We need to talk about gas

September 26, 2022
Marie Flood addressing the climate rally on September 24. Photo: Rigmor Berg

Marie Flood, a member of the Sydney Knitting Nannas and Friends, gave the following speech at the Sydney Rally for urgent climate action: 43% is not enough on September 24.

She spoke alongside Wiradjuri, Yuin and Gadigal woman Nadeena Dixon, Gomeroi man Joshur Bell, Sarah Ellyard from NSW Nurses and Midwives Union climate change reference group and secretary of Macquarie Hospital branch, NSW Greens Senator David Shoebridge, Michael Wright, acting National Secretary of the Electrical Trades Union and Kayla Hill from School Strike 4 Climate.

* * *

The Knitting Nannas started in the Northern Rivers 10 years ago in the fight against coal seam gas, and were part of a great win there. There have been many other great wins in New South Wales, but not yet against Santos in the Pilliga.

But communities up there, and many others including a lot of us here today, have held up the Santos project in the north west for years.

Right now, one of the big battles is against the Hunter Gas Pipeline, which Santos wants to run from Queensland via the Pilliga project to Newcastle.

The pipeline was approved in 2012 but, over time, it’s become hidden from landholders along the route. Much has changed over that time and people have bought properties with no idea the pipeline route goes right across their land. Santos recently bought the pipeline project and they've started to push it through.

One of the Nannas recently attended a meeting of landholders in Singleton along the 800 kilometre pipeline route. Santos is pressuring them for access to survey. 

The Nanna said people were shocked to only recently find out the pipeline would go through their properties, deep underground, and often on rich productive soils. She said that many were very distressed.

She said they’d heard the promises, the bribes and the veiled threats from Santos, and they didn’t trust them. They agreed to stand together and only as a group would they speak with Santos.

Now Santos is holding “drop-in sessions” in towns along the route. But no-one is dropping by.

This illustrates a couple of things: first, there is an urgency about stopping the pipeline and secondly, there are hundreds of landholders along the pipeline route prepared to work together to keep Santos off their land.

We need to be ready to support communities in the north west as Santos takes its next steps in the Pilliga and along the pipeline route.

As we know there’s a huge expansion of new gas projects being planned around the country — onshore and offshore. They are being spruiked and supported by the federal Labor government in spite of the federal election where people voted for real action on climate change.https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif

There are a lot of reasons for the fossil fuel industries’ hold over the major parties. And there’s something else.

There’s an old riddle that comes up in Nanna groups from time to time: some of you may be young enough not to have heard it.

“How can you tell when a gas executive is lying?” Answer: “Their lips are moving …”

Well, their lips have been really been going lately. Kevin Gallagher, CEO of Santos, is talking a lot about carbon capture and storage and how it and gas will solve “emissions problems”.

If you believe that, take a look at the history of the Chevron Gorgon project in Western Australia. It continues to fail after costing billions.

Yet we’re expected to believe that carbon capture and storage is suddenly going to be economically viable and work on all the new gas projects proposed for the country.

The gas industry goes so far as to claim we need the gas to save the planet from climate change — that we need to export gas to reduce global emissions. 

The Australian Gas Network is claiming that it produces “renewable gas that is climate friendly”! This is an industry whopper that is being challenged in a legal case.

They are talking about gas that’s blended with hydrogen, in a process linked to carbon capture and storage. It’s called “blue hydrogen” and the gas industry’s plan is to build it into our energy system for decades to come.

If hydrogen’s the thing, then it must be green hydrogen: the blue and the grey varieties are gas industry traps we must not fall into.

In the face of such greenwashing and misrepresentation we need to get our message out more clearly: gas is a fossil fuel, a powerful greenhouse gas that damages the climate.

Its impact on the climate is greater than coal in the short-term. We need more renewables and storage. We need clean energy not fossil fuels!

Then there are plastics, which are made from gas. They are so convenient, yet so destructive of the environment and wildlife.

The gas industry has a big interest in promoting plastics. Plastic is their Plan B, for when the gas energy market falls. So they want to build the market for plastic.

We have a waste crisis, but the last thing the gas and waste industries want is for us to solve it — zero waste policies and a circular economy are their worst nightmares.

They want us to keep using plastic, trashing the environment and having endless Clean Up Australia Days.

The waste industry wants to burn plastic in incinerators in Western Sydney and in regional towns — another battle for communities already copping the brunt of climate change. Keep an eye out for the community campaigns and offer support if you can.

[The next major climate rally, focused on COP27, is on November 12 at Sydney Town Hall.]

Video: Australia must take urgent climate action now say protesters - Green Left

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