Today retired politician Theo Theophanous weighed in on the pending Victorian onshore gas decision. Not surprisingly, Mr Theophanous is very keen to see onshore gas in Victoria, as he is now a political advisor to Lakes Oil, a company that has several petroleum exploration licences across the state and has already fracked several wells in Gippsland.
Mr Theophanous, also an ex Energy Minister, has a history of championing brown coal, crazy coal-to-diesel projects, carbon capture and storage and even new coal fired plants being built. It seems he’s still stuck in the 20th century.
In his opinion piece, Mr Theophanous says he wants the debate around onshore gasfields to be based in economics and science. The economics show that Victoria is opening itself up to gas export markets, and therefore international gas prices, potentially bringing up everyone’s gas bills by 300%. While there is no shortage of offshore gas, domestic gas demand is expected to drop 50% in the next ten years, the ATA only yesterday showing significant numbers of Victorians switching to electrical appliances to get away from climbing gas prices. The science is telling us unconventional gas carries many risks to the environment, land, water and air. Over a 100-year period, methane is at least 35 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, and more and mores studies are showing fugitive emissions and methane leakage are having a huge impact on global warming.
Mr Theophanous may need to leave his house in Melbourne and visit Western Victoria or Gippsland, where exploration licences cover vast areas of rural Victoria. Grassroots community groups began their fight from their rural towns and brought it all the way to Spring Street. THESE people, Mr Theopanous, are the people it will affect. THESE are the people that will be forced to live in gasfields that will affect their health and environment.
Mr Theophanous has also bought the spin that onshore gas can be extracted in Victoria using only conventional methods. To date, across the Otway Basin 155 wells have been drilled for oil and gas exploration, only 9 resulting in positive readings. Victorians know that any onshore drilling for productive gas, is a search for tight gas and shale gas that will eventually lead to the use of unconventional methods such as horizontal drilling and fracking for extraction. The line between unconventional and conventional is starting to be blurred.
Community groups across Victoria may be angered by Mr Theophanous views. But he is no longer in Parliament, making important decisions for Victorians. The Premier Daniel Andrews and his party are showing strong leadership by not rushing any decision, caving into vested interests, that will have significant lasting affects for rural people and our agricultural economy. A careful approach will ensure the independent energy analysts, concerned scientists and everyday Victorians are listened to. Onshore gas is dangerous, unnecessary and unwanted, and the community has made their decision.