I’ve never understood rugby league, but have seen enough State of Origin matches to know there is something special about the way you play the game. They say you are a captain’s captain, a leader’s leader: the fast-as-lighting country boy who would be king.
So I am distancing myself from my Queensland brothers and sisters in writing this letter. But I wouldn’t be writing it if you hadn’t already distanced yourself from your followers.
An obvious question: how much were you paid to give your face and your voice to endorse Origin Energy's Australia Pacific coal seam gas (CSG) project?
To be honest, I thought they would have tried harder to disguise this wasn’t an honest fact-finding mission that you went about out of the goodness of your heart.
In a series of videos, called “Darren Lockyer’s Journey” — as if there were something transformative about spending a handful of afternoons shaking hands with industry representatives — you learn all about CSG, what it is and how it’s produced. Though you are spared the numbers, you learn that hundreds of megalitres of water and millions of tonnes of salt are produced.
You explain that you agreed to help Australia Pacific on one condition, that you see for yourself CSG’s effects on your hometown, Roma.
As you admit, you knew nothing about CSG when you set out, so it’s understandable that you didn’t think to ask for other conditions. Such as, show me more than one town, show me the bubbling rivers, the flammable water; show me the state forests where there are no landowners to slow development; show me Gladstone, the centre of the fossil fuels industry; show me your best, but show me worst.
And if you were so concerned about the CSG industry, wouldn’t it make sense to talk to other people who were concerned about the CSG industry, instead of only industry representatives?
You did speak to one farmer who “works” with CSG. His opinion, which you repeat almost word-for-word, is the only way to grow a successful CSG industry is through cooperation. In other words, easier to go with the flow than dam the river.
But Darren, this is like saying the colonisation of Australia would have proceeded more smoothly if those black fellas hadn’t put up a fight.
Why didn’t you visit the Tara gas field? Here, there are mines from horizon to horizon. And it’s only the beginning: in these oh-so-important years of emissions reductions, with both gas production and coal production set to take upward turns, the number of mines in Tara will grow from 75 within 750 metres to 200 within 400 metres.
This is the whole point: it’s only the beginning. There are 3000 CSG mines in Queensland; within the decade there will be 40,000.
You have been told CSG powers Queensland. If you don’t account for fugitive emissions gas is cleaner than coal two times over. But when production doubles, gas instantly loses its green aura.
And production is not only going to double, but again, and again.
Besides, CSG isn’t for domestic use. Up to 90% of it will travel to Gladstone, one thousand kilometres away. From here, the gas will be shipped over the Great Barrier Reef to China and India where, if as much money were invested in renewable energy as fossil fuels, they could do without.
If CSG were a transition fuel, it would replace coal plants in Asia. If CSG were a transition fuel, exploration would proceed at a walk, not a run. But it’s a rush, Darren, a gas rush, and the million-dollar contributions from CSG companies to communities cannot hide the fact they’re not welcome.
Do you see the irony? A Queensland legend talking about CSG. The unprecedented expansion of the industry has nothing to do with Queensland and everything to do with the displacement of renewable energy, the dispossession of land, the destruction of the environment.
So we’re back to the question of money.
Last year, twelve students from the Australian Student Environment Network (ASEN) road-tripped to Gladstone in an effort to “mine the truth.”
I’ve followed your journey, and I’ve followed theirs. Do you know which makes me prouder to be a Queenslander?
Distance yourself from CSG, Darren, before more Queenslanders distance themselves from you. The ASEN students are making a second trip this year, and I suggest you go with them: an honest fact-finding journey.
The difference is you have pay for your own fuel.