South Australia’s minister for energy and mining has told a conference of the oil and gas industry in Adelaide that his state government is “at your disposal”.
Tom Koutsantonis made the extraordinary comments during his address to the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association national conference on Monday morning.
He said oil and gas companies were needed to achieve net zero by 2050, claiming “we cannot transform our economy to net zero without this industry”.
“We are thankful you are here. We are happy to a be recipient of Appea’s largesse in the form of coming here more often,” Koutsantonis said.
“The South Australian government is at your disposal, we are here to help and we are here to offer you a pathway to the future.”
Koutsantonis made the comments following a speech by federal resources minister, Madeleine King, who spoke about helping to develop a carbon capture and storage industry in Australia through the government’s future gas strategy.
King said it was important for Australia to remain a “reliable, essential” supplier of gas for domestic and export market as the world looked to reduce its emissions ahead of 2050.
She said capture and storage was a “necessary part of a wider decarbonisation effort”, with the government having released new acreage for greenhouse gas storage projects for the “first time in years”.
“The will is there, the knowhow is there,” said. “We want a regulatory system for carbon capture and storage that is robust and responsive and position Australians resources sector to bring new CCS projects on line.”
King also said the industry could obtain credits for lowering their emissions below baseline under the safeguard mechanism, but only “if they are verified and scientifically sound”.
The announcements were welcomed by the Woodside chief executive and chair of Appea, Meg O’Neill, who said it provided “a great opportunity to outline the ongoing role of gas in the energy transition”.
“The strategy will guide a realistic pathway for Australia into the future whereby responsible resource development is understood and can continue,” she said.
But O’Neill said “regulatory certainty” was required if the government wanted to develop a carbon capture and storage industry.
“In Australia, I believe this is a technology that may have been judged too soon,” she said. “It works.”
Extinction Rebellion South Australia spokesperson Anna Slynn said the comments from King and Koutsantonis were “dangerous” given the imminent threat posed by the catastrophic risk of global heating, and pledged to make attendees “feel unwelcome” through protest outside the venue.
“The world’s climate scientists have been completely clear; there should be no further expansion of oil and gas if we want to avert complete climate catastrophe,” she said. “Life is in the balance. We will continue to make Appea feel unwelcome until they leave.
The International Energy Agency has said limiting global heating to 1.5C as set out in the Paris agreement meant there could be no new oil, gas or coal investment beyond 2021.
At another oil and gas conference last year, Koutsantonis was caught up in protests by Extinction Rebellion targeting fossil fuel producers over its role in driving climate change.