WA’s Government Promises Renewables From Fracking Cash

Gas fracking moratorium lifted in Western Australia

Image: Lock The Gate Alliance

Western Australia’s McGowan Government has announced it has lifted a moratorium on fracking, but assures everyone things will be A-OK and has dangled a renewable energy carrot.

WA joins the Northern Territory, which also lifted a moratorium on fracking earlier this year.

Like the NT, the WA government’s decision has been based on what it says was an independent scientific inquiry, which found risks to be low.

Among the restriction that have been put in place:

  • Fracking will not be permitted in around 98 per cent of the state.
  • It can only be carried out on existing land covered by existing exploration and production licences.
  • Traditional owners and farmers will have the right to tell companies to frack off.

Areas off limits include the South-West, Peel and Perth metropolitan regions; national parks, Dampier Peninsula and public water source areas.

Deals With The Devil?

In a crafty move and one that could be seen as doing a deal with the devil, the McGowan Government has committed to using fracking royalties for funding new renewable energy projects.

While fracking will not be permitted in 98% of the state, WA is Australia’s largest state at 253 million hectares. Just over 5 million hectares will potentially be open to fracking, an area around three-quarters of the size of Tasmania, or approximately 21 times the size of the ACT.

Lock The Gate Alliance condemned the decision.

“Instead of learning from Victorian Labor, which was swept to a massive electoral victory after promising to enshrine its fracking ban in the state’s constitution, WA Labor has chosen to take the state down this risky road,” said WA spokesperson for the group, Simone van Hattem.

In a statement released by the Western Australian government, Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said:

“Gas is part of the transition to a clean energy future, with emissions from gas much lower than other baseload power production. With the new strict controls in place and the establishment of a Clean Energy Future Fund, we’re setting up our State for the long term and a transition to renewables.”

Emissions from gas greatly depend on how it’s sourced – and fracking does not have a good reputation. Emissions aside, fracking has wreaked other significant environmental damage; but we’re assured that this won’t happen in WA.

With regard to renewable energy, WA certainly needs to get cracking. In the Climate Council’s recent state scorecard, Western Australia was at the back of the pack. It has no formal target to increase renewable energy or achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Last year, the proportion of renewables in WA’s energy mix was 7.5%.

The state government may be somewhat of a leaner on the renewables front, but Western Australian residents have been lifters – WA has the third highest proportion of households with solar power systems in Australia at 26.7%.

While “only” 5 million hectares will be available for fracking, will it be the thin edge of the wedge? Is it worth the risk to get the cash for renewables projects and perhaps ultimately help make WA a clean energy powerhouse?

We’re about to find out.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. It is yet again, the state government acting in comtempt of the people and the environment.

    Still, it is not really that surprising – after all, the ALP is simply a faction of the LNP..

    However, maybe, if WA got its fair share of GST revenue (a proportion of the GST revenue, that is the same as the state’s proportion of the national poulation, backdated to the imposition of the GST), the state parliament would not need to prostitute the state and destroy the environment, to line the pockets of the MP’s.

    Maybe, at the next election, we will get someone worth voting for…

    • Glen from Rural New South Wales says

      WA was getting more than its fair share of GST for a decade before the mining boom and yet they didn’t insist on making it fairer. It then gained massive royalties from mining which it failed to invest or save, instead using those royalties for new recurring expenses. There is nobody to blame for the mess that the WA budget is in except for WA politicians that would have been warned over and over again by their bureaucrats that the GST receipts would shrink due the agreed formula (that only a fool would think would change).

  2. Glen from NSW – so, when has WA ever been paid the proportion of GST revenue, that is the same as WA’s prportion of the national population?

    The GST apparently has only ever been about pillaging WA, by the more powerful states.

  3. Helen warner says

    It is about time that our local pollies. …or any pollies for that matter listened to what us the general population is trying to say!!!! Stop lining your own pockets and look after our country! That is what we elected you for..hang on it may of been the guy before you… or the guy before that or maybe even the guy before him! Shit we have changed who’s running our country so many times.I have lost track!…..you wallies should remember who we voted for get out of the the bloody play ground with you back stabbing games and do what you are over payed for….put Australia first!

  4. Helen Warner – what you have said, is why we, the people, need the applicable constitutions changed, for each level of each legislature, to provide for Citizen Initiatives, which include both Recall Elections, so that we can sack delinquent members of the legislatures, and, if needed, the whole of each legislature, and, Citizen Initiated Referenda, so that we, the people, can control legislation, and, change it, as needed, instead of the tyrannical dictatorships, to which we are subjected.

    Then, we, the people, could introduce democratic government to Australia, switch to clean energy, stop the WA state parliament from wrecking the state, stop the Queensland state government from imposing more coal mines and resultant pollution and deaths, and, save the forests and native animal species, that, at present, the NSW state government is trying to eliminate, before it loses power.

    It is time for Australia to have democracy, instead of tyrannical dictatorships.

  5. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, professor and leading climate scientist, director emeritus Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a Club of Rome member, has stated:

    “Climate change is now reaching an end-game scenario, where very soon humanity must choose between taking unprecedented action, or accepting that it has been left too late and bear the consequences.”
    See: https://climateemergencydeclaration.org/club-of-rome-climate-emergency-plan/

    That’s a disturbing message.

    And yet the WA Government is opening up just over 5 million hectares to potential fracking operations, risking more “fugitive emissions” and encouraging the burning of more fossil fuels, when humanity must begin a rapid reduction in fossil fuel use, leaving nearly all these remaining resources in the ground.

    When will governments get fair dinkum on effective climate change action? What will it take?

  6. Geoff Miell – the is Australia – sheep country.

    When the people decide that they no longer want to be sheep, and, decide that they are capable of thinking for themselves, they will demand that the members of the legislatures start representing their constituents, and, their constituents’ interests, and, eliminate the members of the legislatures, who act against their constituents’ interests, and, replace the delinquent members of legislatures, with people who will represent their constituents’ interests.

    Until then, the flock of sheep stays unchanged, Australia decomposes further, and the world decomposes further.

    This IS Australia .

    Baaa-aaa. Baaa-aaa.

  7. Des Scahill says

    Let’s not forget though, that the adoption of ‘renewables’ as a source of energy, is growing rapidly, not just in Australia, but world-wide. Just look at the surge of ‘solar PV’ take-up in Australia, and how as well, the ‘efficiency’ of solar panels has improved considerably in just a few years.

    Some, if not all, of these mega-huge capital intensive projects take years to be built and then come into operation. I could be wrong, but there is a good chance that by the time they are completed, in one way or another they could well end up rather expensive ‘white elephants’. ( or should that be ‘black elephants’?).

    Added to that are other factors – the economies of various countries tip into recession and industry demand for power reduces, forcing marginally profitable power generators out of business, state governments run out of money to ‘subsidize’ things, new renewable related technology plus improvements in existing renewable technology appear on the scene, making the economic and/or environmental case even more compelling, more and more people working ‘at home’ for some or all of their work related activities because internet technology now makes that possible. (reduces petrol usage).

    There are many possibilities (along with existing factors) around that don’t auger well at all for the future of the oil industry. How many of them eventuate get accepted, and then implemented, is very much dependent on who we choose to vote into government – whether it be local, state, or a Federal level.

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