Friday, September 19, 2008

Rudd unveils $100m clean coal plan

By Online parliamentary correspondent Emma Rodgers

ABC News Online, Posted Fri Sep 19, 2008 12:08pm AEST
Updated Fri Sep 19, 2008 1:21pm AEST

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced a new body which will act as a global centre to drive clean coal technologies in Australia and worldwide.

The Government will spend $100 million on establishing the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, which Mr Rudd says will coordinate funding and research for new projects.

Mr Rudd will take the proposal to the UN General Assembly next week, where he hopes to get more governments and industry on board as investors.

Investment into technology which enables the capture and storage of carbon dioxide is a core pillar of the Government's pollution reduction strategy, Mr Rudd said.

"Climate change is a threat for the future," he said.

"It is a threat also for the future of our coal industry in Australia. Not enough is being done globally on this."

Mr Rudd said the institute would organise funding, from both public and private sources, for carbon capture projects, and also act as a centre for research and development.

"There is so much going on around the world which is not coordinated," he said.

"It's time this was brought under a single roof - that is - Australia to be the go-to place globally for information about how you do carbon capture and storage projects."

The start-up costs for such projects are huge, Mr Rudd said.

"That partly explains why we have so few at-scale projects in any of the technologies across the world at present and none involving integrated technologies," he said.

The Government also hopes to pass legislation, which it says is a world first, which would enable the offshore storage of carbon dioxide.

Resources and energy Minister Martin Ferguson says the bill, which has passed in House of Representatives, will soon go to the Senate.

"I've come a long way in terms of my engagement with the Opposition and we are very close to reaching an agreement hopefully with respect to a couple of outstanding issues," he said.

The recent G8 meeting in Japan set a goal to have 20 carbon capture projects by 2020.

A substantial portion of Australia's energy is supplied by coal-burning power stations.

Greens Senator Christine Milne says research should be directed at renewable energy sources rather than helping the coal industry.

"The coal industry should be paying for its own research," she said.

"The coal industry has made mega profits for many, many generations at the expense of the atmosphere, and now we are all paying for that."

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Mitchell Hooke has welcomed the decision.

"This is the missing link in the suite of policies needed for a balanced, comprehensive and measured approach to a low emissions global economy," he said in a statement.

The CFMEU mining and energy division has also endorsed the proposal.

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