A Fertilizer Plant is at the Top of Australia's COVID-19 Recovery Plan

Something smells fishy—and it's not nitrogen-rich fertilizer!

In late April, as countries around the world began to roll out recovery strategies in response to COVID-19, Australia's National Covid Coordination Commission announced a rather suspect plan. According to The Telegraph, one of the leading projects getting a boost from Australia's COVID-19 economic stimulus plan is a $2 billion ammonia fertilizer plant in Western Australia called Perdaman Chemicals and Fertilisers.

Along with petrochemicals and methanol, the commission considered fertilisers to be one of the biggest opportunities for economic recovery. “I like to think of the other side of Covid-19 as being a gas-fired recovery,” energy minister Angus Taylor told The Telegraph.

While the official reason as to why a fertilizer plant would be a top administrative priority in response to COVID-19 remains obscure—press releases point to the ostensible creation of 700 jobs and a still-in-the-air agreement with a coal seam gas project—The Guardian published an extensive report outlining the apparent conflicts of interest present within the nation's Covid Coordination Commission.

Up until February 2018, the commission's executive chairman, Nev Power, was the chief executive of Fortescue Metals Group (FMG), a company with deep ties to major gas and solar projects throughout the country. The task-force also includes the chief executive of Energy Australia, Catherine Tanna; former Labor industry minister and gas industry consultant, Greg Combet; and Andrew Liveris, former chief executive of Dow Dupont and current director of Saudi Arabian oil giant Aramco.

By The Guardian's reporting, it seems Australia's COVID-19 commission has largely become a vehicle to peddle the administration's energy and manufacturing policies, allowing for the expansion of the nation's coal industry amidst environmental pushback.

The response is particularly distressing given the recent devastation caused by nation's wildfires. Similar initiatives have sprouted up globally, particularly in the United States where the Trump administration has rolled back environmental regulations in the name of economic recovery post-COVID-19.

Read more on The Guardian.