19 Sep 2011

'Phony' Claims In Coal Seam Gas Ads

By Shannon Andreucci
An ad campaign touting the benefits of coal seam gas drilling has been launched - and provoked a formal complaint about false environmental claims, reports Shannon Andreucci
Activist group Lock The Gate has lodged a formal complaint against the advertising campaign "We want CSG" for making false environmental claims about coal seam gas mining.

As well as touting the economic benefits of coal seam gas, the ads claim CSG is cleaner than other energy sources and that fracking, in which rocks are cracked to release gas, has been found to be a safe technology.

The Alliance has urged the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB), the body that judges consumer complaints against Australian advertisements, to discontinue or order the modification of the television advertisements authorised by the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA).

The campaign is being conducted on TV, radio, print and social media in Australia for an initial period of four to five weeks. According to a media release issued by APPEA, it is funded by some of Australia's biggest energy companies including AGL, Santos, Arrow Energy and Origin Energy, and by major foreign investors such as ConocoPhillips.

"This multi-million dollar advertising campaign is a slap in the face to rural communities who are living in fear of the impacts on their farms, their health and their water resources ... we are not prepared to tolerate it", said Drew Hutton, president of Lock The Gate Alliance.

"The TV advertisements are based on a whole lot of misleading concepts such as: CSG has a minimal impact on farm land, can be conducted harmoniously with agriculture and is a clean green energy source."

Rick Wilkinson, Chief Operating Officer of APPEA, which represents the main players in the Australian gas industry, says the campaign is based on facts to help the community judge the sustainability of the industry.

"The purpose was to bring balance back to the discussion, we thought there was plenty of information with regards to the risks but we also wanted to highlight the benefits of CSG," he said.

"The key environmental initiatives are that it supports lower carbon future, is up to 70 per cent cleaner than coal and is used to generate electricity, and as for benefits to regional employment, we already have more than 8500 people working in CSG."

Wilkinson expressed no concern about the complaints being generated by environmental activist groups, including Lock The Gate's formal submission to the ASB. "I think most of those claims have been dismissed, there's no validity to them. There have been no material complaints that I'm aware of", he said.

The feedback about the APPEA's campaign has been positive, says Wilkinson. "From talking to people in the regional community, they agree that the other side of the story is being told through the campaign and that it's a fair representation of a sizeable part of the community", he told New Matilda.

Lock The Gate has argued that the campaign's claims made about the benefits of CSG are "phony" and in breach of the Australian Association of National Advertisers' (AANA) Environmental Claims Advertising and Marketing Code. This code was established two years ago to ensure that "green claims" made about products are truthful and accurate.

"We've highlighted many issues in our complaint — from the fact that CSG has a much bigger carbon footprint then they would like to have us believe to the appalling imbalance in rights between land holders and mining companies", Hutton told New Matilda.

He said there was also scepticism about the nameless local residents and small business owners who are briefly featured in the 30-second TV ads.

"It raises the question about what incentives or rewards these people were given to do the ad. You need to be prepared to put your name up there if you're going to make these assertions so people can be identified and contacted about it", he said.

Lock The Gate are collaborating with GetUp! in their own campaign "Don't Risk CSG" to counteract the APPEA's campaign. Their ads featured alarming real-life stories about the effect of CSG mining in regional Australia. The participants revealed their names in this campaign.

While Rick Wilkinson would not disclose how much the "We Want CSG" campaign cost, he said the brevity and anonymity of these ads boiled down to a matter of available funds. "The GetUp! advertisement has a longer running time and a narrow audience ... when you run longer campaigns you obviously have more money available", he said.

Hutton, who was on set when the "Don't Risk CSG" campaign was filmed, dismissed this, saying that the GetUp! advertisement was very low budget.

Lock The Gate is confident that APPEA's cammpaign will not shift the public's stance on CSG.

"The community is locked in a David and Goliath battle against a cashed up industry that thinks it can change public sentiment by spreading phony claims," said Hutton. He added that the Alliance will be looking to pursue further avenues against APPEA to ensure the Australian public is not misled.

"We don't want to see the community hoodwinked by phony claims ... We're going to hold this industry accountable no matter what it takes."

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Posted Monday, September 19, 2011 - 15:07

Can you please direct me to an unbiased source listing the pros and cons of CSG exploration?

Posted Monday, September 19, 2011 - 17:07

As a lower carbon world economy starts to take shape other traditional energy providers will use climate change as leverage to replace coal. Gas (oil) companies will take market share from the mining giants. Rather than real change we will see a repositioning of traditional industry covered over with the false accounting of offshore credits. The EU and Australia are laying the groundwork for maintaining the status quo, changing to gas and other efficiencies will help cover the significant economic growth planned but the real move required to the zero carbon technology needed has no players with political or economic power and as result they have no real influence on policy. Australia's plan even up to 2050 relies heavily on offshore credits. This massive policy and scientific contraction is in line with the failure of modern civilization to deal with sustainability- pretty much everything we are doing is wrong. Our supermarket shelves are full of product where more is spent on the packaging than the contents, alot is made from petroleum based plastics that do not breakdown and are entering the food chain. The status quo will not change until people see the weather going crazy regularly on television - in the meantime alot of wealth is going to be wasted on technological cul de sacs like Gas.

