Sunday, 13 November 2016

Australian natural gas lobby groups caught lathering up the soft soap

The Guardian, 9 November 2016:

A coalition of natural gas lobby groups are planning a coordinated campaign to convince Australians gas is “a long-term necessity”, top industry lobbyists have revealed.

They also disclosed plans to undermine government attempts to regulate sections of the industry that have been identified by the competition watchdog for price gouging by offering the federal environment minister “something he can announce” – but which would not amount to regulation.

The president of the Australian Pipeline and Gas Association, Shaun Reardon, told a meeting of the gas industry in Perth last month that the industry had agreed on a message to sell to the public, the industry website Energy News Bulletin reported.

“Our objective is to have gas acknowledged as a long-term necessity by policymakers and the public,” Reardon was reported as saying.

The chief executive of gas association, Cheryl Cartwright, told Guardian Australia that representatives of each of the industry lobby groups had “agreed to a united view regarding gas”.
Cartwright said the industry needed to “improve the public perception of natural gas”.

“Basically, we represent the gas industry,” she said. “Natural gas is an important part of the energy mix as we encourage Australia to reduce carbon emissions. It’s cleaner burning than coal, and is an appropriate back-up fuel for renewable energy sources.”

A report released last month found unmeasured “fugitive emissions” from the gas industry were likely to be as big as those emitted by the entire transport sector. Since fugitive emissions are rarely measured, they are not properly accounted for, and could jeopardise any attempt to meet emissions reduction pledges made in Paris.

If fugitive emissions from the coal seam gas industry in Australia were anywhere near what they are in the US, coal seam gas would be worse for the climate than coal.

Cartwright said the industry should fight attempts to regulate gas pipelines. In April the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found evidence that “a large number of pipeline operators have been engaging in monopoly pricing”.

The ACCC pointed out that other countries, such as New Zealand and the US, imposed much stronger regulation. Since pipelines are natural monopolies, they are able to dictate prices.
“It is well recognised in these jurisdictions that pipelines can wield substantial market power even where producers and users have a number of transportation options,” the ACCC said.

Cartwright told the conference the federal minister for the environment and energy, Josh Frydenberg, had told her he wanted to regulate gas pipelines.

“Minister Frydenberg actually said to me, quote, ‘I know supply needs to be addressed but we’re going to fix pipelines first,’’’ Cartwright was reported saying in Energy News Bulletin.

“Basically, they are convinced there is something wrong and they want to be able to make an announcement,” Cartwright reportedly said.

Cartwright told the gas industry meeting they needed to give Frydenberg “something to announce”.

“So this is what we are up against,” she said. “Not only do we need to fight back, we have to do it in a way that gives them something to announce and actually I think we can do it.”…..

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