Putin’s war in Ukraine has driven up the price of Australian coal and gas. Despite the shift beginning around to world to renewables there are still enormous profits to be made. Metallurgical coal exports are expected to increase this year from $23 billion to $50 billion, and thermal coal from $16 billion to $35 billion. LNG (gas) exports are also expected to increase from $30 billion to $65 billion.
This gives added impetus to Scott Morrison’s National Gas Infrastructure Plan released late last year, which seeks to open “at least one new basin” before 2030, flagging the Narrabri gas project, Beetaloo sub-basin, Galilee basin and North Bowen basin as “critical” to be unlocked.
The Liberals argue there is a looming gas shortfall in the domestic market to help justify this expansion.
But the demand for gas on the east coast of Australia is expected to “flatline or decline” in coming years. It could be reduced further through a shift to electrification of domestic needs like heating and cooking. This could be part of a just transition from fossil fuels to 100 per cent publicly owned renewable energy.
Instead, the Liberals are pumping millions of dollars into new gas projects like the Kurri Kurri power plant, which will create just ten jobs once running and will lead to more expensive electricity prices than solar or wind.
Morrison’s gas plan should be seen for what it is: an effort to prop up the profits of fossil fuel giants and an outright refusal to reduce emissions, despite the increasing frequency and severity of climate disasters like the recent floods.
Meanwhile, Labor has announced it will not only support constructing the Kurri Kurri plant but will pledge an additional $700 million on top of the $600 million already slated. Further, since 2020, Labor has supported the development of new gas projects such as Narrabri, toeing the Liberal line that “NSW needs the gas”.
While Labor is ahead in the polls, we cannot rely on the federal election to provide the climate action we need. Instead, the climate movement shows the way forward with demands including 100 per cent public renewables by 2030, a just transition, and no new coal or gas projects.
These demands hold out the potential to involve workers in climate action. Late last year, the electricians’ union, the ETU, indicated it might refuse to work on the Narrabri gas project.
Combined with the Climate Strike movement, this is the kind of power that can strip the fossil-fuel capitalists of their profits and force real change.
By Rory Larkins