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The Gas Cabal Exposed

By David C. Paull

This government’s championing of a ‘gas-lead recovery’ for Australia in response to the COVID-19 pandemic sounds reasonable and pro-active to many in the public. But the blue-print for this Plan goes back further several years and as this article will show, was borne out of a desire by the gas sector to stay relevant amid growing evidence of harm to communities and the environment by this sector. The COVID-19 crisis and the economic hit Australia has endured has provided the perfect cover for this Plan to be dusted off, refined and rolled out for public consumption with the glitter of government sanction. But in doing so the Gas Cabal has revealed themselves in this last attempt to hijack the economy.

As previous revelations have shown, corruption lurks at the core of the gas sector who seem to have been the favoured child by Australian politicians and economists since they opened up the onshore Queensland gas-fields. From the start the mantra has been ‘gas is clean’, ‘gas is a transition fuel from coal’, ‘gas provides jobs and infrastructure for regions’. The fact we have now two ex-gas sector heavies parachuted into the Climate Change Authority does not change the growing amount of evidence of the profound impacts the sector has on greenhouse emissions – but is a revealing move.

Grant King has spent most of his time leading onshore gas development in Queensland with the Australian Pacific LNG joint venture, as head of Origin until he resigned in 2016. Before that he spent time with AGL, Boral and Contact Energy, APPEA (the leading lobby group for the gas sector), and the Energy Supply Association of Australia (who later rebranded as the Energy Users Association, in the minds of the Gas Cartel, users and suppliers are the same thing). King then took up the position as President of the Business Council of Australia (BCA), which he held to his recent appointment, at one point leading its ‘Infrastructure and Sustainable Growth Committee’. This committee was heavy with representatives from gas, aluminium and infrastructure companies, such as Origin, Santos, APA, AGL, Shell, BP, BG Group, Lend Lease and some of their financial backers, HSBC, Meryll Lynch and Macquarie Group.

There is no report from this committee available and any links are no longer found on the BCA website, but the composition of this committee indicate a likely intention to link Australia’s economic development with a growing gas sector.

But what about the greenhouse credentials of gas? Here’s where our second parachute into the Climate Change Authority comes in, Susie Smith. Like King, Smith has been a long-term employee of the gas industry in Australia, holding positions with Santos, more recently as their ‘Manager of Climate Change and Sustainability’ and has been the CEO of the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network (AIGN) since March 2017, a mainly gas sector lobby group. Prior to this she was the Chairperson, representing Santos for over 13 years with the Association. Their goal is to ensure that their sector is a key player in any policy debate on energy and climate change and that Australia and business in Australia require a ‘differential’ and ‘fair’ approach to meeting carbon abatement targets.

Of course, even better if you can actually provide significant carbon abatement measures which would help justify a future use for gas. Such is the contention from Smith and King, who co-incidentally, co-authored a report only last year for the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, as part of an expert panel convened to look specifically at additional sources of ‘low cost abatement.’

And they found them, but not without a significant cost. What is being proposed is a ‘goal orientated co-investment program’, in other words, industry with its hand out. Remarkable when you consider the low levels of tax paid, royalty holidays and levels of public subsidy that has been thrown at this sector over the years. What technologies are we looking at? You don’t have to go through the report far to see the key examples they site are carbon capture and storage, industrial process heating and ‘hydrogen fuels for heavy vehicles’. And you don’t have to have a crystal ball to see that these sentiments are likely to be soon coming from our re-vamped Climate Change Authority. But what we won’t be hearing is the industry’s desire to greenwash their figures on fugitive emissions or their desire to avoid taking Scope 3 emissions into account.

King and Smith are trusted operators for the big players in the gas sector who have major expansions planned in the Northern Territory and Queensland, but the other cohort of gas up-and-comers are also being looked after. Particularly through Neville Power’s appointment to the COVID-19 Commission, now looking more like an unaccountable quasi-arm of government. His gas exploration company Strike Energy is one of several relative newcomers to the sector, such as Beach Energy and pipeline operators wanting to get a foothold like Vista and Epic. These companies are desperate for more greenfield onshore development or their future will be very short. Beach Energy is probably confident of getting some results, due in part to the ownership by Kerry Stokes, someone who is used to getting what he wants.

