The gas industry is a very poor option for stimulus and recovery spending, as it provides few jobs, pays little tax and would lock in decades of high emissions and high energy prices, according to a new Australia Institute report, Gas-fired backfire, released jointly with the Australian Conservation Foundation.
The report finds that the gas industry is one of the least job-intensive industries in Australia, providing only an eighth as many jobs per dollar spent as the average for all Australian industries. Investing recovery funds in any other industry would create more jobs.
Another finding is that subsidising gas would displace renewable energy alternatives to gas for households, businesses and industry, locking in more pollution and higher energy prices for decades. Few of the multinational oil and gas companies operating in Australia pay any company tax at all in Australia. Recovery funds used to subsidise the gas industry are unlikely to provide any lasting benefit to Australia and a significant proportion of taxpayers’ money given to the industry is likely to end up with overseas shareholders.
“Claims that gas lowers emissions assume gas displaces coal, but new coal plants are no longer commercially viable and the federal government is opposing the closure of coal fired power plants, so more gas infrastructure would simply displace renewable energy and storage, not coal,” said ACF climate program manager Gavan McFadzean.
“Rather than prop up a dinosaur industry that drives climate change, Australia can and should choose a different path to re-build the economy and tackle the climate crisis.”
“Spending recovery funds on a capital intensive, jobs poor industry like gas completely defeats the purpose of a recovery program,” said Richie Merzian, Climate & Energy Program Director at the Australia Institute.
“Australian governments continue to prop up the coal and natural gas sectors with fee waivers, fast-tracked projects and direct investments, but our research shows there are far more effective and affordable ways to stimulate the economy and create jobs.”
Energy Minister Angus Taylor has backed a ‘gas-fired recovery’ and the National Coronavirus Coordination Committee features gas mining and petrochemical executives who are urging more gas as a key to Australia’s recovery.
Sarah Jacob is a journalist and editor and is currently The Advocate's Deputy Editor. She has written for a range of print and online publications across Australia and internationally with a focus on the environment and human rights. Previously she worked in conservation science and protected area management, and has completed postgraduate degrees in journalism and marine science.