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Biofuels – a forgotten solution to Australia's national fuel reserve crisis

Responding to reports from the Federal Government that Australia’s low emergency fuel reserves make the country “vulnerable” and create a critical national security issue, Bioenergy Australia, an Industry association representing the bioenergy sector, is calling for a bipartisan approach to developing a strong and stable biofuels industry. A local biofuels industry could reduce reliance on imported fuel by 18 percent, says Bioenergy Australia’s CEO Shahana McKenzie.

Other waste streams that the Northern Oil Advanced Biofuels Pilot Plant in Yarwun, near Gladstone in Queensland are planning to convert into renewable diesel and energy include plastics, wood waste, and tyres (image courtesy Southern Oil).

Australia is languishing behind other nations in energy independence and security. A recent report from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) has revealed Australia now has the lowest fuel reserves in the world.

Overall, the country has just 49.6 days of net coverage which is well below the 90 day supply Australia and other nations agreed to store under an agreement with the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Disruption to trade through a natural disaster, war or other geopolitical tension would result in uncertainty about Australia’s ability to maintaining commercial, public or private transport, and unable to maintain business and industry beyond a handful of weeks.

Both Chair of the PJCIS, Liberal MP Andrew Hastie and Deputy Chair, Labor’s Anthony Byrne, have been quoted as saying critical fuel assets should be considered as subjects of the Security of Critical Infrastructure Bill 2017.

The risks associated with transportation fuel security were first rung by Air Vice-Marshal John Blackburn AO (Ret’d) in his reports for the NRMA in 2013 and 2014. In addition, in 2015 a Senate Inquiry showed Australia was desperately short of its 90-day emergency fuel reserve supplies, which is required as a member of the IEA.

Biofuels production offer knock-on benefits

Bioenergy Australia highlight that the production of biofuels in Australia can help diversify the sources of transportation fuels and decrease Australia’s reliance on petroleum imports.

Biofuels are created from waste organic matter and can be blended with petroleum, diesel and jet fuel with significant positive impacts on the environment, reduced health impacts through reducing air particulate matter (PM), increased jobs through regional development and enhanced fuel security through reduced reliance on imported fuels.

Currently, Australia lags well behind other nations in the production of biofuels and the receipt of its knock-on benefits. A local biofuels industry could create over 8 000 direct and indirect jobs, contribute over AU$1 billion annually to regional communities, reduce particulate matter (PM) in our air by 26 percent and reduce our reliance on imported fuel by 18 percent, said Shahana McKenzie, CEO, Bioenergy Australia.

Bioenergy Australia members represent some of the country’s largest companies, as well as government departments, industry groups, and universities. The association is calling for a bipartisan approach to developing a strong and stable biofuels industry.

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