The COVID-19 Committee’s gas recovery plan owes a lot to that other special advisor, Australian and corporate idol, Andrew Nicholas Liveris AO. His appointment as a global trotting special energy and economic advisor to the both the Obama and Trump administrations and the Saudi King gave him all the credentials he needed to be picked by the Prime Minister. He is also Vice-chair of the Worley Services board, one of the biggest mining and petroleum service providers in the world, a company likely to benefit from any gas recovery.

His messages to the world are what made his Dow Chemical Company a corporate leader; diversify, value-add and cut regulation. Messages well received in Australia, as this is what it will take to make gas appear more rational, feed into other industries like bricks and cement, fertilizer and hydrogen production, despite each with its own level of additional greenhouse emissions.

Dow Chemical was also contracted to write an energy futures discussion paper by the US Study Centre in 2018. For those who don’t know the US Study Centre is subsidized by the American Australian Association, a pro-American business lobby, set up in 1948 by Sir Keith Murdoch, the same year he also helped set up the Institute of Public Affairs. Among other big names like Pratt and Murdoch we find Mr Liveris, currently a patron of the Association. The paper states in relation to Australia’s future energy market:

“… Institutional arrangements and property rights, free markets, infrastructure development and regulatory and policy settings all play an important role. The architecture of Australian’s energy markets also require reform, if not transformation. Get the institutional and policy settings right, and the market will transform physical abundance into economic abundance and put downward pressure on energy prices and emissions.”

That is of course assuming vast amounts of new gas are opened up, not that there should be any impairment if we follow the Trump lead and demolish environmental regulation completely. What this paper doesn’t mention are the environmental, social and greenhouse costs, but then again neither does the Morrison Government.

Looks like this is it. The Gas Cabal’s final roll of the dice, and it couldn’t be any more stacked in their favour. But Australia isn’t the US, quite yet, arguably, they are too late to save the gas sector from impending market collapse and despite all the rhetoric, it is looking increasingly like the gas emperor has no clothes in this rapidly changing energy sector.

 

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12 comments

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  1. Graham

    Grant King is to head the “gas led recovery” cabal? This is the same Grant King who a few years back wrote a piece in the AFR saying that an increase in growth from two to three percent over an X period represented at 30 percent increase in growth.

    As I pointed in my letter to the AFR, it is comforting to know that everything will be ok if we just follow the advice of maths gurus like King.

  2. Phil Pryor

    The plodding persistence of a profiteering executive is an uncivilised approach to selection for sense. G King is and always was interested in some efficiency, productivity, results, as long as a financial return is assured, No other requirement usually occurs to blinkered busy functionaries, as a career is orthodox success. A mere hint that he might contribute to murdering future generations, perhaps his descendents, is not up and clear to the limited “now” thinker. Plenty of former slave owners, crims, madams, drug dealers, weapons manufacturers, coal excess users, etc, fill the memorials and graveyards. If you focus, think, assess, use foresight, you might see why there are no memorials to Cromwell in Ireland, or of Hitler in Israel. Their low abominable criminality is clear to the less able thinker. So, is a gas mad executive profit pusher a future crim and crook? (think about, say, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Rothschilds, Jay Gould, Krupp, Rhodes, etc.) That might be harsh, but even now, we are seeing Petroleum barons like the Koch’s as less than decent, honest, human. Profit, stance, pose, preferment, notice, and more profit banking up (hello Caymans) is the way for the financial fixated fantasist and fixer. G King and this rotten government’s policies will do nothing for our future that is decent, honest, human. Our environment is poor, diminishing, threatened, fragile, vulnerable…

  3. Harry Lime

    Why is it that the wealthy and shifty invariably have a countenance that induces a feeling of repulsion.The photo at the top for example.Wealth would appear to imbue those that have an indecent pile with omniscience,and attract the camp followers like the Liar who believe the bullshit.It is axiomatic that salespeople are often the most easily gulled.

  4. Kaye Lee

    So today, Anthony Albanese is in WA as a “guest” of Woodside, Australia’s largest natural gas producer, talking about the “critical role” Woodside plays in the Australian economy.

    “Contributing to jobs, contributing to powering our country, but powering other countries as well, and contributing important revenue that goes towards schools and hospitals and services, playing such a critical role in our national economy.

