas have on the climate?
  • What impact would it have on people’s health?
  • Why is the Australian government supporting this gas expansion?
  • Do we actually need more gas?
  • Can the transition to renewables be achieved without gas?

Why this webinar?
This important webinar will give us all the opportunity to learn more about gas and its impacts, and the government’s plans. It will also be an opportunity to make our voices heard to our parliamentary representatives before the federal budget, on 6 October 2020. Many of Melbourne’s south east federal seats are held by Commonwealth Government members – some being key ministers.

A call to action
Climate For Change will be present to guide participants to engage with their local MPs through a letter writing activity. Our voices combined, can matter.

“I know it.
You know it.
We all know it…
The “gas led recovery” is just a ploy to return favours to friends & donors.
It makes no sense economically or environmentally… but maybe it’ll make some folks rich(er).
Imagine being a sucker on the backbench having to defend this!”

Simon Holmes à Court

→ Independent Australia – 24 September 2020:
Angus Taylor’s coal and gas roadmap to nowhere
“The Coalition will continue to devote taxpayer dollars to deny the science until they are voted out, or until climate change finally wins.”

Gas-lead recovery: “One of the bigger mistakes Australia makes”

The push for investing in gas is out of keeping with the move to renewable energy, says UNSW’s climate change expert Jeremy Moss from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences:

“Pursuing a gas led recovery will be one of the bigger mistakes Australia makes in response to COVID-19,” he says, following the release of the Australian Energy Market Operator AEMO’s 20-year plan, as the nation switches to a lower emissions economy.
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The Morrison government, sections of the gas industry and prominent figures in the ALP are backing a push for public funding to be spent on new gas infrastructure, as part of a so-called ‘gas powered recovery.’ There are also calls to reduce environmental protections to fast track projects, erode worker rights and slash taxes.

The Australian government states that “support is needed to improve the long-term viability of the refining business”, while it ignores the long-term viability of Australia’s people and ecosystems. For instance, it has proposed to throw two billion taxpayer-dollars after subsidising the Geelong refinery.

This comes at a time when the price of gas is at record lows following price wars internationally, and when there’s reduced demand associated with Covid-19. Some big gas companies have even put Australian projects on ice.

Despite this, Morrison has indicated that public money may be allocated to help expand the industry in the upcoming October 2020 Federal budget. This may lock in gas at the expense of renewables, for decades to come.

Here’s the thing – as the organisation Sunrise has formulated it:

  1. Billions in public money should not be spent lining the pockets of multinational gas companies which pay very little tax and royalties
  2. Australians do not want their money spent on the uneconomic gas industry
  3. Gas will not create the jobs Australia needs
  4. Morrison should not squander public money to profit fossil fuel mates
  5. Stimulus money is wasted on gas

  1. Billions in public money should not be spent lining the pockets of multinational gas companies which pay very little tax and royalties

At a time of economic crisis, the public does not support its money being used to subsidise big, multinational gas companies that have for years ripped off Australians and manufacturers, and not paid their fair share of tax or royalties. Few of the multinational oil and gas companies operating in Australia pay any corporate income tax at all in Australia and some even use tax havens to hide and shift profits out of Australia.

  1. Australians do not want their money spent on the uneconomic gas industry

Public money should not be used to prop up the dying gas industry which is already uneconomic and will only saddle taxpayers with decades of more debt. Public subsidisation of the flailing gas industry risks taxpayers’ money because gas is a bad investment. There’s a high chance of stranded assets – investments that don’t generate a viable economic return – leaving the public carrying the can.

  1. Gas will not create the jobs Australia needs

Gas provides few jobs compared to virtually any other industry. The gas industry is one of the least labour intensive industries, providing around one eighth as many jobs per dollar spent as the average for all Australian industries. Renewables are already creating more jobs. There are clean energy, shovel ready projects on the table. In comparison, the construction of new gas projects and pipelines is years off.

  1. Morrison should not squander public money to profit fossil fuel mates

Morrison is being pressured by the gas industry, and his hand-picked National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board, to hand over public cash to boost their profits. These big gas companies do not care about farmers, Australian families who use gas, Traditional Owners and regional towns whose farmland and water is at risk.

  1. Stimulus money is wasted on gas

Producing, burning and transporting gas will worsen the impacts of climate change. Australians want public money spent on things like aged care, education and clean energy and storage.

Climate Council Media Release – 15 September 2020:


THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT is making a bad bet on gas, throwing taxpayer funds at a dangerous fossil fuel, when what it needs is a plan to rebuild our economy and protect Australians from long-term threats. 

“The Federal Government is trying to shore up the gas industry which is in a poor financial state. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is decarbonising,” said Climate Councillor and former president of BP Australasia, Greg Bourne. 

Energy Minister Angus Taylor has announced the Federal Government’s Gas Recovery Plan, which reportedly includes the construction of a new gas power station in the NSW Hunter Valley if AGL does not replace its Liddel coal-fired power station.

“This announcement delivers no jobs in the short-term, and will only deliver huge uncertainty into the energy market,” said Mr Bourne.  

“The economic and technological winds of change are driving us towards a renewables-led future – that is where private sector investment dollars are going,” he said. 

“To reduce emissions, reduce power prices, create jobs, and reboot Australia’s economy, we need investment in clean, affordable, reliable renewable energy and storage technologies,” said the Climate Council’s CEO Amanda McKenzie. 

“The Climate Council’s Clean Jobs Plan found that 76,000 jobs can be created across Australia, rapidly getting people back into the workforce while also tackling climate change,” she said. 

“Australia has an enormous opportunity to be a world leader in renewable energy and manufacturing. This is the plan Australia needs,” said Ms Mckenzie. 