Posted Monday, September 19, 2011 - 18:00

Talk about the pot calling the kettle an kitchen utensile for boiling water. The claims made in the Drew Hutton/ LOSE THE GAME/ gETuP anti-csg adds are also dishonest. The health claims made by Debbie Orr are nothing but dishonest, and drew hutton knows that, the claims are old and having investigated the bleeding nose and ears claim there is simply no way to link it to CSG, as for her thinking her son had a tumor? So she's paranoid, perhaps unsettled and afraid, but that is no excuse for hutton using her pitiful and pathetic tale like this.
Both the gov people and QGC know this story, it is over 18 months old, it was pathetic then, its use now is corrupt, and tomorrow I shall be lodging a complaint with the Advertising Standards Bureau about hutton's claims.
I have no problems with the pro csg adds, yes they are over stated and unrepresentative and selective in their outlook, and wrong, but as perhaps the first anti-csg campaigner in this country I am far more horrified at what hutton and Co. are doing. They give protestors a bad name.
Graeme Henderson
We Are Anti Mining Inc.

PS GocomSys; That would be great, we have been trying to get the facts about this for years, the fact is, they do not know what they are doing, and they are not going to let that stop them because they live for $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Posted Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 17:31

Any TV advertisements are based on a whole lot of lies and misconceptions, Ads have been digitally altered to make them look believable and to get your attention and so they are not believable and neither is the product they are advertising.

Posted Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 22:41

I am waiting for the clear and unbiased ad that explains what will happen to the Great Artesian Basin if this industry goes ahead with its plans. Damage our nation's water supply and we are all up the creek (sorry for the unintended pun).

Posted Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 12:16

CSG is not only risky in both an environmental and health hazard sense, it is a finite fossil fuel, not a renewable energy and therefore an inferior source of energy for the future.
CSG is by its very nature, is a destructive and destabilising method of energy extraction. It not only disturbs the surface of the earth, but more importantly stratas of rock, deep into the earth's crust, that contain vital clean water supplies.
CSG will not only disturb many of these artisan water sources, causing many trees to die, but will also contaminate the water, in many cases making it dangerous for the farming and agricultural industries to continue to use.
I intend to donate to GetUp to help in the counter-advertising for this inadvisable and ill considered move towards the CSG method of energy extraction.

Posted Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 20:29

^ Good tip, thanks Denise. I just chipped in to air GetUp's CSG advert.

Posted Thursday, September 22, 2011 - 11:27

Natural gas is certainly NOT a "clean green energy source". Gas is not clean, it is dirty. 2.8 tonnes of the greenhouse gas (GHG) CO2 is generated from combustion of 1 tonne of methane (CH4; the major component of natural gas) .

Further, methane is 105 times worse than carbon dioxide (CO2) as a GHG on a 20 year time scale and major systemic gas leakage from the hydraulic fracking of shale formations has led Professor Robert Howarth, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, to conclude that “The large GHG footprint of shale gas undercuts the logic of its use as a bridging fuel over coming decades, if the goal is to reduce global warming. We do not intend that our study be used to justify the continued use of either oil or coal, but rather to demonstrate that substituting shale gas for these other fossil fuels may not have the desired effect of mitigating climate warming” (see Robert W. Howarth, Renee Santoro and Anthony Ingraffea, “Methane and the greenhouse-gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations”, Climatic Change, 2011:: http://www.sustainablefuture.cornell.edu/news/attachments/Howarth-EtAl-2... ).

It can be calculated that substituting shale gas (7.9% leakage) for coal would double power generation-derived GHG pollution while at the US average leakage of 3.3% there would be little difference between coal or gas GHG-wise (see "Oz Labor’s Carbon Tax-ETS & gas for coal plan means INCREASED GHG pollution", Bellaciao, 27 August 2011: http://bellaciao.org/en/spip.php?article21140 ).

Pro-coal, pro-gas Labor and the fossil fuel industry - both with access to the best scientific advice - are simply LYING when they say that "gas is clean energy". Lying sabotages rational risk management crucial for public safety. Ergo, sensible, risk averse Australians should vote 1 Green and put Labor last.

Peace is the only way but Silence kills and Silence is complicity.

Posted Thursday, September 22, 2011 - 15:48

Bad news!
I've just received some scam email in which I've been offered a phony job with a CSG company.
Within hours of my prior posting, someone from the CSG industry has noted my overwhelming, enthusiastic non-support for their industry, and presumably has attempted to bribe me to change my mind.
How contrite and contrary to think that anyone would work in an industry they consider reckless and dangerous!