In a remarkable display of consultation 401 people have given their often-heated opinions, mostly it should be said against, a natural gas development the government says is critical to NSW.

As our Sydney home enjoys gas for heating and cooking I’m going against what seems to be the tide to speak up as an individual in favour of the coal seam gas proposal.

To do otherwise as shortfalls are predicted and I intend to keep using gas responsibly would, for me, be hypocritical. There’s also the interests of the 1.3 million gas connected homes in NSW to consider.

Of 23,000 submissions to the NSW Independent Planning Commission’s consultation reportedly 98% are for stopping it on local and global environmental reasons.

But of the multitude of groups listed to give their 11th hour verdicts this week the largest interest group, those NSW gas consumers, are conspicuous by their absence.

There’s at least two Knitting Nannas groups, who successfully used their age to campaign in support of the anti-gas Lock The Gate movement. A far larger group of older people who rely on gas heating are not formally represented.

The $3.6 billion Narrabri Gas Project says the government will address imminent shortfalls in supplies and be critical to the energy security in our state.

As a consumer campaigner concerned about energy affordability, I can’t ignore official projections the project can put downward pressure on prices.

As a citizen also concerned about climate change and habitat loss, as well as an ordered transition to a cleaner energy future, I take the science seriously.

After many years of research and debate on the project the government’s report last month states it “would not result in any significant impacts on people or the environment.”

In addition, it says the project will support the development of gas-fired power stations to fill the gaps as we move from coal-fired to renewable energy sources.

Gas has a key role in the transition and even Victoria has just lifted a moratorium on its onshore exploration.

This is highly contested territory with a well-organised and genuinely motivated opposition who take issue with any show of support.

On Day five of the on-line hearings I had five minutes, wedged between the Wilderness Society Illawarra and the Northern Beaches Climate Action Network, to pitch in behalf of the consumer and 42% of homes in the state which use gas.

A good number of consumers may agree with the objectors but I’d wager a greater number, if presented with a fair summary of the facts and science as the planning commission must rightly consider, would appreciate their domestic interests being considered too.

Some years ago US author Steve Maraboli quipped if not just about energy: “If you fuel your journey on the opinions of others, you are going to run out of gas.”

There are many strong opinions about the Narrabri Gas Project which are fairly being weighed up and balanced this week and the gas consumers’ opinions must count too.

By Christopher Zinn. Christopher is a consumer campaigner involved with various energy actions including The Big Electricity Switch. He also advises natural gas industry through the Brighter program on community engagement.

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