GIPPSLAND’S green groups have rejected claims by Nationals MP Peter Walsh that more gas exploration will reduce prices and relieve shortages.
The Liberal Nationals have vowed to relieve domestic gas shortages by legislating to allow onshore conventional gas exploration and production in Victoria on a case-by-case basis to relieve domestic gas shortages.
There is currently a moratorium on onshore conventional gas exploration and extraction until 2020.
But Gippsland’s Greens spokesman Ian Onley said no matter how much gas exploration was allowed, prices would not come down until the focus moved to renewables.
“We have more than enough gas here already, but because it is sold overseas, we end up paying so much for what’s left,” he said.
Mr Onley said renewables was the only option to reduce prices and secure Australia’s energy future.
Greens MP Ellen Sandell last month said farmers and communities should be concerned about opening the state to conventional gas drilling, while advocacy group Lock The Gate has denounced any moves to increase exploration.
The Lock The Gate Alliance this month told the National Energy Summit that Australia should focus on ending the gas export dash and on growing renewable energy.
However, on Tuesday, Nationals state leader Peter Walsh said his party would create a new royalty sharing scheme that would allow local landowners to benefit from gas produced from beneath their land, and give landowners a right of veto over conventional gas exploration and production on their land.
It would also introduce a domestic gas policy for new onshore and offshore gas, and continue to support the existing legislative fracking ban and ban on coal seam gas exploration and production.
Mr Walsh said 83 per cent of Victorian households, or 1.83 million customers, had mains gas connection, and Victorian households and businesses were more dependent on gas to satisfy domestic demand than every other state.
“This policy will help put the brakes on soaring gas prices that are currently hurting Victorian households and businesses,” he said.
“Our policy will provide cheaper gas and create more jobs while protecting our environment and farmland.
“Our policy keeps Victoria’s fracking ban, while securing the gas resources we need.
Mr Walsh said the “ideological” decision to triple the taxes on Victorian brown coal and pursue a go-it-alone 40 per cent Victorian renewable energy target, as well as banning all new sources of conventional onshore gas, had set off a chain reaction that led to the sudden closure of the Hazelwood power station, massive increases in energy prices and a dependence on Tasmania and New South Wales for reliable electricity.
He said the conventional gas industry had successfully existed in Victoria for decades, and together with Victoria’s world-class brown coal reserves, had previously been responsible for the state’s position as Australia’s low-cost energy power house.
But the state’s gas supplies were at an all-time low for several reasons, including gas exports.
Mr Walsh said allowing the private sector to find new sources of gas would help to bring more supply into the Victorian energy market and reduce cost pressures.