Origin Energy: the greenwash is strong in this one

Origin Energy, one of the top three dirtiest power companies in Australia, held its annual general meeting today. The board dodged and weaved questions on fracking, fugitive emissions and 2C commitments, while hiding behind their measly renewable energy that currently makes up less than 5% of its electricity generation.

Rural suicide
Last year George Bender, 68 year old farmer and father of five, took his own life after battling Origin energy for ten years. It is not the only case of bullying that Origin has been tangled up in. Sally McDow lost her job after she asked chairman Gordon Cairns to take a cover-up of gas and oil spills seriously. Dan addressed CEO Grant King about both George’s death and Sally losing her job. Other than dodging the question and not explaining what Origin was doing to address these issues Gordon Cairns said he believed they had acted in an ‘entirely appropriate way.’

Fracking
Currently Origin is the biggest fracking company in the Northern Territory. During the recent NT election Labor promised a moratorium on fracking. Due in part to widespread community concern about fracking, Labor won in a landslide. However, Origin Energy had gained their fracking licences only four days before the new government was elected meaning that they were able to test sites for 90 days. Late last year Origin’s NT frack ponds overflowed in a flooding event, the toxins spilling to the surrounding area. Lock the Gate has also reported that Origin allowed oil to leak into underground aquifers for more than a year, without coming clean to regulators or fixing the problem.

Nic attended the Origin AGM today to represent a cattle farmer from the Northern Territory. He asked the board at the AGM:

‘If Origin has confidence in the safety of their gas extraction process, why does Origin refuse to enter into contractual agreements within compulsory access agreements for compensation in the event of catastrophic well failure and/or the destruction of the ground water resources?’

Origin initially tried to dodge the question; Nic was persistent in getting an answer out of them.

 

Fugitive emissions
Origin has stated in their 2016 sustainability report that their fugitive emissions are a small part of their emissions. This is based on a study conducted in 2014 by the CSIRO which measured methane leakage in only 1% of gas wells. The authors of this study explained that the study was incomplete, and further testing would need to be conducted. Recent studies in North America have shown that fugitive emissions can be as high as 15%. When Dan Gocher posed this to the board, they admitted that they do not know what their fugitive emissions are.

Dirty energy
The latest research into the carbon budget by Oil Change International suggests that in order to keep below 1.5C of warming, we would need to cut emissions by 50% by 2032. Origin Energy were asked if they’d considered this target and how they intended to cut their own emissions by 50% without purchasing carbon credits. CEO Grant King replied that the Paris Agreement stipulated 1.5C was an aspiration only, and that the company was committed to 2C. He reiterated that Origin supported the federal government target of 26-28% cuts in emissions by 2030. This is despite the fact that many scientists believe that Australia’s targets are simply not consistent with 2C.

Once again, we have another corporate heavyweight – this time one of our largest energy companies – committing themselves to a 2C target, without actually knowing what it means.