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The Gas Op Ed that The West won’t Publish

5 April 2024

The West regularly publishes opinion pieces by politicians including one by me on planning, transport, Australia Day and other issues.  But here’s one that they won’t publish despite running pro-gas op-eds on a regular basis. Why would that be?!

On what feels like a weekly basis, West Australian politicians can be heard pushing for more gas, claiming it’s a necessary transition fuel.

Last week was no exception, with Madeline King in the Weekend West stating, once again, that “… we can only make the transition [to net zero] with the support of gas”.

An inconvenient truth for these politicians is that while gas as a transition fuel might have made sense a decade ago, today, it’s largely industry spin.

While in 2013 gas was believed to be 50% less polluting than coal, recent research shows that gas can be as bad as coal for global warming.

A decade ago, new gas was the cheapest way to make electricity. In 2024 renewable energy is now the cheapest form of new energy.

Gas is no longer a transition fuel. It needs to be transitioned out, not expanded.

The first reason for this is a big one: we can’t burn all the gas fossil fuel companies want to extract and also have a safe climate – it is one or the other.

Despite this, there are regular claims by fossil fuel executives, mimicked by the WA politicians, that a major expansion of gas will be an essential part of the clean energy transition. While some gas will be required, it will be in steadily declining amounts if we are to get the clean energy transition right.

Gas should also be phased down because it’s more expensive than renewable energy alternatives. Solar PV is now 90% cheaper than it was a decade ago when Premier Colin Barnett first talked up WA’s gas as a transition fuel. On-shore wind produces electricity 70% cheaper than a decade ago.

When gas is promoted as a transition fuel, what is it transitioning to? If it’s renewable energy, then why wait? Wind and solar PV with battery storage are already the cheapest forms of electricity – cheaper than new gas.  New gas generation will not be necessary if we invest sufficiently in renewable energy and storage.

The WA Government’s modelling has shown that our SW Grid can reach 84% renewable energy by 2030 and 96% renewable energy by 2042 with the right renewable energy and storage investments.

Just as new gas will not be required in WA’s energy system, it will not be required in most parts of the world. In direct contrast to the assertions of Woodside and the WA Premier, the CSIRO has shown increasing Australian gas supply to Asia could delay Asia’s shift to cleaner renewable energy and lead to higher emissions. WA gas is not helping Asia lower its emissions, it is keeping it hooked on fossil fuels.

The head of the International Energy Agency recently said the world is at the ‘beginning of the end’ of the fossil fuel era. If we are to achieve the agreed goal of keeping warming to 1.5 degrees then fossil fuel demand needs to be driven down by 25% by 2030.

It has become clear that the only thing expanding gas is transitioning us to is an unsafe climate for our kids and grandkids.  Time to leapfrog it to cheaper, zero-emissions renewable energy.


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