Western Australia’s McGowan Government has announced it has lifted a moratorium on fracking, but assures everyone things will be A-OK and has dangled a renewable energy carrot.
WA joins the Northern Territory, which also lifted a moratorium on fracking earlier this year.
Like the NT, the WA government’s decision has been based on what it says was an independent scientific inquiry, which found risks to be low.
Among the restriction that have been put in place:
Areas off limits include the South-West, Peel and Perth metropolitan regions; national parks, Dampier Peninsula and public water source areas.
Deals With The Devil?
In a crafty move and one that could be seen as doing a deal with the devil, the McGowan Government has committed to using fracking royalties for funding new renewable energy projects.
While fracking will not be permitted in 98% of the state, WA is Australia’s largest state at 253 million hectares. Just over 5 million hectares will potentially be open to fracking, an area around three-quarters of the size of Tasmania, or approximately 21 times the size of the ACT.
Lock The Gate Alliance condemned the decision.
“Instead of learning from Victorian Labor, which was swept to a massive electoral victory after promising to enshrine its fracking ban in the state’s constitution, WA Labor has chosen to take the state down this risky road,” said WA spokesperson for the group, Simone van Hattem.
In a statement released by the Western Australian government, Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said:
“Gas is part of the transition to a clean energy future, with emissions from gas much lower than other baseload power production. With the new strict controls in place and the establishment of a Clean Energy Future Fund, we’re setting up our State for the long term and a transition to renewables.”
Emissions from gas greatly depend on how it’s sourced – and fracking does not have a good reputation. Emissions aside, fracking has wreaked other significant environmental damage; but we’re assured that this won’t happen in WA.
With regard to renewable energy, WA certainly needs to get cracking. In the Climate Council’s recent state scorecard, Western Australia was at the back of the pack. It has no formal target to increase renewable energy or achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Last year, the proportion of renewables in WA’s energy mix was 7.5%.
The state government may be somewhat of a leaner on the renewables front, but Western Australian residents have been lifters – WA has the third highest proportion of households with solar power systems in Australia at 26.7%.
While “only” 5 million hectares will be available for fracking, will it be the thin edge of the wedge? Is it worth the risk to get the cash for renewables projects and perhaps ultimately help make WA a clean energy powerhouse?
We’re about to find out.