Turns out manufacturing is alive and well in Australia. Only these days we’re manufacturing crises. This week’s exhibit is from the gas industry, which having witnessed the energy market regulator’s grave warnings that we’d all be having cold showers in the dark in a couple of years, found itself summoned to the Prime Minister’s table.
“It is not acceptable for Australia – shortly to become the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas – to not have enough gas for its own families and its own businesses,” boomed Malcolm Turnbull ahead of the meeting. And he was right. What was far less clear was why this arrangement had been so perfectly acceptable for so long.
Let’s be clear: there is no gas shortage. Not in Australia, and not around the world. In fact, there’s the opposite: a global glut of the stuff. BHP has already admitted there’s enough gas in Bass Strait to supply the east coast “indefinitely”. And globally, by the end of 2015 the gas industry was capable of producing about 25 per cent more liquefied gas than the world wanted to import.
By 2020, production capacity looks set to increase another 30 per cent. Even if demand is increasing – and that’s not absolutely clear – it’s not keeping pace with that. The world’s biggest importer, Japan, has been reducing its demand for several years, and according to its own government, will be buying 30 per cent less gas by 2030 as it turns its focus to renewables …