We don't want coal seam gas

September 9, 2011
No to CSG protest rally
No to CSG protest rally. Photo: Peter Boyle

Australia’s media, already saturated with gas and mining company propaganda, are about to be bombarded with more “good news” about coal seam gas (CSG).

A campaign called “We want CSG” was launched on September 4. It includes television, radio, newspaper and online advertisements.

It is backed by some of Australia’s largest energy companies, including AGL, Santos, and Origin Energy, under the banner of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA).

The campaign seems to be a desperate attempt to counter the success of the community campaign against CSG, particularly in Queensland and New South Wales.

The campaign claims to focus on “the investment, jobs, environmental benefits, and enormous opportunities that CSG generates”.

APPEA CEO Rick Wilkinson defended the campaign, saying the industry wants to counter large amounts of disinformation and alarmist reporting.

He said: “This campaign is built on facts and based on the voices of the many Australians, small businesses, and local communities who want the benefits associated with a thriving gas industry.”

He acknowledged the widespread concern farming and environmental groups have voiced about CSG mining, but said the campaign gives supportive locals a voice.

He said activist groups and other critics have ignored the science the industry is based on.

NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham responded to the campaign, saying he doesn’t agree the science is settled on managing the risks of CSG.

“The gas industry seems to think it can spend millions on a slick advertising campaign to paper over the legitimate concerns of farmers and communities about the impacts of CSG on water, agricultural land and the environment,” he told the ABC on September 6.

Buckingham took aim at the federal government for allowing what he says is a compromised CSIRO to take the lead on environmental guidelines.

“I’m very concerned that you’ve got the CSIRO entering into research that’s funded by [gas company] Australian Pacific LNG.

“I think the research should be fully government-funded, so that would remove the perception they could be persuaded one way or the other.”

Australian Greens Senator Larissa Waters has threatened to report any false claims made in the campaign to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

“The fact is it’s not proven that CSG can coexist with agriculture, because we don’t know enough about long-term impacts on connections between underground aquifers,” she said on September 5.

Lock the Gate Alliance president Drew Hutton told AAP that green groups were also working on a TV commercial to counteract the gas companies.

Called “Bigtos CSG”, it is a parody of a Santos advertisement in which a farmer unquestioningly allows CSG mining on his property. But unlike the parody, Santos shows none of the actual impacts of mining.

One recent Galaxy survey found 68% of Australians want CSG operations halted until the long-term health and environmental impacts were known.

Rabobank’s Peter Knoblanche said on September 5 a nationwide survey by the bank showed 52% of farmers thought coal seam gas exploration and extraction was a threat to agriculture, even if it wasn't happening in their region.

In NSW, Rabobank said 62% were worried. In Queensland, the figure was 71%.

Not all miners are on board with CSG. Coalmining magnate Clive Palmer told the ABC on August 27: “Coal seam gas technology currently used in Australia is lethal and will kill Australians, poison our water table and destroy the land.”

However, Palmer insisted: “I don’t think we have anything to worry about coalmining itself”, suggesting his concerns lie in undermining a potential competitor rather than the interests of the community.

Some of the key arguments of the “We want CSG” campaign include:

  • Using more gas for energy can help reduce global CO2 emissions. But anti-CSG campaigners say that if all emissions from CSG are included —from production to end use — then its emissions are similar, if not higher, than burning coal.
  • Regional communities are thriving thanks to the CSG industry. But the danger CSG poses to farm land and aquifers — as well as the fact that the industry has split regional communities — belies the accuracy of that claim.
  • CSG is the most efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Renewable sources of power are not taken into account at all.
  • The CSG industry can and does co-exist with other industries. Farmers in NSW and Queensland deeply dispute this.
  • The CSG industry will help fund the new services and infrastructure needed throughout NSW and Queensland in the decades ahead. It makes no sense to risk poisoning water tables and damaging the health of communities to help pay for infrastructure down the track.

In any case, Australia’s mining companies (and, indeed, big business in general) hardly pay their fair share of tax.

