Call to cut exports, not follow ‘wrong’ future gas plan

Australia needs a reality check on the future of gas with a tougher reservation policy to serve domestic needs as the industry shrinks, a climate body says.

Opening up new gas fields, as recommended under a federal strategy for gas production beyond 2050, does not stack up economically or for the climate, a report released on Wednesday has found.

Starting a “managed decline” of gas exports would enable Australia to take control of its economic future with new clean industries and quarantine enough supply for dwindling local demand, the Climate Council recommended.

“This is the real future gas strategy that Australia needs,” spokeswoman Jennifer Rayner said, dismissing the federal plan for the industry as the “long, strong and wrong” trajectory.

The community-run council also warned against the coalition’s plans for a prolonged reliance on coal and gas-fired electricity if it wins the 2025 election.

“This idea that gas can play a really large role in a decarbonising energy system or in a decarbonising economy more generally is simply not the case,” Dr Rayner said.

“Gas is a dangerous fossil fuel … it is important to recognise that it is and can be just as polluting as coal.”

As the highest priority, Australia could “leapfrog gas” by switching directly from coal to solar and wind through electrification and fuel switching, she said.

Supply from existing fields through to 2035 could meet the country’s needs for more than six decades, with gas serving a small and shrinking role in Australia’s energy mix, the report found.

Expanding clean energy capacity this decade could limit gas to a small residual “firming” role in the electricity grid and halve its use in homes and businesses.

“Uncontracted gas should not be able to be sold on the international spot market unless all Australian demand has been met,” Dr Rayner said.

Most of Australia’s gas has been sold to Japan, South Korea and China as liquefied natural gas (LNG) but lower-cost producers such as Qatar and the United States are tipped to become the “first choice”.

The gas industry was also urged to stop “guzzling” its product in Queensland’s LNG industry, Chevron’s hub in Western Australia and Santos’ Moomba plant in South Australia.

Gas used for processing could be slashed by three-quarters by electrifying LNG liquefaction in the “make or break” decade for cutting emissions, the report said.

Gas export terminals use more gas than power stations and almost three times as much gas as Australian households.


Marion Rae
(Australian Associated Press)

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