SAM WAINWRIGHT is a Fremantle city councillor for Hilton ward and a member of the Socialist Alliance political party. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED he takes aim at the power fossil fuel companies exert in Western Australia.
‘COOL FUEL’ was the groovy title of the Ed! supplement about natural gas in the April 5 edition of The West Australian newspaper that gets distributed to all our schools.
To be sure, natural gas is “cool” when liquefied. But nowhere among the topics covered such as “Careers in LNG”, “Power to You” and “West is best” is there any mention of natural gas as a significant contributor to catastrophic global warming. No mention of the fact that because of fugitive emissions in the production cycle, natural gas is up there with coal.
The closest it gets to acknowledging global warming is when it waxes lyrical about gas being the “cleanest burning hydrocarbon”. Then comes this pearl of wisdom: “Natural gas is basically everything we want in a fuel, apart from the fact that it’s a non-renewable energy source.”
Outraged climate change campaigners contacted the editor to protest this gas industry promotion masquerading as science education. When they asked that the paper explain the real contribution of gas to climate change they were told this could only happen if it was “unbiased”.
The brainwashing doesn’t stop there. This puff piece was timed for a big gas industry conference in Perth this month called LNG 18. Coinciding with the school holidays there will be a whole program of interactive natural gas exhibits around town, facilitated by Scitech and sponsored by the state government and City of Perth.
Anyone who’s been to Perth’s Science Discovery Centre will know how good it is. It’s particularly disappointing that Scitech, the not-for-profit science education organisation that runs it, has let itself be used as a gas industry prop in this way. But it’s not alone.
A few years ago the vice-chancellor of the University of Western Australia appeared in a four-page wraparound Chevron advertisement. Presumably that’s what the VC of a “public” university is expected to do when an oil and gas multinational pays for a new building. In WA an intolerable conflict of interest for what is supposed to be an independent research institution is … simply tolerated!
So many of our educational institutions, arts festivals and not-for-profit organisations are dependant on sponsorship from the mining or offshore oil and gas companies that people come think of this as a good thing. Isn’t it nice of BHP, Woodside, Rio Tinto, Chevron and FMG to throw us a few crumbs from the super profits they make from exploiting the resources we should collectively own!
They’re like the lord of the manor throwing pennies in the dirt for us grateful peasants.
What about instead taxing these companies like we should be doing and using the revenues to fund things without their interference!
Such elementary democracy is considered to be revolutionary subversion in Western Australia.
Karl Marx observed the dominant ideology in any society is the ideology of its ruling class. Here in WA the big fossil fuel companies are like the seamless fusion of church, state and economy in mediaeval times.
Gas is the divine “transition fuel”. The only thing missing from Ed! was what to do with the modern day Galileos. Why not burn the heretics in Forrest Place under a sacred natural gas flame which “only releases carbon dioxide and water vapour when burnt”!
But being the dominant ideology doesn’t make it the only ideology. We need to build a people’s movement that can break the power of the fossil fuel corporations that are threatening to destroy every ecosystem on the planet. We need to promote a different idea: that another world is possible.