You’d have to have been living under a rock in recent weeks not to have noticed the noise coming out of the federal government about the looming energy crisis which could blackouts befall us in the next year or two.
Depending on who you believe, we have arrived in this predicament because old coal-fired power stations are being decommissioned, because we’ve rushed headlong into renewables or because politicians of all stripes failed to grasp the nettle and put a price on carbon.
You only had to watch the very public shirtfronting of federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg by South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill to see the energy issue tearing at the fabric of our federal way of government. Nerves and federal-state relations are obviously being seriously frayed.
In amongst all this has come the revelation that because we have allowed our vast supplies of natural gas to be shipped offshore, we face the prospect of serious gas shortages as well.
Just think about that for a moment. The country with largest gas reserves in the world doesn’t have enough to keep its domestic market supplied. Make sense? No, didn’t think so. But it gets worse. Turns out the Japanese government earns more revenue by selling our gas than we do.
It seems that in our rush to sell our resources, we have failed to guarantee our own supplies. This can only mean a lack of foresight and leadership at the highest levels in Canberra.
This shortfall in gas supplies does not just mean us domestic consumers will pay more for what is an abundant resource. There is a serious national security dimension to this as well. Energy security is absolutely vital to a country such as ours.
Girt by sea as we are, we should not only be concerned about our access to our own resources but also to resources from abroad upon which we rely.
Some years ago, we sat by as the major oil companies shut down their refineries in Australia. As it now stands, we have weeks’ supply. The bulk of our fuel comes from refineries in Singapore. Should the unthinkable happen and conflict erupt in the South China Sea, those fuel supplies could become extremely vulnerable.
Clearly, we need to be smarter about our resources. At the very least we should see that domestic supply is never allowed to be threatened by the volume of exports.
It should never have come to this.