There are often more than two sides to every story (“Farmer v Miner”, Women’s Weekly June 2014) and unfortunately Caroline Overington’s article has only captured one.
There are clearly people who have concerns about the production of natural gas from coal seams, a resource that has been safely sourced in Australia for decades and provides one-third of eastern Australia’s gas supply.
But equally there are many that support natural gas production and the contribution it makes to rural communities, local, state, national economies and our energy supply.
If Ms Overington visited Roma and Chinchilla in Queensland she would have discovered a gas industry in full swing, booming small businesses, high levels of employment and bustling communities.
She would have seen an environment intact and an agricultural sector working side by side with a gas industry delivering enormous benefits to Queensland.
The following graphs tell the story of the growing divide between towns like Roma where natural gas from coal seams has been developed for almost 20 years and an area like the Northern Rivers of NSW.
Source: Energy Quest – Energy Quarterly May 2014.
You will see that in Roma average incomes are on the rise and the unemployment rate is declining.
The opposite is occurring in the Northern Rivers where the unemployment rate hovers around a staggering 13 per cent.
It is disappointing the Weekly failed to scrutinize statements as “fraccing will destroy the environment…” or offer readers any factual information or differing point of view. For the record hydraulic fracturing has been used safely to enhance oil and gas production for 65 years in more than 2 million wells worldwide. For more information visit here.
The Weekly article also made mention of a NSW government decision to stop a lawfully approved standard exploratory drilling program near Bentley in Northern NSW – a program the magazine claims was taking place on “prime agricultural land”.
Prime agricultural land?
The proposed drilling was to take place at an unused quarry site.
The landholder agreed and supported the project. For his trouble he and his family were bullied and intimidated by protesters. A booby trap in the form of a pit full of steel spikes was installed at the entrance to his property.
Ms Overington may be surprised to learn but the gas industry is not in the business of “destroying landscapes”.
The following photo of a property in the Surat Basin highlights just one example of gas production and agriculture working side by side.
The gas well pads are those small white squares in paddock corners and along fencelines.
Natural gas does a bit more than “boil the kettle”! In fact, there are more than 1.2 million users of natural gas in NSW – from big manufacturing industries to restaurants.
While NSW continues to import 95 per cent of its natural gas from other states, despite having abundant reserves, no pressure can be placed on the rising cost of retail annual gas bills, that will rise by 17.8 per cent on 1 July, 2014.
For a magazine that has forged a reputation for breaking female stereotypes perhaps the Women’s Weekly may one day focus on the thousands of women employed in the natural gas industry; the engineers, the environmental scientists, the geologists and the company leaders working to deliver a cleaner energy source to Australia and the world.