NT powers up as reality bites
Hysterical opposition to well-regulated fracking is baseless
While hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has created an oil and gas boom in the US during the past decade, most states in Australia have been captive to reprobate green groups, to the detriment of energy security and affordability. Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner has made an important decision for the Territory’s economy and the nation’s energy supply, reversing his government’s ban on fracking. Just over half of the NT will be open to the development of shale gas. The move should be copied by the states, including Victoria, that had banned conventional gas exploration as well as fracking despite severe power problems. Already, the Liberal government in South Australia, which has some of the world’s most expensive power, has imposed a moratorium on fracking in the southeast.
The Territory’s move made eminent sense after a report by NT Justice Rachel Pepper found risks associated with fracking could be managed. National parks, residential, conservation and indigenous protected areas and cultural sites will remain off limits. The NT’s revenue will be boosted, to the benefit of taxpayers across the nation who have bankrolled the Territory for decades despite lack of accountability and failure to direct money to areas of chronic need, such as Aboriginal disadvantage. A “return to taxpayers” through gas royalties, Mr Gunner said, could start from the early to mid-2020s. As it raises more of its own revenue, the NT needs to become more responsible in spending and accounting for it.
The first exploration is expected early next year. Energy companies responded yesterday, highlighting the vast resources available in the NT and their potential to create thousands of new jobs and power several Australian capital cities. As Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said, development of NT gas could not come soon enough with gas playing an increasing role in setting the price of electricity. When the NT is in the doldrums, the two-year moratorium stalled or wasted at least $200 million worth of investment. Yesterday’s decision was long overdue but better late than never. If Australia’s power crisis is to be overcome, all states must embrace gas extraction.