Australian gas industry goes on advertising blitz to counter community concerns

 

Intro

With the Federal election looming, The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) has launched a new $5 million advertising campaign to drum up public and political support to counteract successful pushback in farming communities, cut “green tape” and allow faster expansion of coal seam gas extraction projects. Like the campaign around the Mining Tax, the blitz has been described as a “scare-campaign”, with vested interests and foreign companies trying to protect future profits at the expense of local communities, critical farming land, and water supplies. As support for coal continues to wane globally, the gas industry is increasingly putting itself forward as the “environmental” fuel to take its place. While some argue that gas is necessary as a bridging fuel, others argue that there are too many uncertainties about fugitive leaks during gas extraction. However, renewable development remains the way forward for achieving necessary greenhouse gas emissions reductions and economic growth. Particularly considering localised environmental impacts plague gas developments.

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RT @DrewHutton1: Uni of Qld research shows replacing #coal with #csg will not reduce greenhouse emissions @LockTheGate @kangabella http://t.co/3CfRlQfLH9

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Lock the Gate Alliance petition: http://www.lockthegate.org.au/pledge

Key Points

  • The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association’s new $5 million advertising campaign is attempting to paint gas development projects as integral to Australia’s economic and environmental future. However, similar to the mining industry ad blitz around the Mining Tax, this is a scare-campaign at its heart that aims to bolster the profits of international companies at the expense of Australia’s land, water, and farming communities. It is a pushback against the successful “Lock the Gate” campaign waged against CSG by farmers and environmentalists across Australia. The office of NSW’s Chief Scientists has also confirmed wide-ranging community concerns about CSG.
  • Gas companies are quick to claim they are the best chance for Australia to “meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions”, but the jury is still out on the extent of fugitive emissions from coal seam gas extraction.  Renewable energy is actually the country’s best chance to reduce emissions while promoting job growth. In the US for example, Renewable power provides three times more jobs than coal or gas, and promotes energy security rather than leaving the country at the mercy of fossil fuel market prices.
  • The fossil fuel industry likes to pretend it is the only sector providing jobs and prosperity in Australia, but the reality is the vast majority of its profits go to overseas companies, into the pockets of mining magnates, and only to a relatively small number of Australian workers.

Background

In a move reminiscent of the mining industry’s advertising blitz against the Mining Tax, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) has launched a new $5 million advertising campaign to garner public and political support for industry expansion.

With its campaign, APPEA is warning that approval delays, “green tape”, rising labour costs and “anti-gas misinformation” are risking 150,000 new jobs and $40 billion in annual exports. However, the Lock The Gate Alliance has described the move as a “re-hashed scare campaign that is both misleading and insulting to Australians trying to protect their land and water” from coal seam gas (CSG).

The lost jobs claim is arguably spurious, as is APPEA’s claim to have increased employment by 100,000 in the last year alone. A job must be created before it can be lost, and the surging growth of renewable energy in Australia proves that job growth is not purely the domain of extractive industries. And according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data highlighted by The Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss in the AFR (paywalled), the oil and gas industry only employs 24,700 people, and there was an increase of just 7,600 jobs in the last year – a far cry from the 100,000 claimed.

With this campaign the industry is also pushing its environmental credentials, saying that it represents “Australia’s most meaningful and most affordable response to climate change”. While gas is seen as a transitional fuel by some, including the World Bank given it has now abandoned coal investments, there are huge potential risks posed by fugitive emissions – and industry is doing its best to ignore more localised impacts on environment, water and communities.

A University of Queensland Global Change Institute study released this week found that a shift from coal-fired to gas-fired power generation will not significantly lower carbon dioxide emissions. “A mix of large-scale renewable energy generation, including solar and wind, together with consumer action to use power more efficiently, will deliver the most resilient Australian power market by 2035,” said the author, Professor John Foster.

$150 billion worth of resource projects were stalled last year, and APPEA claims that the Australian economy can’t afford for that to happen again. Drew Hutton, President of the Lock The Gate Alliance, on the other hand, says Australia “can’t afford to let a short term, profit-focused industry ruin our farmland, pollute our water, threaten our health and divide our communities”.

Yet, while the industry claims a lack of political support, the reality is Federal and State Governments remain behind extractive industries in general. The Newman Government, for example, is slashing environmental protections on many fronts, and is pushing ahead with plans to undo wild rivers protection, opening up the Channel Country to coal seam gas exploration.

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Key quotes

“The CSG companies are trying to scare the Australian people into submission – vilifying farmers who stand up against them and demanding that they have unfettered access to our best farmland and water resources. This APPEA campaign is basically trying to undermine our democratic processes by throwing buckets of money into advertising in the lead-up to the Federal election. What APPEA won’t tell us in their $5M advertising spend is that the vast majority of profits they produce go to overseas shareholders. [It also] won’t tell us about the negative impacts that CSG has on other industries – how they are costing our agriculture and tourism sectors millions of dollars each year.” President of Lock The Gate Alliance Drew Hutton.

“There are a lot of people running in the upcoming election on an anti-gas platform. People who say no to natural gas are really saying no to tens of thousands of new jobs. They’re saying no to Australia’s most meaningful and most affordable response to climate change. And they’re saying no to the next wave of economic growth and economic opportunity that so many Australians are out there looking for right now.” Director of External Affairs at APPEA, Michael Bradley.

“The centrepiece of a modern advertising campaign for a vested interest is to shift the focus away from private profit and onto the national interest. And the best way for foreign owned resource companies to appear concerned with the Australian national interest, their polling tells them, is to talk about jobs.” The Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss (paywalled).

“The Channel Country’s wild rivers are some of the last free flowing rivers in the world and hold significant cultural value for indigenous groups – they are no place for coal seam gas mining, which produces masses of salty wastewater and can cause land subsidence and groundwater depletion and contamination.” Australian Greens Senator Larissa Waters.

Related Tree alerts

More tweets

  • MT @7NewsSydney: #NSW chief scientist hands down report into #CSG Industry faces ‘significant challenges’ http://t.co/fvRpYdxzRt #NSWpol
  • MT @DrewHutton1: Just spoke to 40 Oz superannuation companies re #csg & #shale gas. Msg: CSG is a huge risk & has no social licence #auspol
  • MT @larissawaters: Qld wild rivers protection could go- @theqldpremier to put #CSG ahead traditional owner’s wishes? http://t.co/8yJO7gXCVm
  • RT @VenetaChapple: Interesting reading in @FinanciaReview 2day. Richard Denniss @TheAusInstitute: “Industry ad campaign light on truth.” #ouradvantage #csg