Australian Extinction Rebellion (ER) activists blocked four lanes of traffic in the capital city of Canberra and protested in Melbourne on Aug. 3, demanding the Australian government immediately cease what it deems as ‘fossil fuel fervour’ and instead focus on fighting carbon dioxide emissions.
The crowd caused severe disruption to commuters passing by the head office of the nation’s peak oil and gas body—the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA).
The obstruction continued the following day with members splattering red paint and protesting outside the Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment—a response triggered after Environment Minister Sussan Ley appealed a court ruling that found her liable for the health of children impacted by a potential coal mine expansion, a conviction that ER helped champion.
The protests then extended into the country’s second-largest city, Melbourne, on Thursday, with activists barricading themselves outside the office of federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
The 2021-22 federal budget handed down by Frydenberg sparked irate demonstrations after ER followers were unimpressed with what they believed was inaction by the Australian government to fast track climate change mitigation efforts.
“I’m here because I’m profoundly concerned about the future of my grandchildren,” said Margaret, an 80-year-old protestor and former school principal.
“I’m concerned about the future of all children because we know the government is not taking appropriate action and we feel we have a duty to act,” she said.
According to ER, at least four protestors have been arrested in the demonstrations.
The protesters called for a “duty of care” and demanded the government declare a climate emergency.
In particular, ER aims to bring forward Australia’s emissions targets to achieve net zero by 2025.
However, an APPEA spokesperson said the group had it all wrong.
“These professional activists are clearly misinformed as the oil and gas industry is doing the heavy lifting when it comes to tackling climate change,” an APPEA spokesperson told The Epoch Times following the demonstrations.
The spokesperson explained that natural gas was cleaner and emitted less carbon dioxide when burned compared to coal.
“The Australian Government estimates that our exports of LNG may help to reduce emissions in importing countries by about 170 million tonnes each year—the equivalent of almost one-third of Australia’s total annual emissions,” the spokesperson said.
The Australian government has also backed gas heavily as a way to provide fast “ramping” backup power as more wind and solar generators assimilate into the grid.
The ramping ability of gas generators to fire up and deliver output in a short period of time was also proven recently when hundreds of thousands of Queensland homes had power return quickly right after a fire at a coal plant that had plunged 400,000 into blackout.
The protests by the climate activists comes amid increasing uncertainty around Australia’s future energy security.
Last week, the government’s Energy Security Board warned Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state premiers that Australia may face blackouts and price spikes without a complete overhaul to the nation’s grid.
Over the last three months alone—in addition to the unplanned outage in Queensland—Australasia’s largest aluminium smelter in New South Wales was forced to power down five times in two weeks. These events propelled average household energy across most of Australia to three times that of last year.