Qld Government funding aimed at creating a 'biofutures hub'
The Queensland Minister for State Development, Natural Resources and Mines Dr Anthony Lynham said the funds complement the state’s Biofutures 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan.
Dr Lynham added the new funding stands along side their mandate on biofuels, which was announced in late 2015, which means that ethanol-blended E10 fuel will have to make up at least 30 per cent of petrol available for sale in Queensland from January 2017.
Most stakeholders welcome the funding for the biofuels industry from the Queensland Government but debate remains over ethanol mandate level.
The Dr Lynham said the industry already had “runs on the board” and this would make a real difference.
“We have the confidence that this sector is a powerful sector. It employs 120 people, we just have to grow it,” Dr Lynham said.
“Governments over time have tried to pick winners and it’s been difficult at times, this sector is already there as a winner and we just have to push it through.”
Dr Lynham said it was already a $100 million industry.
“We produce 160 million litres of biofuel right now and we employ 120 people and in 10 years we’re going to grow this to a $1 billion industry and we want to see lessening dependence on overseas fuel,” he said.
Some in agriculture pleased to see a bolstering of biofuels
The state’s largest broadacre lobby group, AgForce, has welcomed the funding announcement.
AgForce grains board president Wayne Newton said it was money on the table that would in the end help primary industries who supply the raw product to the current plants.
“This could really be the start of something significant for agriculture in Queensland, it was always going to need some government support,” he said.
Mr Newton said there needed to be a renewed focus on agriculture’s role in the industry.
“We still need to see agriculture very fully involved and participating in this and there has to be a good profitable future for the industry for agriculture,” Mr Newton said.
Ethanol mandate needs to be raised
The chief executive officer of United Biofuels, the company that owns the Dalby Biorefinery, said while funding was welcome, the industry had a long way to go.
Gavin Hughes is the former head of Biofuels Australia and he said in the end there to create incentive there needed to be a higher mandate and over-arching policy framework.
“Until we get a minimum of 5 per cent [mandate], we’re not actually sending real signals to the industry for future investment,” Mr Hughes said.
“We need to see signals that the future is actually much higher than 5 per cent if these sorts of investments are really going to pay their way.
“When you do the numbers which say in legislation we’ve got a 4 per cent mandated position for the state, well then that only supports what the current investment already is.”
Debate around biofuels again raises the ‘food or fuel’ question
Some groups in agriculture including the Alliance Against Ethanol Mandates continue to oppose a mandate at any level.
That alliance includes the cattle feedlot industry, Australian Dairy Farmers, Australian Pork and Australian United Egg production.
Motoring group RACQ said it had reservations too and while it welcomed the funding it again has reiterated opposition to any increase in the Queensland ethanol mandate.
RACQ’s executive manager for public policy Michael Roth said the current level was appropriate.
“Three per cent is really as high as the Queensland Government can go at this stage, any higher and it’ll have real consequences for the both the fuel industry and motorists of Queensland, because it would result in the removal of regular unleaded and we don’t want to see that,” Mr Roth said.
“We need to get a pathway of introducing more E10 into the system that doesn’t create too many dramas in the short term.”