The Morrison Government’s plan to change the remit of Australia’s renewable energy agency (ARENA) to support expensive and unproven technologies like carbon capture and storage is aimed at prolonging the life of the fossil fuel industry. 

“ARENA has been a great Australian success story. It has played a crucial role in supporting the development of wind and solar energy.  To change it is an act of vandalism,” said Climate Council Senior Researcher Tim Baxter.  

“Wind and solar are the cheapest, most effective ways to reduce emissions. We need ARENA to invest in what we know works, not wasting taxpayers’ money on risky, polluting projects,” he said.

Today’s development follows news the government also wants to change the remit of the clean energy bank to fund dirty fossil fuel projects.  And it comes after the Morrison government announced it would be willing to build a gas fired power station even if the private sector wouldn’t. 

“None of these announcements will bring about an economic recovery or create jobs for Australians who need them,” said Mr Baxter.

“The Climate Council’s Clean Jobs Plan has identified 76,000 jobs that could get people back to work now and tackle long term problems like climate change,” he said.

Why add fuel to the fire?

By Gavan McFadzean, ACF

While the rest of the world races to renewables, the Morrison Government is stuck in a time warp, trying to prop up the ageing gas and coal industries with public money.

On 15 September 2020 they announced $52.9 million in public funding for the gas industry. And then they revealed a plan to weaken our brightest renewable funds – the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) – to let them splash cash into fossil fuels.

Investors won’t back gas – neither should Australian taxpayers.

Our Government is pandering to gas lobbyists like Nev Power, who heads up the National COVID-19 Commission. Gas corporations are big donors and powerful voices with the Morrison Government.

It’s dodgy. And dangerous. Because if fully unleashed, Australia’s gas resources could be responsible for up to three times the annual carbon emissions of the entire world.

As climate change fueled wildfires rage through the US, it’s time for climate action – not adding fossil fuel to the fire.

Independent representatives in our Parliament are powerful voices for public policy in the public interest. They do a great job in holding the government accountable. Their voices and their votes will be critical in the next three months as we work to keep our brightest renewable energy funds clean – and stop the Coalition giving public money to their mates in gas!

Here are two quick things you can do right now:

Sign the petition to Independent MPs Helen Haines, Zali Steggall, Rebecca Sharkie and Andrew Wilkie, and crossbench Senators Rex Patrick, Stirling Griff and Jacqui Lambie.

Donate to power this vital campaign as the Morrison Government ramps up it’s disastrous gas-led agenda. This work is only possible with independent, community funding.

ACF is putting forward a positive agenda of how to create the world we want.

Like our 20-step plan to help people recover with future-proof jobs, rebuild our economy to make Australia climate and nature positive, and renew our energy system so it’s clean and renewable.

And as the gas lobby pushes their last ditch effort to twist public policy for their own benefit, the world is changing fast around us.

If US presidential candidate Joe Biden is successful, his plan to establish the USA as a global leader in stopping climate damage would change the story big time.

I take hope from the determined School Strike 4 Climate leaders, diligently planning for the 25 September Day of Action, calling on the Government to fund their future, not gas.

And from eight courageous young Australians using their legal rights to bring a class action against the Federal Environment Minister over the proposed Vickery coal mine extension.

We see that community and decision-makers can act decisively, innovatively, and together, to get the future right.

The next three months will be critical as our Parliament decides whether to ramp up renewables, or lock in decades of burning gas.

Let’s encourage Independents in the House of Representatives to use their voices to speak up for the public interest, as they have on so many important issues.

And let’s encourage Independents in the Senate to use their votes to protect our clean energy funds, as they have in the past.

Thank you for all that you continue to do,


Gavan McFadzean
Climate Change and Clean Energy Program Manager

P.S. As the Morrison Government tries to lock us into decades of burning gas, it’s more important than ever that we use our expertise and our voices to champion a renewable recovery. This critical work is only possible with independent funding. Please donate today to ensure that we’re fully funded and ready to act as the Morrison Government ramps up its disastrous gas-led agenda.

ACF: Energy plan fails to move away from fossil fuels

ACF: Weapons of gas destruction: lifting the lid on gas emissions

ACF: Gas-fired backfire: bad for jobs, bad for tax revenue, bad for the climate

The Guardian: Gas companies say they are working with Covid commission and expect federal support soon

The Sydney Morning Herald: Morrison to back construction of new gas-fired power station

ABC News: Some of Australia’s top firefighters are heading to California to face wildfires – and COVID-19

ACF: Recover, Rebuild, Renew: Let’s make things right for people and our country

The Age: Biden’s radical climate change plan could overturn the world’s efforts

School Strike 4 Climate Australia: September 25 – fund our future not gas

The Conversation: These Aussie teens have launched a landmark climate case against the government. Win or lose, it’ll make a difference Is Scott Morrison’s gas plan a good idea for Australia?

The Conversation: Morrison signs up to the gas gospel, but the choir is not in tune

The Guardian: Scott Morrison’s ‘gas-led recovery’: what is it and will it really make energy cheaper?

→ Michael West – 15 September 2020:
Gas Gush: the toadies of mainstream media trot out government’s fossil fuel fracking campaign
“Gas fracking and a new fossil fuel power plant got a big leg-up today as News Corp, Nine Entertainment, ABC News and Guardian Australia faithfully splashed with the latest government gas plan on their front pages today.”

→ The Conversation – 25 August 2020:
4 reasons why a gas-led economic recovery is a terrible, naïve idea
“Australia’s leading scientists today sent an open letter to Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, speaking out against his support for natural gas.”

→ The Australia Institute:
Report: ‘Gas Fired Backfire – Why a “gas fired recovery” would increase emissions and energy costs and squander Australia’s COVID-19 recovery spending.’