CSIRO's CSG protest

The leading industry body for the coal seam gas sector has come under fire for claiming CSIRO had established groundwater was “safe with coal seam gas”. And it's easy to see why the scientific body is upset.

CSIRO has attacked an advertising campaign from the Australian Petroleum Producers and Exploration Association for a false assertion in relation to its research on coal seam gas.

The ad claimed CSIRO research had established groundwater was “safe with coal seam gas”, something the country’s leading scientific body has not done.

“At no time has CSIRO made such a statement, and nor do the results of CSIRO research support such a statement,” the leading government scientific body said in a statement.

“CSIRO has stated on the public record that coal seam gas extraction is likely to pose a ‘low risk’ to groundwater quality through contamination. CSIRO has also indicated that groundwater levels will fall as a consequence of coal seam gas extraction. In some places this could see aquifer levels subside by tens of metres for tens of years; in others it is likely to reduce aquifer levels by several metres for several hundred years.”

The scientific body said as soon as it became aware of the ad – on Friday August 31 – it pushed for its scrapping, but APPEA pushed on regardless, leading to a screening on Channel 9 on Sunday.

An APPEA spokesman surprisingly told AAP that the industry group stood by the ad.

"APPEA has created a number of ads for its latest CSG campaign that relate to economic benefit, environmental protection, energy security, and technological know-how," he said in a statement.

"All of our ads have been approved as factual by the independent advertising regulator.”

This statement from APPEA deserves significant scrutiny.

The independent advertising regulator declares it factual. CSIRO says it is not factual. One can’t help but feel CSIRO knows its own research a little bit better than the advertising regulator.

The ad itself cannot be found on the APPEA marketing website but the organisation has yet to confirm it will not run it again despite saying it had taken CSIRO’s comments on board.

The whole debacle sets the CSG industry back as it only serves to give weight to claims the sector is being deceptive in its relations with the public. The tacky ad tagline it is using probably won’t help either.

“It’s cleaner. It’s safer. It’s jobs. It is the future.”

It’s cleaner: than what – coal? But does that mean it’s clean enough to help or hinder the goal of avoiding dangerous climate change?

It’s safer: than what? Using the hairdryer in the shower? Eating coal while ironing a shirt you are wearing?

It’s jobs: every industry ‘is jobs’ I would have thought.

It is the future: very much debatable.

Why settle for cleaner and safer, anyway? Why not cleanest and safest? A debate for another day, perhaps.

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