The true reason for tripling gas prices  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

Ross Gittins at the SMH has an article on the Australian government's plumbing of new moral depths, including a look at the dishonest debate about natural gas exports - Under Tony Abbott, political principles reach an all-time low.

Declining standards at federal level have been matched by bad behaviour at state level. For an example of state politicians willing to blatantly mislead their electorates, look no further than the Victorian and NSW governments' dishonest explanation for the looming jump of about 25 per cent in the price of household gas.

The true reason for the rise is that the building of natural gas liquefaction plants in Gladstone will soon allow gas producers on Australia's east coast to export their gas and obtain the much higher prices paid on the world market. The east coast will go from being outside the world market to inside it.

The price rise is thus inevitable unless governments were to prohibit the companies from exporting their gas, forcing them to continue accepting below-world prices. There has been no suggestion of penalising the gas producers in this way. Rather, state politicians have taken up the dishonest claim of the gas companies that permitting them to build new and controversial coal seam gas plants would somehow prevent gas prices from rising or force them back down. But as any student of economics could tell you, there's no way NSW and Victoria could ever produce enough natural gas to significantly affect the world price of gas.

The price of gas in NSW and Victoria would stay below the world price only if the new producers were compelled to sell their gas to local users at below the world price. Again, there's been no suggestion of this.

Last week the gas companies' illogical argument was taken up by the new NSW Minister for Energy and Resources, Anthony Roberts. I'm prepared to believe Roberts may be economically illiterate, but I don't believe his advisers are - nor that they don't read the papers, where the scam has been exposed.

Although Roberts has replaced a minister who left the cabinet under a cloud, he seems uninhibited in his efforts to mislead the electorate. It's hard to know whether he is simply seeking to advance the gas industry's vested interests or is setting up an alibi which allows the government to blame the inevitable jump in gas prices on those terrible people opposed to fracking.

Either way, his only crime is seeking to deceive voters. And these days that's the way everyone plays the political game, isn't it?

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