Who’s to blame for ris­ing en­ergy costs?

The Chronicle - - OPINION NEWS - MARK CO­P­LAND

STRAP your­selves in: this one is all about en­ergy with some ref­er­ence to my gas bills.

When I first moved to Toowoomba I was keen to get the gas con­nected. I had heard it was cheap, re­li­able, nat­u­ral and great to cook on. And so it was for quite some time.

Now, I’m not a big pic­ture per­son when it comes to our na­tional en­ergy mar­ket, but I spot­ted some changes on the hori­zon and a few years back de­cided to dras­ti­cally re­duce my fam­ily’s do­mes­tic gas use.

So our house­hold has gone from us­ing an av­er­age of 1331.5 mega­joules per quar­ter in 2012/ 2013 to an av­er­age of 236.25 mega­joules per quar­ter in 2016/2017. In other words, we have re­duced our us­age of gas by 82 per cent per quar­ter.

How­ever, dur­ing the same pe­riod our bills have re­mained pretty much the same. So we are us­ing one fifth as much gas but pay­ing the same price for it.

In our most re­cent bill we used $11.07 worth of gas for the quar­ter and paid $111.37 as part of a sup­ply charge.

When I asked the po­lite lady at the gas com­pany’s call cen­tre what the sup­ply charge was for, she told me that’s what it costs to main­tain the in­fra­struc­ture to get those $11 worth of mega­joules to my home.

Now, some­thing’s hap­pen­ing here. We can’t blame the car­bon tax any more and in­ci­den­tally the $3.84 re­turned to me in the De­cem­ber 2014 bill hasn’t stopped the price hike.

And it’s not just my house­hold hurt­ing. Elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tors and man­u­fac­tur­ers are be­ing charged close to three times the price they once were.

My un­der­stand­ing is that this mas­sive in­crease is due to our do­mes­tic mar­ket be­ing linked to the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket.

With the mas­sive in­crease in the ex­port of un­con­ven­tional gas, the do­mes­tic price has al­most tripled at the same time.

This will hurt your elec­tric­ity bill as much as your gas bill.

So the com­pa­nies get two bites of the cherry. They make money ex­port­ing for a high price and then can charge the do­mes­tic cus­tomer much more than they ever did.

His­tor­i­cally, as a na­tion, we have never pulled more gas out of the ground, yet we have a gas cri­sis.

Quot­ing Sa­muel Co­leridge, “Wa­ter wa­ter ev­ery­where, but not a drop to drink”.

Then who is to blame? We could blame the gov­ern­ments, both state and fed­eral, who al­lowed this to hap­pen.

Why was no thought ever given to a re­serve amount of gas to be kept for do­mes­tic con­sump­tion?

We could blame the free mar­ket for fail­ing to put Aus­tralian in­dus­try and house­holds first.

We could blame the global gas com­pa­nies for be­ing greedy.

Or we could blame the re­cal­ci­trant state gov­ern­ments who have put a mora­to­rium on un­con­ven­tional gas ex­plo­ration and pro­duc­tion and those pesky farm­ers and gree­nies who want to lock the gate.

For­mer Mem­ber for Groom, the long­est serv­ing In­dus­try and Re­source Min­is­ter, and now Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of the Queens­land Re­sources Coun­cil, Ian Macfar­lane, has no doubt who is to blame.

He even ar­gued that these state gov­ern­ment, gree­nie-backed, mis­guided farm­ers had fallen vic­tim to “fake news” in an in­ter­view on ABC ra­dio last week.

Build­ing on that logic, one pre­sumes that Canada, Ger­many, Wales, Scot­land, France and a num­ber of US states have also fallen prey to “fake news”.

One of these groups ob­vi­ously lis­ten­ing to this so called “fake news” is the Vic­to­rian Farm­ers Fed­er­a­tion (VFF).

Speak­ing in favour of a state based mora­to­rium, VFF pres­i­dent David Jochinke stated, “Vic­to­ria has pre­cious ground­wa­ter re­serves and be­cause the true en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of on­shore gas min­ing is still un­known, it would be reck­less to put those re­serves at risk with­out hard sci­en­tific ev­i­dence that shows the risks of on­shore gas de­vel­op­ment can be prop­erly man­aged.”

Even if Prime Min­is­ter Turn­bull can force the gas com­pa­nies to en­sure sup­ply to keep the lights on, it will do noth­ing to the cost of power or gas for the house­holder.

It is not un­rea­son­able for or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Vic­to­rian Farm­ers Fed­er­a­tion to up­hold the pre­cau­tion­ary prin­ci­ple.

If we get this wrong the long-term cost will be much higher than my lit­tle gas bill.

GO­ING UP: Graphs based on my re­cent bills show­ing lower gas us­age and in­creas­ing prices.

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