REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Has gas come off the boil already?

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from ACM, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend.

A drill site on the Beetaloo in the NT outback.

A drill site on the Beetaloo in the NT outback.

There are already some who fear the Beetaloo might have missed its one chance at making history.

To look at this broad swathe of the Northern Territory outback, the only thing remarkable about it is that there is nothing remarkable about it.

Thousands of square kilometres of flat red dirt and spindly bush.

Farmers try and make a few bucks by running cows across it, but the cows are well scattered, there's not always that much to eat, or drink out there.

But hidden in the perpetual darkness thousands of metres underfoot there are two thick layers of shale rocks, rocks many believe contain enough energy to power Australia for centuries.

A piece of shale rock dug up from deep beneath the Beetaloo.

A piece of shale rock dug up from deep beneath the Beetaloo.

The Beetaloo has sprouted tall needles, which are today probing this hidden interior to learn whether the experts are right.

The Prime Minister is not waiting, he has already signed on as a fan.

Scott Morrison has made opening up the Beetaloo's promise a national priority.

So today while it seems the Beetaloo will have its chance to make history after all, others say it has had its in day in the sun already.

Shale gas, onshore gas, natural gas, liquids-rich gas, unconventional gas whichever you want to say it, it's gas, the explosive vapour which is attracted more to flame than moths surely are.

The Prime Minister's declaration of love for the Beetaloo has triggered a national debate about Australia's long-term future in moving from burning coal to another fossil fuel.

Australia has a lot of coal.

It's all around the place - Victoria, Queensland, NSW.

Victoria's wealth was built on the vast brown coal fields of Gippsland, there's still enormous quantities of the stuff there, but the world says no, you must stop, it's dirty.

Many experts around the world are already saying the same thing about gas.

Countries everywhere are pledging zero carbon emissions to placate their climate change-alarmed citizens.

The Beetaloo is still not a proven resource, that could take years yet.

Public funds may be needed to pay for the pipes to take any Beetaloo gas to the east coast.

Public funds may be needed to pay for the pipes to take any Beetaloo gas to the east coast.

There are still no pipelines to get the stuff to market.

Spending the sort of money needed now seems risky when the risk is the world will pass gas by, just like it has turned up its collective nose at coal.

The scary words "stranded assets" are starting to be flung about already.

The Northern Territory badly needs an industry like shale gas to restore its fortunes but perhaps it is all too late for the lobbyists to retrieve already, has gas come off the boil?

Has the Beetaloo's five minutes of fame already tick-tocked away?

In case you are interested in filtering all the latest down to just one late afternoon read, why not sign up for The Informer newsletter?

More stuff happening around Australia ...

Comments