Australia’s Albanese Says Natural Gas Investment Shouldn’t Be Curbed

(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s natural gas industry should be permitted to follow the most promising returns on capital, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in his first defense of the industry since his government proposed tightening export rules.

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Natural gas will need to play a bridging role as intermittent renewable generation increasingly replaces the nation’s aging coal plants, and more of the fossil fuel will be needed, Albanese said Tuesday at the Australian Financial Review Business Summit 2023. The government’s role is to set the framework and make environmental assessments, letting corporations make their own capital allocations beyond that.

“Investment will flow in when you have certainty,” he said. “I firmly believe that decisions should be based on return on capital.”

Australia — one of world’s top exporters of liquefied natural gas — has proposed a last-resort measure that restricts some LNG exports to ensure enough fuel is available for domestic use, leading to a heavy pushback from the industry. The government is also facing pressure from the Green Party to rule out new coal and gas operations, as it seeks support in the upper house for legislation to overhaul the system that covers the nation’s biggest polluters.

“My message to the Greens and others for all the rhetoric if it doesn’t stack up then you’re not actually helping,” Albanese said. “Gas will play a role in renewables. We will need additional supply.”

Albanese pointed to miner Rio Tinto Ltd.’s Gladstone alumina refinery as one corporation that is eager to shift its power to renewable energy but still requires the firming power of gas as reserve.

The comments followed a speech which was strong on the theme of national industrial policy. Albanese highlighted a number of sectors that could be “areas of national priority,” including natural gas, potentially green aluminum and iron, as well as critical minerals.

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