UWA Public Lecture on Coal Seam Gas

About the Lecture

Hashtag activists: Local communities, social media and the fall of Australia’s coal seam gas industry

Australia’s coal seam gas reserves hold considerable promise of both energy security and wealth with a current, estimated Asian export potential of $166 billion. Yet, the nascent industry is also highly contentious with fears of far-reaching and lasting, harmful social and environmental impacts. Local protest, most visibly through the ‘Lock the Gate’ coalition, but also through heated community meetings at locations across the country, are common. In early 2016, gas major AGL exited coal seam gas in Australia, citing economic reasons, including record low commodity prices.

But is the economic story the only one behind the downfall of Australia’s coal seam gas industry?

This lecture presents the intense and widespread debate about CSG as it spread through social media, especially Twitter. Here, journalists, concerned citizens, NGOs, companies and governments actively engaged, both on- and off-line. Were these citizens effective in revoking the CSG industry’s social licence to operate? Is hashtag activism the new future of community protest? What can we learn about the social impacts of controversial industries by understanding communities’ concerns as they play out online? And what do new realms of community engagement mean for traditional community relations and impact assessment practices?

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