OPPONENTS of shale gas developments in South Australia should brace themselves for a campaign of spin spruiking the benefits of unconventional gas exploration, according to Greens MLC Mark Parnell.
He believes they will be 'fed' only the benefits through a "cunning" public relations exercise that will be rolled out by the mining industry and State Government.
"And those of you who do line up behind protest movements, such as Lock the Gate, will be called all sorts of names, and (told) that you don't represent mainstream Australia, and that you'll hold our nation back," he said.
"It's a load of rubbish.
"This is about protecting water, food-growing areas and biodiversity, and if you're not alarmed, you're not paying attention."
Mr Parnell says the industry's emergence in areas, such as the Otway Basin, was a "recipe for conflict" with the State Government's clean, green food image because of the serious adverse impacts it could have on farming through the contamination of groundwater and soil.
"And there is nothing 'clean and green' about promoting a frenzy of fossil fuel extraction that will exacerbate climate change and seriously affect farming, not just in SA, but globally."
The Moomba-191 commercial shale gas operation was heavily spruiked by Premier Jay Weatherill during October when he turned on the gas well.
Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis called it the "beginning of an energy revolution".
"I see this as a game-changer for our State. Even in its infancy, SA's unconventional gas sector has the potential to deliver billions of dollars of investment, creating wealth and jobs," he said.
Former captain of the Australian and Queensland State of Origin rugby league teams Darren Lockyer, as the 'face' of Australia Pacific Liquid Natural Gas, has also called the unconventional gas sector a 'game-changer'.
He was hired to help spruik APLNG's coal-seam gas operations in his region of Roma.
"CSG's changed a lot of these towns. It's a massive industry with so many opportunities," Mr Lockyer says in the televised advertisements.
"It's a game-changer for so many people."
But Qld and New South Wales have experienced considerable resistance to CSG in heavy agricultural areas where the emergence of the Lock the Gate Alliance, which is causing headaches for industry and government, has a solid – and rapidly growing – membership base.
"The strength of the Lock the Gate movement in the eastern states shows the level of concern among farmers," Mr Parnell said.
Lock the Gate secretary Sarah Moles says a camaraderie had formed between Northern Rivers, NSW, residents and those of the Tara gas fields, Qld, where mining has been identified by its opponents for health issues caused by methane leakage.
"Children are starting to show up with high levels of impuric acid and are bleeding through the ears and noses and are getting chronic headaches," she said.
"It's a strikingly similar set of symptoms to what has been reported for many years near unconventional gas developments in the US."
A four-month blockade in the Lismore area of NSW resulted in a CSG company eventually withdrawing.
"One of the reasons why NSW people have been so strong in their campaign is because they have seen what happened in Qld," Ms Moles said.
"They have seen this and said 'over our dead bodies, we won't let this happen in our part of the world'."
Australian Petroleum Prod-uction & Exploration Association Western Region chief operating officer Stedman Ellis said more than 3700 land access agreements had been signed between companies and landholders in NSW and Qld.
"Graziers, farmers and other landowners receive compensation from the resource developer for any loss of land or other impacts on their business operations," he said.
While acknowledging that issues have been caused by shallow CSG wells, Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy Department executive director Barry Goldstein said millions of deep, shale gas wells – being pursued in SA – have been drilled and injected with fracking fluids in the US without causing any damage.
"There's more than one million active wells in North America and more than a million lawyers," he said.
The oil and gas industry would not be in business if it was as dangerous as its opponents believe because "ambulance-chasing" lawyers in the United States would put companies out of business.
*Full report in Stock Journal, June 20 issue, 2013.