    Of course Woodside, as well, have a commitment to reducing emissions and we have been talking with them today about their plans. Woodside is one of the companies that has committed to net zero emissions by 2050 and has a plan…”

    But there are problems with the ABC24’s audio at the event, so Albanese’s infomercial for the gas and coal sector comes to an untimely end.

    As Mr Creosote would say, better get a bucket

  5. Michael Taylor

    I’m disappointed to hear that from Albanese, Kaye.

    Labor is losing me since he took over.

  6. DrakeN

    Michael T, Labor lost me when Paul Keating became treasurer – he with the cashmere suits, silk shirts and expensive antique French clocks.
    His Industrial measures and heavily high income biased Superannuation schemes clearly indicated a failure of cognisance of living conditions of the the poorer 55% of the population.

  7. Phil Pryor

    G King, one of many grafting, grabbing, ignorant clowns, clapped out cruds, corporate crooked claws for cash and preferment, position, pose, status, notice, is effectively a murdering swine of ignorance and backwardness, unable to focus on climate problems emerging now, with huge storms, boulders, rains, damages, destruction, family crisis, wastage, impoverishment, distress, immense loss, houses ruined, lives threatened… GREEDY ARSEHOLE. (one among so many who never ever care)

  8. Matters Not

    MT – Albo’s aim/goal/mission/strategy/tactic is to be the PM after the next election. For that to happen, he believes
    Morrison must lose because that’s the safest route to power, generally speaking.

    He witnessed Shorten lose by over-reaching and he’s seeing a repeat with Morrison.

    To-night’s 4 Corners coupled with any number of videos and articles from Michael West Media present an expose of what is really going on with energy policy in Australia but one wonders how many citizens are paying close attention? Probably very few!

    One of the outcomes of schools in Australia is (supposedly) active and informed citizenship but the evidence is it’s been a monumental failure here and elsewhere. People seem content to just howl at the moon or mouth childish epithets.

  9. Canguro

    MN, the critical question of citizens paying attention and being active & informed and the supposition that these aspects of alertness are monumental failures is somewhat moot, and my concern is that for all its successes as a nation-building exercise and the opportunities afforded to millions who otherwise may never have had them, the post-war immigration program has birthed a fragmented country, city-based, multiple in language & credo & interest, and that the consequences are that as a nation we are and will forever remain unable to speak with one voice. Where we should as the polls come around in their three or four-year cycles vote with appropriately huge swings manifesting the righteous discontent with the egregious malfeasance of (usually) the LNP, instead we get a 51/49 result or similar.

    I don’t know the answer. Life’s tough, double incomes and preoccupations with job preservation, paying the bills, raising the kids, socialising within one’s set and so on appear to leave little time for deep understanding of the political landscape and voting mindlessly is easier than chewing over the bigger picture. I suspect a large proportion of the migrant community have little idea just how awful this current government is.

  10. Kaye Lee

    I was speaking to a couple of friends the other day. They both work and still have kids at school. Smart women who do care about what goes on in an uninformed way.

    I was explaining our emissions reduction – that the first goal was to INCREASE emissions by up to 8%, and that we only JUST met our second goal of decreasing emissions by a paltry 5%, that we changed the base year to 2005 to make our reductions look bigger for the next goal, that the vast majority of our claimed reductions came from allowing us to claim not clearing as much land as we could as a reduction etc etc – they were OUTRAGED. Why doesn’t the public know about this they cried.

    Sigh…..

  11. Harry Lime

    Four Corners last night confirmed what everybody(?) here knows,that the government are merely the political arm of the fossil fuel felons.Appearing on behalf of the defendants we had a line up of shills ,liars and shape shifters.The Liveris bloke would fit straight into a Godfather movie,and Bucketmouth Taylor was his execrable, lying self.This bullshit ,should it continue,will bring this country down.
    Meanwhile,for a time honoured distraction,the dogs of war are barking.Are Cheney and Rumsfeld still touting for the arms’ industry’?
    To add to the chaos,the much vaunted management skills of the Liar’s party is on life support.

  12. DrakeN

    My next door neighbours called in to check that we were all OK after they heard us screaming and shouting – we had to apologise for the fact that we’d may so much noise yelling at the TV during that 4 Corners programme.
    Dirty, stinking, lying Earth destroying bastards, the lot of them.

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