Energy minister ramps up campaign for gas

Angus Taylor has described opponents of gas expansion as acting against Australia's interests.
Angus Taylor has described opponents of gas expansion as acting against Australia's interests.

The federal energy minister has launched a strident defence of gas, claiming those against expanding the fossil fuel's role in Australia are against the interests of the nation.

Angus Taylor's plan to increase gas supply to try and reduce prices faces opposition from a raft of environmental groups and farmers who are concerned about the climate impacts.

He has denied his office pressured the Australian Energy Market Operator into being more supportive of gas in one of its major reports.

"What we've got is these activists who are acting against the interests of Australia, against the interests of Australian manufacturing, against the interest of Australian small business and households," he told 2GB radio on Tuesday.

"We need more gas in the system, we need it fast. We need to keep our coal in the system for as long as we reasonably can, as coal is going to play a big role in our system for many years to come."

The Morrison government has identified five gas fields it wants to open up to support exports and manufacturing.

The government last year approved a controversial gas field in NSW's Narrabri region, with the multi-billion project now facing a legal challenge.

The government spruiked the need for more gas before the coronavirus pandemic.

It set up an advisory group of stakeholders, many with close links to the gas industry, to provide advice on how the economy could recover after the health crisis.

NSW farmer Anne Kennedy campaigns against fracking for coal seam gas and is dismayed the government is willing to use prime agricultural land and the water beneath it for the fossil fuel industry.

"The Morrison government had so many other industries it could have funnelled money into if it wanted to help the nation recover from the COVID-19 crisis," she said.

"Unfortunately, it chose one that harms our rural communities and our ability to produce food and access secure water, while actually harming our economy."

The government faces international pressure to increase its emissions reduction commitments, particularly from the United States, where President Joe Biden is an advocate for climate action.

The government has changed its language to be more supportive of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is one of 40 world leaders invited to speak at a climate summit hosted by Mr Biden later this month.

Labor's climate spokesman Chris Bowen expects the government to talk up its efforts on clean energy ahead of the virtual summit.

"The globe's climate emergency is Australia's jobs opportunity, and Australian lives and livelihoods deserve more substance and less Morrison spin," he said.

Australian Associated Press