Government turns to gas for COVID recovery, promises lower prices

A ship unloads at a liquified natural gas terminal. Picture: Shutterstock
A ship unloads at a liquified natural gas terminal. Picture: Shutterstock

The gas industry is set to become a major pillar of the Morrison government's plans for economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Prime Minister to announce a suite of measures aimed at expanding the sector.

More than $50 million in spending will be announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a speech in Newcastle on Tuesday, with the government promising a National Gas Infrastructure Plan worth $10.9 million, plans for five key gas basins and an extra $13.7 million for CSIRO's Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance.

The first strategic basin plan will be the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory, followed by the North Bowen and Galilee Basins in Queensland.

A number of measures will also be introduced to ensure cheaper gas prices for Australian consumers, including establishing a gas trading hub in Queensland, introducing a voluntary code of conduct and a review of the LNG price with the consumer watchdog.

The government will also work with state and territory governments to incorporate gas supply targets.

While Australia is a rich source of gas resources, the huge demand for exports has led to domestic prices for gas being higher than those paid by overseas customers.

The government believes the east coast gas market isn't delivering internationally competitive prices for Australians and there is a risk of a shortfall of supply in the medium term.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said gas was a "critical enabler" of the economy.

"We'll work with industry to deliver a gas hub for Australia that will ensure households and businesses enjoy the benefits of our abundant local gas while we hold our position as one of the top global liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporters," he said.

"Our competitive advantage has always been based on affordable, reliable energy. As we turn to our economic recovery from COVID-19, affordable gas will play a central role in re-establishing the strong economy we need for jobs growth, funding government services and opportunities for all."

The federal government is also working to make more onshore gas available, with energy minister Angus Taylor writing the industry has faced a "vicious anti-gas lobby".

Mr Taylor has talked up gas as "flexible, dispatchable, sustainable and industrial".

The announcement is likely to be highly controversial with environment groups, including those opposed to coal seam gas mining and who oppose further reliance on gas instead of a more concerted move to renewable energy sources.

According to the government, gas will complement the renewable sector and assist with reliability for power.

The government's national COVID commission has also faced criticism for what has been labelled over-representation of gas industry figures on its board and among its advisers.

This story Government turns to gas for COVID recovery, promises lower prices first appeared on The Canberra Times.