It’s time that we all got fired up over gas

How can we have a gas crisis here when we’re exporting the stuff? Australia is a place so loaded to the eyelids with natural resources that we should not have to feel worried about something as basic as energy. Energy to power our jobs, our homes, our lives.

The renowned environmentalist, Professor David Suzuki, once said that if a catastrophe happened and Canada was shut off from the world, it could still carry on thanks to its abundance of natural resources.

Australia, too. Australia produces a lot of gas. Yet we have an emerging gas crisis … and everyone’s going to pay.

How did it come to this? Do you remember, just a few years ago, when electricity costs went through the roof? People got mad, parliament responded, and the rate of price acceleration slowed in NSW (I can’t talk about Victoria).

Do you know how much gas is produced in NSW? Would it shock you to hear that there is only one gas production site in NSW (at Camden) and it provides a mere 3 per cent of the gas consumed in NSW? This facility will close in 2023. 

That’s our reality. We pipe it in from interstate.

On the border, prices are going up and up, especially for industry.

Local businesses tell me they are facing imminent gas price increases of 60, 75, 100, even 140 per cent.

Contracts vary in details, but all are more than just trending up – gas prices are rocketing off the scale.

Price rises of this magnitude make our manufacturers uncompetitive. And we wonder why manufacturing is doing it tough!

These increases are “inevitably going to force us out of the market”, says one local manufacturer which sells its product nationally and internationally. It’s a desperate blow for local small businesses, too.

Indeed, gas supply and cost are not “somebody else’s problem” – it is hitting home. Here, now.

I am trying to help get a better deal. But there always seems to be a reason not to increase supply (and to drive down cost). Whatever it is – windfarms, coal, hydro, solar, nuclear, gas – there’s always people who want it produced … far away.

Energy sourcing and production carries costs to the environment and dangers to those who do the hard work. Is it ever truly “clean”?

We’re addicted to an endless supply of energy, but don’t want to know about the cost of getting it.

Eventually many of the energy problems will be solved when we get on top of the storage barrier. This is where the recent intervention from Tesla’s Elon Musk, with his battery of batteries, is so exciting and evolutionary.

Jointly, our governments are working on the problem. Reviewing, encouraging supply, removing restrictions.

But I am looking for more from our national leaders.

Faster co-operation, urgent action. At the very least, this is a matter of national security, isn’t it?

Much of the gas produced in Australia is sold overseas, leaving a shortage here.

Frankly, with our natural resources – the envy of the world – the prospect of a gas crisis is a national embarrassment. One state’s got it, another can’t get enough.

If ever there was something we need to tackle together, it is this.

If we produce it, Australia should get what it needs first. 

Greg Aplin is the member for Albury in the NSW Parliament.