Shortage of facts, not a shortage of gas: Errol Brandt @e2mq173 reports

Stephanie Dale

Stephanie Dale

Citizen Journalist at No Fibs
Stephanie Dale is a journalist and author with a background of 25 years in media, politics and publishing. Stephanie believes we need to find new ways of sharing our Earth, and making way for all its people, not just those privileged by the current economic system, and all its creatures - on their own terms.
Stephanie Dale
- 5 months ago
Stephanie Dale
I have two published books available - the novel Hymn for the Wounded Man and the travel memoir My Pilgrim's Heart, which was reviewed recently by the Huffington Post.
Locked gate Casino gas well (Photo courtesy Jeremy Buckingham)

Locked gate Casino gas well (Photo courtesy Jeremy Buckingham)

 By Errol Brandt

When New South Wales Premier Barrier O’Farrell was advised to avoid using ‘certain words’, it was a clear indication that debate around coal seam gas is no longer about facts.  It seems that politicians are trying as hard as possible to develop CSG in NSW without angering the electorate.

The Premier’s advice suggested replacing the term ‘CSG’ with the more neutral ‘natural gas from coal seams’ .

As Shakespeare said:  “A rose by another name would still smell as sweet.”

Whether it’s called ‘natural gas from coal seams, ‘unconventional gas’ or ‘CSG’, the intense community opposition to it remains unabated.

Producers of CSG now understand that they failed to appropriately engage with the community.  They made a serious tactical mistake by arguing that Australia’s abundance of CSG would make the nation wealthy.  Australia also has more than 30% of the world’s known reserves of uranium – but has been very cautious about allowing development of these reserves.

The CSG producers have now changed tack.  Having failed to woo community with the carrot, they have turned to the stick.

According to the industry website, NSW faces looming gas shortages.  NSW is running out of natural gas.  NSW faces a gas crunch.

Dig a little deeper and the story changes considerably: “NSW has an abundant supply of natural gas that can be developed safely from coal seams. While anti-CSG activists continue to take great delight in the demise of family jobs and investment, development of an affordable, safe and secure gas supply remains under threat.”

There is no looming shortage – the wells have not run dry.

What’s happening in NSW is the long-term supply contracts are expiring.  If there are no new sources of supply in NSW the price of natural gas will rise.

If the industry wanted to be truthful, it could legitimately claim that, unless something is done, the price of natural gas will rise sharply.  As a consumer, this may be a persuasive argument in favour of exploiting CSG.

But this is not about gas consumers.  This is an argument designed to scare politicians and uses a psychological phenomenon known as loss aversion.  A study published by Kahnemann and Tversky in 1984 showed that problems can be framed in different ways to produce seemingly irrational outcomes.

The study found that many people will refuse to bet $10 on a coin-toss if they stood to win less than $30.  Even though the odds are 50:50, the ‘rational’ behaviour changes once there is something to lose.

By arguing that there is an impending shortage of gas, the industry is suggesting to politicians that they will lose jobs, lose investment and, worse still, lose control of the economy!

The Grattan Institute’s Tony Wood says that there is fundamentally no shortage of gas in eastern Australia.  However there will be upward pressure on prices as producers can make better money exporting their gas overseas.

CSG producers employ the best and brightest.  It is simply inconceivable that long-term gas contracts had been filed away and forgotten, only for producers to suddenly remember them and declare an impending shortage.

Having failed to entice Australians with the prospect of riches, the industry has turned to a strategy of scaring politicians.  Even the ABC’s fact-checking unit finds the industry claims to be unverifiable. Unfortunately scaremongering and misinformation continues.

The only looming shortage the industry faces is the shortage of facts.

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  1. Brilliant illustration of the current situation, thanks!

  2. Thanks for this exposition of the fake ‘gas crisis’. The reality is that Industry documents have made it perfectly clear that when they turn on Gladstone for LNG export, the domestic market suddenly jumps to parity with high export prices. The irony is: the gas industry creates high prices via the export gas rush, then blames the community groups that resist invasive gasfields… for the high prices! Diabolical, really. The Australia Institute did a good analysis on this:

  3. Thanks for a well argued and informative piece! There is every reason just to leave all the gas in the ground, whatever name it’s given!

  4. I understand the price is linked to the Japan price and that will be multiples of what the price is now. The gas miners don’t care about the domestic price as it is small fry. Gas left will be worth more as the US excesses are keeping the price down now.
    How often are terms like “Natural” used to make it all seem so benign. You are being manipulated.. Of course gas is preferred to coal and especially Brown coal but not at the expense of degradation of groundwater and arable land. CO2 is still produced from the burning of GAS and the sediments being distributed as a result of dredging, near the Barrier reef , poisoning the sea grass have to be taken into account in the big CO2 picture as well.. These operations do not compensate for the damage they do to the environment by the way they operate as well as the damage to climateby increasing the atmospheric CO2 .

  5. One wonders if the current petrol increases have something to do with frightening people into thinking about shortages of all fuels? Why are Australian Government’s allowing miners to export Australian assets to the detriment of the country? If Australia has cheap power resources surely we should lock in the supply to the domestic market before allowing the products to be exported. Maybe then Australian manufacturing would be competitive and Australian families would not worry so much about their fuel and power bills. But is all this to simple, not enough profit for the big end of town!!!.

  6. This is the resultant Free Trade where world parity prices are charged for resources and we also have to fight almost slave like wages paid in the third world that value add most resources.
    Fight future Free Trade agreements and especially the TPP.
    These are designed to enslave us further.
    These are our resources and we require truth of process,not the current corporate/political love in.

  7. John Fraser says: