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Former Australian climate change minister backs CBM

World Coal,

Former Labor climate change minister, Greg Combet, has backed investment in and development of coalbed methane (CBM) projects in Australia, as a means to reduce soaring energy costs, while also meeting carbon reduction challenges.

“Saying no to [CBM] would constitute the worst of all possible worlds: exporting Australian manufacturing jobs to the US, while increasing carbon emissions at home,” Combet said.

“I have always been a fossil fuels man,” Combet said ahead of a speech to a national carbon capture and storage (CCS) conference dinner.

“We are going to be relying on them for a long time, so carbon capture and storage is important and coal seam gas (CBM) is important – provided the environmentals are right for its extraction.”

Combet cited the US shale gas revolution – which has delivered cheaper gas and lowered carbon emissions – as an example to follow.

Combet said it made sense to “dramatically increase domestic gas production, to ensure that the supply of gas keeps prices down and encourages investment in gas-fired power generation rather than coal”.

“This would enable us, similar to the US, to significantly cut emissions,” he said.

Combet also argued that freezing CBM development risked higher gas prices, as well as putting increased pressure on manufacturing jobs and generally higher greenhouse gas emissions.

“Without urgent new CBM development in New South Wales, the state’s industrial gas users will face uncertain supply and price volatility during peak usage periods from 2016.”

Combet said, arguing that it should be “imperative” to invest heavily in CCS to ensure Australia could “dominate the market for greenhouse solutions as well as fossil fuels.”

The former Labor minister, who now works as a consultant, rejected the gas industry’s campaign against the Renewable Energy Target, which the industry says is squeezing gas out of the power generation mix. With cheap thermal coal readily available, the target was “simply necessary” to deliver more renewable energy, he said.

Combet criticised the Abbott government’s axing of Labor’s carbon price, arguing it will inevitably return to the table under pressure from international trading partners.

Written by Sam Dodson

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