The Australia Institute released a survey on September 8 that asked Australians for their perceptions of mining’s impact on the economy.

The survey said: “Australians believe that the mining sector: employs nine times more workers than it actually does; accounts for three times as much economic activity as it actually does; and is 30% more Australian-owned than it actually is.”

The Institute’s Executive Director Richard Denniss said the mining industry’s expensive advertising campaigns clearly had an impact on people’s perceptions.

“The mining industry likes to portray itself as a big employer, a big taxpayer and a big money maker for Australian shareholders. Yet the reality just doesn't match the rhetoric,” Denniss said.

Stop CSG Illawarra spokesperson Jess Moore told GLW she was confident the “We want CSG” campaign would not sway the public. “This is clearly industry-funded propaganda that doesn’t take up the evidence-based concerns about CSG,” she said.

Video: Bigtos Coal Seam Gas Advertisement - Dayne Frackman Pratzky.


We all need to get behind Lock the Gate as I believe this is one of the biggest issues facing Australia. CSG is a threat to our water and food producing land. Once it is poisoned it is lost forever. Is this the legacy we want to leave to future generations? Anyaa
How do you think CSG will poison the land.. FOUR times more BTEX is producing from Dairy Product manufacturing in Australia then all of the Australian oil and gas extraction industry, search the govt website.. Even more interestingly people cutting their lawn produces 15 times more BTEX than the Australian Oil and Gas extraction Business..Folks like me and you driving our vehicles around produces 150 times more BTEX than all of the Ol and gas extraction business in Australia.. Thi is all availble from theFed Govt... Using emotive words like poisoning is good for publicity but short on facts, and is just hyberole and throw away lines from folks pretending to know.. Explain in some details how exactly CSG is a threat to our water...
Supporting a "lock the gate" campaign is effectively endorsing privatisation of a state resource. This is something to be very concerned about. It might seem to be rooted in the ideology of social justice but it has far reaching consequences. Obviously there is an issue around individuals having the ability to control future state revenue but in addition the concept leads to a situation where (for example) coal mining companies who own vast amounts of land could lock out (carbon-cleaner) gas companies, geothermal explorers, wind developers etc etc. Be careful what you wish for. Private veto rights over state assets is not a wise move.
Have to thoroughly disagree with what is stated in this article about coal vs gas emissions.  First, the extent to which there are fugitive emissions from gas operations is greatly exaggerated.  Second, the amount of fugitive methane emissions released into the atmosphere from digging up coal (ie open cut mining, Clive) is significant. Burning gas instead of coal, will still more than halve potential emissions in other countries (including energy required to export LNG) and if the gas is used locally the emissions cut is even more drastic. It is no coincidence that SAustralia has some of the lowest emissions of any Aus state, and highest gas powered electricity production. As a side effect to this, gas power enables SA to use the most wind and solar power of any state, due to the fast start-up of their gas plants. Blocking gas development is only prolonging coal usage and I hardly think that the readers of this website would support that....
What rubbish. Where's the proof that the dairy industry has 4 times more BTEX? Where's the proof cutting the lawn produces 15 times the BTEX than the oil and gas industry? That is emotive and not factual. And even if it was true why would we add MORE BTEX to the mix if we didn't have to? "Available from the govt. website" is not proof. The government gets their "safety" data of the chemicals used in coal seam gas mining from the companies themselves. The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme - NICNAS has only tested 4 of the 50 or 60 chemicals used in fracking - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBnOBgJPuYE We want sustainable mining. We want sustainable jobs. We want healthy children. We want renewable energy. We don't want coal seam gas.
It will be news to many Australians that they land they believe they own is a state asset that can be given to a multinational mining company. Whose state is it supposed to be?
