Tour Down Under - BreakAway From Gas
The Tour Down Under is the first event on the UCI World Tour and is run by Events SA, part of the South Australian Tourism Commission. Since 2010, the race’s major naming rights partner has been Santos, an oil and gas company that has ongoing ambitions to expand its fossil fuel operations.
It is appalling that a major cycling event, held in a state which is a world leader in renewable energy, is partnering with a polluting fossil fuel company.
Fossil Free SA has launched the #BreakAwayFromGas campaign to pressure Events SA to end Santos’ partnership with the Tour Down Under by 2023. Santos must not be allowed to use this prestigious event to 'greenwash' its activities. The company cannot present itself as community-minded, when its business model directly contributes to the climate crisis and extreme weather events which, ironically, disrupt the event itself.
We want to see the Tour Down Under continue with the support of clean corporate partners that are not linked to fossil fuel industries or the financial institutions that sustain them.
Gas is a climate disaster
There is no denying that gas is a polluting fossil fuel. The gas industry, in its various forms, is responsible for emitting vast amounts of methane and C02 into the atmosphere. Both are dangerous greenhouse gases contributing to global heating and extreme weather events.
A recent Australian Conservation Foundation report revealed that in 2018-19 gas projects and facilities in Australia spouted out around 81 million tonnes of climate pollution. Add to this the emissions from gas fired power stations and our role as the world’s leading exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), and it is clear that Australian gas is a major driver of climate disruption.
The October 2018 IPCC Special Report warned that to keep global warming under 1.5 degC, we must end our reliance on fossil fuels as quickly as possible. Expansion of the gas industry is incompatible with this target. A climate safe future relies on keeping gas in the ground.
Gas is an economic disaster
Gas prices are intrinsically linked to oil prices and are therefore exposed to an unstable global market. This price volatility has been clearly seen in 2020 during the COVID19 crisis with huge drops in the gas price leading to the stalling of major gas projects around the country as outlined in this Climate Council report. It is illogical to invest Australia’s economic recovery in an unpredictable industry with a limited life span.
Australian gas is expensive to export as it must be compressed and shipped. CSIRO research also shows that industries built on gas and gas-fired electricity will have higher ongoing operating costs than those built on renewables, even before considering their exposure to future gas and oil price spikes or supply disruptions.
The gas industry is lying to us
The gas industry knows it has no long term future while it focuses on fossil fuel as it's primary source of saleable energy. It is clinging to life support in the form of compliant politicians, slick advertising campaigns, unproven technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and jaded “gas vs coal’ rhetoric.
The Australian gas industry has long justified its gas export emissions by claiming that without LNG, other countries will burn coal, which is 50% dirtier. However there is a growing body of research, including satellite mapping of methane as reported in The Age, which demonstrates that methane leakage across the gas cycle is far greater than the industry claims.
As methane is 86 times more effective than CO2 at trapping heat over a 20 year time span, gas only needs a 3% leakage rate to become dirtier than coal. BP readily admits to leakage rates of 3.2%.
The best alternative is to leapfrog into a 21st century future with exports of renewable energy, green hydrogen and other clean, emerging technologies.
Gas is no longer a smart choice for homeowners
In South Australia, the electricity grid is powered by more than 50% renewable energy and is on track to be 100% renewable by 2025. That means an all-electric home is a better environmental choice than a dual fuel home.
Homeowners are also seeing the financial benefits of getting off gas and not paying supply charges. Advances in energy efficient electric appliances are providing affordable all-electric alternatives for space and water heating and cooking. Follow this link to learn more about all-electric homes.The renewable energy industry is booming
It is clear that renewable energy infrastructure and exports make much more economic and environmental sense than fossil gas.
There is far greater potential to create jobs in the renewable energy sector than in dying fossil fuel industries. The Million Jobs Plan maps out how we can rebuild our nation through practical projects that can restore our economy, modernise our industry, reskill our workforce and deliver a bright and secure economic future - without expanding the fossil fuel industry.
Australia has abundant solar, wind and hydro resources, providing us with a strong competitive advantage in this global market. Professor Ross Garnaut asserts that in just over 10 years, renewable energy could meet 100% of Australia’s electricity requirements, with a high degree of reliability and at much lower wholesale prices.
