Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Australia lagging in biofuels



Australia lagging in biofuels

Philip Hopkins
April 3, 2007

CLEAR government policy to encourage investment is crucial to create a
buoyant biofuels industry, according to an award-winning grain farmer
and researcher.

Caroline Brown, a South Australian grain grower and Nuffield Australia
farming scholar, said Australia was lagging behind Europe, the US, Japan
and India because government was not giving enough leadership on biofuels.

Renewable energy based on agricultural products could play a big role in
energy supply, she said in a research paper sponsored by the Grains
Research and Development Corporation.

Ms Brown said Europe aimed to have biofuels constitute one-quarter of
the European Union's transport fuels by 2030.

She said the Bush Administration aimed to replace 75 per cent of oil
imports with renewables by 2025. It aimed at 7.5 billion litres of
biofuel by 2012, backed by tax incentives.

In Australia, the Government had a non-mandatory target of 350 million
litres of biofuel by 2010 — less than 0.01 per cent of transport fuel.

Ms Brown said the Indian Government was supporting a project to plant 25
million hectares of arid wasteland to oil-producing crops such as
pongamia and jatropha.

"The aim of this project is to provide 20 per cent oil sufficiency," she

Ms Brown said that to create a viable biofuels industry in Australia,
first-generation feedstocks based on traditional crops were just a
stepping stone.

The biofuel future lay with "second generation" technologies such as
biomass to liquid (BTL) and cellulosic ethanol.

Biomass comes from purpose-grown crops, agricultural waste and wood
byproducts that can be gasified and changed into liquid fuel (diesel)
into fuel using chemical or enzymatic processes (ethanol).

The European Union Commission had estimated that for every 1 per cent
proportion of biofuels in total fossil fuel consumption, between 45,000
and 75,000 jobs would be created in rural areas, she said.

Australian agriculture could gain from a renewable fuel industry, she
said. Benefits included:

■ Competition for land would drive up the price of traditional
commodities such as wheat.

■ Opportunity for new crop production (biomass) giving greater diversity
in agronomy and farm income.

■ The chance to take part in carbon trading.

■ Production of crops to replace petroleum-based chemicals.

■ New markets for materials now considered waste products that cost
money to treat.

■ Extra income from biomass for energy production.


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