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Australian gas: between a fracked rock and a socially hard place

Kim de Rijke writes in The Conversation (10.4.17) about the federal government's eagerness to usher in a new boom in onshore gas production. The author points out that gas firms will need to tread carefully, going by past experience in Queensland's fracking heartland.

'Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s response to the looming east coast gas shortage has been to secure a promise from gas producers to increase domestic supply.

'In a televised press conference last month, he said: “We must continue the pressure on state and territory governments to revisit the restrictions on gas development and exploration.”

'But if an onshore gas boom is indeed in the offing, my research suggests that gas companies should tread carefully and take more seriously the social context of their operations.

'Shell chief executive Erik van Beurden, one of the big players in the Australian gas industry, recently admitted that “social acceptance [for our industry] is just disappearing”, while Shell Australia’s chairman Andrew Smith last year urged the industry to be less hubristic and more willing to collaborate.

'Industrial developments have social consequences, particularly in the case of unconventional gas extraction. But my analysis of the social research done by gas firms in the Darling Downs – Queensland’s coal seam gas heartland – indicates a lack of rigorous research to identify community attitudes.'


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