Natural gas industry urges compulsory usage targets
ABC News Online, Posted Fri Jan 16, 2009 6:03pm AEDT
- Audio: Natural gas industry calls for own energy use target (AM)
The main companies which distribute natural gas around the country are calling on the Federal Government to set a target for natural gas use, to help Australia burn less coal.
Natural gas burns more cleanly than coal, but the Greens say natural gas is no better in the long run.
The Federal Government is heading into the new parliamentary year having finalised two key climate change policies; its emissions trading or carbon pollution reduction scheme and the 20 per cent target for renewable energy by 2020.
But the Australian Pipeline Industry Association (APIA), which represents the gas transmission industry, says the combination of the emissions trading scheme and the renewable energy target could be counterproductive; forcing businesses to use coal-fired energy for longer.
APIA chief executive Cheryl Cartwright says it is possible they might not actually reduce emissions much at all.
"Because the companies that currently use coal-fired power - will be forced for the other 80 per cent that's not renewable energy - to go for the least expensive possible power generation and that would be coal," she said.
The APIA wants the Government to consider setting a gas target, similar to a scheme already set up in Queensland where 13 per cent of energy used by electricity retailers, must come from natural gas.
"If they want to go ahead with the renewable target, and the CPRS then there should also be a target for natural gas, because if we don't actually encourage the use of natural gas, when companies decide they need it there won't have been the encouragement for the infrastructure to provide the gas as well," Ms Cartwright said.
The Association says it recognises the need to shift to renewable energy, but believes natural gas can fill a need for low-emissions energy, while renewable technology is being developed.
But Greens leader Bob Brown says the natural gas industry has left its run too late.
"To advocate now a halfway house in burning fossil fuels that is the gas industries, to lessen the impact of gas is like saying that black coal is better than brown coal, gas is better than black coal," he said.
"They are all fossil fuel burning industries which would inject massive amounts more carbon dioxides into the atmosphere."
He says the focus of government initiatives must be on zero emissions technology.
"We now recognise the climate change emergency means that we have to be moving straight through to renewable energy and energy efficiency and gas can fight it out with the coal industry as to who's the less polluting, but we need zero pollution in our new energy production," he said.
A spokeswoman for Federal Climate Change Minister Penny Wong says lower pollution fuels like gas will benefit from the emissions trading scheme.
And she says the Government intends to phase out the renewable energy target between 2020 and 2030.
Based on a report by Naomi Woodley for AM on January 16, 2009.