QUEENSLAND: by Patrick J. ByrneNews Weekly
Labor makes push for ethanol-sugar vote
, June 19, 2004
With one eye on an valuable domestic and export product and one on the Federal Coalition's marginal sugar seats, Premier Beattie has been to Brazil and is drawing up plans for Queensland to join Brazil in co-producing ethanol for the Japanese market.
In August, a Biotech Road Show will tour the Queensland coastal sugar towns promoting the plan, and promoting other bio-products from sugar cane. Margaret Menzel, from the Sugar Industry Reform Committee (SIRC) has been invited to co-organise the tour by Brazilian representatives in Australia. The SIRC recently ran a highly successful seminar on ethanol in the Burdekin region south west of Townsville, which produces half of Queensland sugar cane.
The road show, with full day seminars, will be sponsored by the Queensland government and the Brazilian Deputy Trade Consul in Australia, Pedro da Cunha e Menezes. Brazilian car industry representatives will also attend and talk about flexi-fuel cars, E10 (fuel with 10 per cent ethanol content) and aircraft that run entirely on ethanol.Diversification
Mrs Menzel said that the SIRC had "consistently encouraged Federal and State government support for ethanol and biotechnology diversification to provide opportunities for value-adding to sugar cane. We welcome the Premier's commitment to host a major ethanol conference in 2005 and now ask the Premier to ensure that family farmers will have a future, to supply the cane for ethanol."
Cane farmers are in a precarious position. As part of National Competition Policy, the Queensland and Federal governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2002 to deregulate the sugar industry. After strong protests organised by the SIRC and a long delay, the Queensland government recently passed a bill to deregulate the industry over the next couple of years, leaving farmers uncertain as to how they will obtain a sustainable price for their cane and benefit from new bio-technologies.
Once profitable farmers have been brought to the brink of collapse because of a combination of partial deregulation under National Competition Policy in 1996, being forced to sell at the corrupt world price into the domestic market, very low world prices, and bad seasons.
While the Federal government recently announced a $444 million package for the industry, it will only provide some price support for farmers for one year, and falls well short of what will be needed to sustain farmers until an ethanol industry is established.
Mr Beattie said he is preparing to announce a major joint venture with Brazil to have the two countries export ethanol to Japan. During a trade mission to Brazil, Mr Beattie and Brazilian President Luis da Silva discussed the proposed joint export program.
"What I envisage is Queensland developing an ethanol industry based on Brazilian expertise so that both Brazil and Queensland can supply ethanol to the vast Japanese market," Mr Beattie said.
He added that Japan was unlikely to start importing large quantities of ethanol if Brazil was the only supplier
This is similar to its policy of having multiple suppliers of other sources of energy and raw materials, and not being reliant on just one supplier. Brazil is also negotiating with Germany for production of ethanol to supply the Japanese market.
Mr Beattie told Brisbane's Sunday Mail
that he is preparing to throw political and financial backing into a campaign to persuade Queensland drivers to use environmentally-friendly ethanol and to encourage service stations to sell ethanol.
The Queensland Government's car fleet uses E10 fuel.
He plans to use to campaign to dispel what he describes as black propaganda by some oil companies that have claimed that ethanol damages engines. Mr Beattie warns that he has the legislative power to force service stations to sell the new ethanol-blended fuel.
Issues such as the serious health risks of carcinogenic particulates in present fuels and the strategic and defence arguments for a sustainable fuel supply have yet to be addressed by the Federal Government. With oil prices reaching US$40/barrel, our energy supply needs must be effectively dealt with. Ethanol production must be seen as the most cost-effective solution to cirumvent all of these potential problems.
Recently a number of countries have announce plans to boost ethanol production due instability in the major Middle East oil producing states, and the rising price of oil.
Premier Beattie's move should challenge both the Howard and Latham camps to establish effective and realistic policies to offer mandated ethanol for a range of fuels.