It truly amazes me the hypocrisy of the Greens. When "Hot Rock" geothermal energy plants are discussed, everyone claps, giggles and dance in circles giving thanks to the Green Gods, but when hydraulic fracturing is used to harvest gas, it becomes EVIL. It is the SAME technology. The drilling methods are the SAME except there is far more waste from a 'closed system' hot rock plant than hundreds of CSG sites. If you pump super-heated water mixed with acids SPECIFICALLY chosen to dissolve the type of ground being worked (shaft de-mineralization) WHAT to you expect to come up the hole? A 'closed system' geothermal plant will use ~ 10^7 cubic meters/year per 100 MWe. That water has to come from somewhere. Difficult to truck that out to Whoop Whoop without incurring HUGE costs and generating LOTs of GHG. The 'Hot Rock' people have figured the best plan is to rob a near-bye aquifer. You lot happy with that? The waste from this 'closed system needs to go somewhere, and as it is coming out of the system as a toxic and radioactive fluid, drying ponds are a popular method of reducing this form of waste into solid waste. In the REALLY hot parts of the world, like central Australia, the cooling pond metric is 10l/min evaporation = 1ha. So, to support a 100MWe geothermal power plant you need to dig a cooling pond(s) next door covering 400ha. This is radioactive sludge, so probably not great for the local fauna that drink it, land on it etc. When the sludge is dry, the solid waste metric is 10kg waste per day . nMWe == 3,650kg per year . 100 == 3,650,000 to get rid of. And while you are figuring out what to do with it, you need another 400ha evaporation pond! Realizing this was expensive and sorta hard to hide, the geothermal people consider it a LOT cheaper and easier just to pump the waste BACK into the aquifer. You lot happy with that GREEN solution? We all do know WHY hot rock are hot, don't we? All this is common knowledge to people who have the moniker 'Engineer' and dig big bloody holes for a living. Go and find one and ask him/her. If you want to reduce CO2 RIGHT NOW by 25-40% then retro fit our coal plants with Hyper-supercritical burners. Denmark is doing it. Japan, China, USA, Korea, UK, India. BTW, all of these places are implementing nuclear energy as a large part of the energy mix, be this building new plant, or buying energy from those that are. Greens need a dose of reality, and a better education. Mark Addinall.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2Nc-kxWfmc The impact of fracking in communities of the United States
Why should we care about "effectively endorsing privatisation of a state resource"? The state is our enemy.
We don't want CSG. It says enough that USA and Canada don't want CSG. Health of people and the environment is far more important than a few dollars. Why do we destroy our country, while other countries use their common sense?
Mark Addinall the sort of geothermal operation you are talking about is not clean, not green and not endorsed by the Greens. There are much better ways of going about the extraction of Geothermal energy, ie, utilising the heat of the earth in a closed loop system (NO WASTE) to heat water which rises and is returned to the earth (via pipelines) when cool, to be reheated by the earth and rise again on its way it will be turning turbines to produce power. btw, there will be no need for geothermal if we transition with solar and wind on existing infrastructures. btw.. did you vote for either the Greens or the ALP?
Switching from one fossil fuel to another - from coal to gas - is no answer. And S.Australia;s lower emissions are to do with roughly 20% of wind power it uses. A new study by the the University of Adelaide's Tom Wrigley found that replacing gas with coal will make next to no difference to the climate crisis. He said: "Relying more on natural gas would reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, but it would do little to help solve the climate problem," says Wigley, who is also an adjunct professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia. "It would be many decades before it would slow down global warming at all, and even then it would just be making a difference around the edges." [Article here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908124505.htm ] Solar thermal with storage (can meet baseload energy needs) is the real energy game-changer and it - not CSG - deserves the fullest governmental support for its rollout. It's also dispatchable (can be used to meet peak demands), and unlike gas won't create more greenhouse gases, threaten food production, community health and water supplies, or lead to the release of toxic chemicals into the environment.
Unlike solar or wind, I understand that geothermal power is largely in the research stage & is not commercially available and cannot be relied upon to cut Australia's emission to zero. Though the information you have given on the problems of geothermal is interesting and deserves more attention and discussion. But it's a shame about your patronising tone and your pretense that farmers and communities opposed to CSG just need to be as educated as you, which tends to inhibit rational discussion of the pros and cons of the available technology options. People are right to question what the CSG industry says about itself, and also right to question the bias of engineers who depend on fossil fuel or mineral extraction for their living. If we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions right now, we should roll-out solar thermal with storage and wind power - clean, job-rich zero emissions power. For news and info on solar thermal see http://beyondzeroemissions.org/category/keywords/renewable-energy/solar-energy/concentrated-solar-thermal
