Labor to back new fossil fuel projects that ‘stack up’ economically and environmentally

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP</span>
Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP

The Albanese government will continue to support new fossil fuel projects so long as they “stack up” from an economic and environmental perspective, the federal resources minister says.

Labor rejected the Greens’ demand that there be no new fossil fuel projects during negotiations over the climate bill. The government is pushing states and territories to expand domestic gas supply as it attempts to shore up the local market.

Related: Anthony Albanese rules out banning fossil fuel projects, citing risk to Australian economy

Madeleine King, in a speech to the resources industry in Queensland on Thursday, praised the gas industry stating: “The government understands that natural gas is the ally of renewable energy and will support the addition of more intermittent energy sources.”

The minister said she would work with producers as well as state and territory governments to “encourage new supply”.

“Overall, even as we are moving to a decarbonised energy system, coal and gas will continue to heat our homes and keep manufacturing going for many years to come. In short, if projects involving these traditional energy sources stack up environmentally, economically, and socially, we will support them.”

In its latest interim report into the nation’s gas market, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found the east coast gas market was facing a gas shortfall of 56 petajoules in 2023.

The gap is about 10% of annual domestic demand “signifying a substantial risk to Australia’s energy security”, the report stated. King said on Thursday the best solution for the tight market was to “boost supply”.

“I applaud the Queensland government’s commitment to increasing domestic gas supply to help avoid the forecast 2023 east coast shortfall,” the minister said.

“Since 2015, the Queensland government has released more than 20,000 sq km for gas exploration that must be sold exclusively to the domestic market. I encourage the Queensland government to consider releasing even more acreage under its domestic gas reservation condition.”

Earlier this month, the United Nations secretary general António Guterres pleaded with governments to wind back their reliance on fossil fuels.

“We seem trapped in a world where fossil fuel producers and financiers have humanity by the throat,” Guterres said.

“For decades, the fossil fuel industry has invested heavily in pseudoscience and public relations, with a false narrative to minimise their responsibility for climate change and undermine ambitious climate policies. Nothing could be more clear or present than the danger of fossil fuel expansion.”

Related: Albanese parrots a pro-coal talking point as Ampol offers ‘carbon neutral’ petrol | Temperature Check

In late July, Anthony Albanese ruled out banning fossil fuel projects, citing the risk to the Australian economy. The prime minister also suggested coal from other countries produced higher emissions “because of the quality of the product”.

The Greens are now pushing for a legislated climate trigger, which would weigh up the impact of any new fossil fuel project on the climate, with spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young saying stopping new mines was the only way humanity was “going to have any chance of survival”.

“A climate trigger will go a long way to stopping dirty fossil fuel projects if they make the climate crisis worse,” she said.

The Greens have vowed to fight Labor approving any future projects, including expanding gas exploration, arguing Australia has more than enough supply but it is being sent offshore.

The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, has said the party will leverage its power in the Senate to try and stop future projects.

“The fight to stop new coal and gas is already underway around the country, from the opening of the Beetaloo oil and gas basin, to the Scarborough, Barossa and Narrabri projects, and the Greens will be a big part of those fights.”