Labor is sending mixed messages on energy – and some of it sounds like climate denial – The Guardian

by | Aug 29, 2022 | Energy

Labor is sending mixed messages on energy – and some of it sounds like climate denialAdam MortonThe release of vast new areas along the Australian coast for oil and gas exploration is undermining proclamations about creating a cleaner economy

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The resources minister, Madeleine King, has announced new oil and gas exploration areas covering nearly 50,000 sq km off the coast of the Northern Territory, Victoria and Western Australia. Photograph: Chris Sattlberger/Getty ImagesThe resources minister, Madeleine King, has announced new oil and gas exploration areas covering nearly 50,000 sq km off the coast of the Northern Territory, Victoria and Western Australia. Photograph: Chris Sattlberger/Getty ImagesThe Albanese government has a decision to make: does it want people to think it takes the climate crisis seriously? Because at the moment it’s sending mixed messages.On one hand, it is telling a story of progress. Its ascent to power has, along with the rise of the teals and the Greens, reset the way the country thinks about dealing with the problem.The 2030 national emissions reduction target (a 43% cut by 2030, compared with 2005) is not what the evidence says is needed or possible, but it is a step in the right direction. It is expected to soon be legislated, which if nothing else is a signal of intent.Led by the climate change minister, Chris Bowen, work is under way on policies to cut carbon pollution from big industry, drive the uptake of electric vehicles and create an offshore windfarm industry. The national carbon credit system, which has been sharply criticised, is under review.World EV roadtrip reveals an Australian market lagging behindRead moreThe hard decisions lie ahead – we’re still in the broad intentions phase – but there are policies that could start the long-delayed transformation to a cleaner economy if well-designed. That’s worth some cautious optimism.But this is only part of the story. The other part is more familiar from the past nine years, and sounds a lot like climate denial.It was on display last week when the resources minister, Madeleine King, announced the release of new areas along the Australian coast for the oil and gas industry to explore and potentially exploit.This wasn’t a surprise – sites for offshore petroleum exploration are released annually, and work on the current batch was under way before the May election – but the underlying message from King’s media statement was that nothing has changed since Labor replaced the pro-fossil fuel Coalition.King claimed the new exploration areas would “play an important role in securing future energy supplies” and the petroleum sector was “vital for the economy and meeting the energy needs of Australians”. The traditional line about gas playing a “key role as a transition fuel” also got a run.It is, of course, true that Australian households and businesses use gas for heating, cooking and some electricity generation and high-temperature industrial processes. The message from King is that she sees no need to drive change away from that.We should break down what we are talking about here. Gas is a fossil fuel, with higher greenhouse gas emissions than is …

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