The golden age of fossil fuels is well and truly over - it is time to stop wasting taxpayers money to prop up a dying industry and to invest in proven, sustainable technologies that are ready to be deployed.
Committed to dirty fossil fuels
Santos is the most visible fossil fuel company in South Australia, with its headquarters in Adelaide. Its business is extracting, developing and exporting gas and oil (including via controversial fracking projects), and it has operations across Australia, in the Timor Sea and Papua New Guinea.
Despite clear warnings from theIPCC that fossil fuel extraction and use must be rapidly phased out in order to limit dangerous global warming, Santos shows no sign of changing its climate-damaging business model. Instead the company remains intent on expanding oil and gas exploration, while pushing unproven non-solutions like carbon capture and storage (CCS).
In fact, the company has been squandering large amounts of government funding on failed CCS projects in the Cooper Basin since 2007. As well as a feeble attempt to boost its green credentials, the company has acknowledged its primary motive for developing this technology is to enhance its oil production (ie. extract more fossil fuels and maximise profit).
Political ties and donations
Santos is a key member of APPEA, the oil and gas industry lobby group, that consistently promotes the expansion of dirty fossil fuels and undermines effective action on climate change.
Santos regularly makes large donations to both major political parties, buying significant, undemocratic influence in parliament. However, despite raking in well over 3 billion dollars of profits each year, the ATO Corporate Tax Transparency Report reveals that Santos paid zero income tax from 2014/15 - 2017/18.
It is also part of the dodgy ‘revolving door’ between government and the fossil fuel industry, with several ex-Santos staff going on to secure influential government positions, and vice versa.
Santos must change gears, BreakAway from gas, and sprint towards clean technologies such as green hydrogen. Until it does, it has no valid social licence, and no place in our sporting or community institutions.
Greenwashing a great event
The Tour Down Under is an impressive event which showcases South Australia to the world and boosts local economies. It has the added benefits of promoting healthy lifestyles, sustainable modes of transport and cohesive communities. However, the event’s green image is undermined by its naming rights sponsor... Santos.
It is appalling that a major cycling event, held in a state which is a world leader in renewable energy, is being sponsored by a polluting fossil fuel company. Santos’ sponsorship of this high-profile event buys considerable social licence. It allows the company to greenwash its polluting activities and paint itself as progressive and community minded.
Opportunity for change
The Tour Down Under has an opportunity to be at the forefront of a growing wave of divestment and de-sponsor initiatives taking place around the world, as institutions cut ties with the fossil fuel industry.
In the UK, several arts institutions have dumped fossil fuel sponsors, including the Tate, Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and National Galleries Scotland. The Edinburgh Science Festival has also imposed a blanket ban on sponsorship deals with fossil fuel companies.
In Western Australia, there is growing public pressure for Fringe World to end its sponsorship with Woodside and for the Perth Festival to dump Chevron. The global arguments against fossil fuel company sponsorship of sporting events are well underway. An industry that is inflicting havoc on the health of the planet has no place in sports.
As an event that prides itself on its sustainability initiatives and green credentials, the Tour Down Under could be a leader in dumping fossil fuel sponsors in favour of partners who align with the event’s stated values. This would set a precedent for other sporting events around the world. With a growing number of Australian businesses leading the way in their commitment to environmental sustainability, there is no shortage of potential alternative sponsors for this prestigious event.
Another compelling reason for the Tour Down Under to dissociate with fossil fuel companies, is the direct impact that global heating is already having on the event, which will only be exacerbated as the crisis worsens.
Climate change impacting the Tour
The ‘Vicious Cycle’ report, commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation, looks at the impacts of the climate emergency on cycling and specifically the Tour Down Under. It concludes that the impact of climate change on the event and the sport is already strikingly evident, with extreme heat threatening the safety of participants and resulting in race disruptions.
Held in mid-Summer in a state that is highly vulnerable to climate impacts such as heatwaves and bushfires, the very future of the Tour Down Under is threatened by the activities of its major sponsor. What better reason to give Santos the flick?