Australian minister assures Japan on gas, coal supply

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Australian Resources Minister Madeleine King said that the supply of gas and coal to Japan will not be disrupted by government measures to curb rising domestic energy prices, amid concerns such steps would see energy exports from the resource-rich country restricted.

Speaking in a recent interview with Kyodo News ahead of her trip to Japan from Sunday to Thursday, King said that any interventions in the liquefied natural gas market being considered by the government would not affect exports and long-term contracts. "We're determined and we'll ensure that those solutions will not impact the supply of gas or coal to Japan," King said, adding that Australia is "committed to ensuring that these exports will always remain on track."

Australia was the world's largest gas exporter in 2021, with Japan depending on Australia for some 40 percent of its LNG, its largest supplier.

King will meet with a number of government and business representatives during her stay in Japan, including the Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Yasutoshi Nishimura. She will also visit Kobe to see the world's first liquefied hydrogen carrier, the Suiso Frontier.

The reassurances come amid a domestic gas price crisis in Australia, as the country's aging coal-fired plants start going offline and global LNG spot prices have skyrocketed due to impacts of the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Lawmakers have called for a gas market intervention to limit price increases of domestic gas, such as price caps or windfall profit taxes, as producers see record profits amid soaring global demand.

The government has yet to confirm what measures are being considered.

Australians have also been warned of a projected gas shortage on the country's east coast next year, despite being one of the world's largest producers of natural gas.

However, experts have dismissed claims of a gas supply problem, pointing instead to Australia's high volume of exports compared to domestic consumption.

The Australia Institute, a public policy think tank, said in June that research showed that "there is no gas supply problem in Eastern Australia, with the amount of gas consumed by Australian households and industry dwarfed by the amount of gas produced for export," noting that some 80 percent of Australia's gas is exported.

While King ruled out imposing export restrictions on gas in 2023 after striking a deal with local gas producers, she said it remained an important option for Canberra to ensure energy security in the event of a future shortfall.

Despite the ongoing energy crisis, King also ruled out the possibility of introducing nuclear power to the Australian energy system, saying it is "off the table" under the current Albanese administration.

"We don't support the introduction of nuclear power... because we do have reliable sources of energy that can power this country for many years to come," King said, adding that Australia will turn to its "other great natural assets" in renewable energies such as offshore wind and solar power, as the country transitions away from fossil fuels.

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