The argument about fracking and its impact on water, environmental and health matters is very important but it is obscuring a greater issue for this country and indeed the world.

State governments on the East coast are arguing that hydraulic fracturing to extract gas is vital for future development, as the Bass Strait oil and gas fields are reaching the end of their lives and their will be a shortage in supply in the near future. However, allowing fracking will have little impact on state supplies because the private companies drilling for gas sell their gas to the world market as quickly as they can to maximise their profits. They will not eke it out or save it for state governments unless they pay upfront.

In fact the declining Bass Strait oilfields show that a new approach is needed to ensure that we do have dedicated energy supplies for our industries, for transport and households to use until such time we can replace them with renewables or other new forms of energy at competitive prices.

After urging from the Greens, who called for the implementation of a comprehensive strategic energy use policy,the Carpenter Government in Western Australia put in place a weak arrangement guaranteeing state supply for households and industry. I have not seen any evidence of any other state governments securing their states energy futures and lots of evidence that what they actually want is the mining royalties to prop up their current budgets.

Rapidly selling our energy supplies at the current rate may make our governments look like good financial managers, but it is a sleight of hand trick digging up money in the form of hydrocarbons and swapping it for paper money. The longer the oil and gas sits in the ground, the more valuable it becomes. The quicker we dig it up the less we will get to sell it. What point is the quick buck now if in twenty years down the track we have not secured energy supplies for local use? What manufacturing, farming and transport or even mining will be possible?

The Chinese are not so stupid with their energy supplies. Rather than using up local gas and oil, they are buying up energy all over the globe at very good prices and keeping their reserves as reserves.

There are some other stupendous challenges as well and the most pressing is food production. It has been estimated that the current world population of 6 billion has only been possible because of the use of nitrogenous fertilisers. Without nitrogenous fertilisers the highest population achievable is around 3 billion people and most of the added nitrogen comes from a process using natural gas.

By 2050 when world population reaches around 9 billion, our gas supplies will be dwindling and highly expensive. Six billion people will be facing starvation if natural gas is not available or affordable to make nitrogenous fertilisers. If you think we are currently seeing market failures, wait till 2050 arrives and we are without adequate oil and gas supplies for our survival. It is an act of criminal stupidity of our governments to not deal with these issues now because they continue to hold to a fundamental and religious belief that the market will fix it. Now is time for action not for waiting on Godot.