Energy security and climate change have been the two issues dominating the headlines in regards to Australian energy policy; the debate is largely split down the lines of party politics, with little real conversation possible.
Recent global events have exposed the vulnerability of European countries that have sacrificed their own energy sovereignty for the sake of appeasing green ideology.
Australia is on the precipice of an energy security crisis, affecting not just household prices but imperiling nationally significant industries, threatening our very own national security.
Central to this looming energy security crisis has been the misguided and polarised thinking when it comes to the role that gas, specifically shale gas, should play in Australia’s future.
Shale gas production and hitting cleaner energy goals are not mutually exclusive; on the contrary, evidence demonstrates that shale gas production is crucial to reducing carbon emissions.
The loudest political voices, namely the Greens and their activist wings, are demanding the new Albanese Government end all future approvals for new coal, oil and gas developments in Australia. This irresponsible and illogical position is more akin to a simplistic bumper-sticker campaign than a genuine strategic insight to sustainably lowering carbon emissions.
Australia’s Northern Territory sits upon one of the world’s largest low- CO2 shale gas reserves. Now is the opportune moment to accelerate production from the ultra-low CO2 shale gas resource in the Beetaloo Basin to give us environmental and energy solutions that our future demands.
The technology and infrastructure needed to deliver it is proven, optimised and primed, and capital markets are ready to support this venture.
Activists oppose gas simply because it is a fossil fuel but fail to consider that all fossil fuel resources are not created equal.
Firstly, there is the CO2 make-up of Beetaloo shale gas itself. The gas that Tamboran plans to commercialise has CO2 levels of 3-4 percent of. This compares to 13-15 percent of gas from many local offshore gas projects and the Cooper Basin.
Secondly, there is capacity for largescale reduction in carbon emissions through the immediate switch from coal to gas.
We need look no further than to Germany, as the “canary in the coal mine”, who having doubled down strongly on renewables were left highly exposed by the shifting implications on having relied almost exclusively on Russian imports to fulfill its gas needs. It has now been forced into the ultimate irony – to turn back to coal-fired power production, and polluting brown coal at that.
My experience, having worked in the United States shale industry, has made me resolute in my belief about the central role shale gas has to play in the reduction of global emissions.
A study in the United States provides a perfect natural experiment for what has worked, and what has not, when it comes to emissions reduction and the central role played by shale gas.
By some considerable margin, the largest shale gas basin to reach production in the United States is the Marcellus Shale, a resource spread across the states of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and New York. It is also the geological formation that most closely resembles the deep and ancient shale found in the Beetaloo.
Buckling to the activists, New York state chose to ban fracking while the other three nearby states positively embraced it.
According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Shale Revolution of 2005 to 2019, Ohio and Pennsylvania achieved the first and second largest reductions in carbon emissions of any US state from 2005 to 2019.
In fact, during this period Pennsylvania became the second largest natural gas producing state in the country, reducing its emissions by roughly three times that of Massachusetts and more than two times that of California. Ohio, another state benefitting from shale gas, reduced its emissions by an equivalent amount.
Remarkably, even the tiny 1.8 million population in West Virginia reduced their emissions in absolute terms by more than the 40 million environmentally-conscious residents of California.
The states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia reduced their emissions from 2005 to 2019 alone by roughly the same amount as Germany’s Energiewende (Energy Transition) project.
The project is considered the most aggressive and costly renewables project on the planet and cost German taxpayers at least 160 billion Euro between 2015 and 2019. It has since been deemed a massive failure.
Unlike in Germany, US industry and consumers have continued to access some of the cheapest energy prices in the developed world both before and after the most recent energy shock since the war in Ukraine and the resultant restrictions on Russian gas.
We all know that gross emissions are largely proportional to gross domestic product, and it’s the massive manufacturing economies of Japan, South Korea, China and India where we can have an oversized impact.
Assisting the acceleration of their domestic energy transitions from dirty coal to cleaner gas will have a far greater impact on global emissions reduction than stifling Australia’s natural competitive advantage. This strategic approach aligns perfectly with the calls from our partners in Japan and South Korea to secure new supplies of LNG, which is their number one priority in the current geopolitical environment.
Australia now has the opportunity to both safeguard our domestic energy security while contributing significantly to global decarbonisation. This conversation is too important to derailed by reductionist political sloganeering.
Australia deserves better.