Our house is on fire – how dare you look away!

Interview with CEO of Arrow Energy

4PR: Can you please introduce yourself?

Arrow Energy: My name is Cecile Wake I am the CEO of Arrow Energy, a subsidiary of Shell.

4PR: What are you doing in Queensland?

Cecile Wake: I am from Queensland … I graduated from University of Queensland in Economics and Law the 1990s.

4PR: No, I mean what is Arrow Energy doing?

Cecile Wake: We are fracking and mining for coal seam gas in the Surat basin.

4PR: Where’s that?

Cecile Wake: It is a big area taking in the area south of Bowen, the headwaters of the Condamine and so on?

4PR: Where are your mines?

Cecile Wake: In places like Chinchilla on the Darling Downs not far from Dalby.

4PR: How many wells do you have there?

Cecile Wake: About 40.

4PR: Are they profitable?

Cecile Wake: Not really.

4PR: Why are you there then?

Cecile Wake: We hope to expand our mine heads by a factor of ten and then we will be profitable?

4PR: How’s that?

Cecile Wake: We need to produce more gas and the cost of production is high in this part of the world.

4PR: Why’s that?

Cecile Wake: We are used to dealing with farmers in the third world, they are mainly peasants; whereas the farmers we deal here have university degrees.

4PR: Oh, that does not sound like the Queensland I grew up in … the National Party had difficulty getting farmers who could read and add up to run for state election …

Cecile Wake: Things have moved on since the days of Bjelke-Petersen.

4PR: Apart from farmers, who do you deal with?

Cecil Wake: The Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen and for Public Works and Procurement.

4PR: Anyone else?

Cecile Wake: The Minister for Resources and Minister for Regional Development and Manufacturing and Minister for Water

4PR:  Sounds like the environment is pretty important in your job.

Cecile Wake: Well yes … Coal seams contain water. We pump water from coal seams to lower in-seam pressure, releasing trapped gas and allowing it to flow to coal seam gas (CSG) wells.

4PR: Did the ‘Lock the Gate’ mob oppose coal seam gas and fracking?

Cecile Wake: Who did you say?

4PR: ‘Lock the Gate’ farmers.

Cecile Wake: To be honest I have never heard of them.

4PR: They were farmers concerned that you were interfering with the ground water and that would affect the 25,000 water bores in Queenland.

Cecile Wake: We answered the complaints of the few farmers who were concerned.

4PR: So how come you have so few wells?

Cecile Wake: As I say the farmers we deal with have University degrees and drive a hard bargain. The royalties we pay them are considerable.

4PR: But the farmers don’t own the coal seam?

Cecile Wake: Well yes, the state owns the seams where we drill which can be deep beneath the surface of agricultural land.

4PR: Then how do you get at the coal seam gas?

Cecile Wake: We have come up with an innovative process. On intensively farmed land, on say the Darling Downs, we group multiple wells on single, large pads. From the surface, the bores slant away at around 70 degrees to intersect multiple, thin coal seams.

4PR: What is that called?

Cecile Wake: Deviated drilling. It lets us reach the same amount of gas underground from a much smaller area on the surface.

4PR: Which means you don’t have to deal with so many farmers?

Cecile Wake: Yes I suppose that’s true. It reduces our impacts on high-production farmland. But farmers tend to buy out other farmers and so, in the end we are dealing with some pretty big Agri-businesses.

4PR: Yes, I have never quite understood farmers who have a Lock the Gate triangle right beside a for sale sign.

Cecile Wake: As I say, I have never come across Lock the Gate.

4PR: Alan Jones the radio shock jock from Sydney was one of them. He came from the Darling Downs and knew the leader of Lock the Gate Drew Hutton who was a perennial candidate for the Greens.

Cecile Wake: Oh, I was a partner at leading international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills in London for nearly ten years so that may be why I haven’t heard of Lock the Gate.

4PR: Doesn’t the drilling cause sinkholes.

Cecile Wake: What mining operation doesn’t, there are sink holes everywhere.

4PR: What do you do in your spare time?

Cecille Wake: I represented Australia in Modern Pentathlon at seven World Championships and multiple World Cups, I am a member for the University of Queensland Senate and I have a husband and two children.

4PR: Oh, is that all (dryly). The only UQ Senators I have ever heard of are Sallyanne Atkinson, former Lord Mayor of Brisbane, an ex-ABC journo by the name of Lee Duffield and Mellissa Naidoo, a doctor and medical executive.

Cecile Wake: Oh, I don’t know them. I look forward to meeting them.

4PR: It sounds like you should be working for a bigger company rather than having to deal with 40 pesky Queensland farmers.

Cecile Wake: Oh, I am a director of Shell … we are global petrochemical company with more than 80,000 employees in more than 70 countries. I’m on the board of the Australian derivative.

4PR: Those farmers had better watch out. Are you worried that one of your kids will pick up on the words of Greta Thunberg and participate in a school strike for climate action?

Cecile Wake: What words would they be?

4PR: You know the speech where Greta furiously attacked world leaders at the United Nations. Let’s have a listen.

Greta Thunberg: This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet, you will come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. Yet, I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?

For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away? And come here saying that you’re doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight? You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that; because if you really understood the situation, and still kept on failing to act, then you will be evil and that I refuse to believe.

Cecile Wake: Do you use gas in your home?

4PR: What’s that got to do with it?

Cecile Wake: People who benefit by the use of the gas produced should not be standing on their high horse lecturing us when we are doing our best to transition to renewable energy.

4PR: But isn’t Greta criticising the whole system of fossil fuel extraction to make profits while forgetting about the harm that this is doing to Nature?

Cecile Wake: We operate in a way that respects nature, and we work to protect ecosystems. Minimising our environmental impact and setting goals to improve helps us find better ways to operate. We have had guiding principles and standards in place for many years. Now we are stepping up our environmental ambitions and shaping them to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

4PR: But don’t you inflate the price of the gas at the well head so that you can make a loss here when you sell it on overseas?

Cecile Wake: We meet all our obligations under transfer pricing agreements with the Australian Tax Office.

4PR: What is transfer pricing?

Cecile Wake: We use the arm’s length principle when pricing our gas on the international market. This is a benchmark set by the Australian Tax Office.

4PR: Why then when I try to look up Arrow Energy’s Tax Transparency Report it comes up with a blank page on your website despite your company having an estimated annual revenue currently of $295.5M per year. Why has your tax record been removed?

Cecile Wake: That is commercial-in-confidence information. We meet all our current tax obligations. We provide 510 jobs in Queensland and safely and sustainably supply gas to the Townsville and Swanbank Power Stations among others. We have been doing this since the early 2000s.

4PR: How is that possible when all you do is provide fossil fuels for consumption?

Cecile Wake: Our parent company, Shell Global, is working to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, in step with society’s progress towards the goal of the UN Paris Agreement on climate change.

4PR: What does that mean here in Australia? Cars, trucks and motorbikes are the only part of the economy producing more emissions every year … there is actually a growth in CO2 emissions in Transport, isn’t there? 

Cecile Wake: Shell are addressing that by putting in charging points for electric vehicles right around the country. We have the full support of state and federal governments.

4PR: I think we should leave it there.

Song
Our House is on Fire – Phil Monsour and the Crisis Actors

Photo
Sandstone in Karawatha Forest – Ian Curr

Please Note: Both Cecile Wake and 4PR are played by voice actors.

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