Excellent article. Water is a crucial issue here, how does the 'We Want CSG' campaign respond to the fact that CSG always involves drawing contaminated water out of the coal seam? Where does this 'produced water' go? How is it treated? The only rational approach would be to put an immediate moratorium on all projects until the outcome of a Royal Commission into all aspects of CSG is made public.
It is not the land that is a state asset, it is the underlying natural resources: any minerals (eg iron ore, precious gems), oil, gas, geothermal heat etc etc etc. And state resource means it is the collective wealth of every individual in QLD / NSW / whichever state. We shoud all be concerned by the idea of transferring control of such resource to private parties (whether they are individuals or land-owning corporations).
In central australia there are test drilling operations to see if they can get steam power out of very deep, hot dry rocks. This is an untested, experimental technology. On the other hand, in some regions like across the basalt plains of southwestern Victoria, conventional geothermal plants may be possible. When I say conventional, they are established workable technology. What's not yet established is the geology that might support geothermal in this area, so some companies are doing test drilling for that. See http://yes2renewables.org/renewable-energy-in-victoria/geothermal-developments/
So where are these natural resources located? And who gets them out? How much money do they make? What happens to the people who owned the land over the coal seam if they dig a mine? But this is a silly debate. We have to stop pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Gas, coal, oil, it's time to give it up.
Science informs us that Australia must switch to renewables and stop coal and gas extraction, burning and exports ASAP. Australia has an annual per capita domestic plus exported greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution 71 times that of Bangladesh and has ALREADY used up its “fair share” of the terminal global pollution budget of no more than 600 Gt CO2 permitted between 2010 and zero emissions in 2050 to avoid a catastrophic 2C temperature rise according to WBGU climate scientists that advise the German Government. Tackling climate change means a DECREASE in greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. However Treasury modeling and ABARE and US EIA data show that the Australian Labor Government’s Carbon Tax-ETS plan means that Australia will INCREASE both its Domestic and Exported GHG pollution in both 2020 and 2050 relative to that in 2000 i.e. Labor's Carbon Tax-ETS plan is in horrible actuality a plan for climate change INACTION. Both Labor and the Coalition have a common climate criminal position of "5% off 2000 GHG pollution by 2020" coupled with unlimited, terracidal expansion of coal and gas exports. Further, the Australian Labor Government adumbrates a coal to gas transition for power generation as a consequence of its Carbon Price (Carbon Tax) plan. However gas burning is a dirty energy source (it is NOT clean GHG-wise) and if fracked shale gas is used to generate electricity instead of coal then power sector GHG pollution can DOUBLE associated with systemic gas leakage. CSG should not be permitted because it adds to Australia's already world-leading annual per capita GHG pollution. In addition fracking for shale gas and CSG can involve depletion and pollution of aquifers as well as alienation of prime agricultural land. The recent written advice I have received from the Australian Government that “The Australian Government [has] a comprehensive plan to move to a clean energy future. Central to that plan is the introduction of a carbon price that will cut pollution in the cheapest and most effective way and drive investment in clean energy sources such as solar, wind and gas” is comprehensively incorrect: the Australian Labor Government’s plan is effectively for climate change inaction, a dirty energy future and indeed dirtier energy future. Further, gas is not clean energy and can be WORSE than coal GHG-wise due to systemic gas leakage (for documented details see "Oz Labor’s Carbon Tax-ETS & gas for coal plan means INCREASED GHG pollution"). A study by the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) concludes: "In summary, our results show that the substitution of gas for coal as an energy source results in increased rather than decreased global warming for many decades" (Google: "Natural gas bombshell'). Dr Gideon Polya, Melbourne
we don't want it - if the elected gov don't represent the community, we have to make a stand!

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