Friday, April 24, 2009

Power bosses blasted over use of brown coal

CONTROVERSIAL former state MP Evan Thornley says Victoria's use of brown coal is killing the planet for little pay-off because of failed leadership from power plant bosses.

Speaking at a green jobs forum in his new role running electric car recharge company Better Place, Mr Thornley said he was not as opposed to brown coal as were some people, but wished it was used more intelligently.

Instead of burning brown coal, which is responsible for more than 90 per cent of Victoria's greenhouse emissions, electricity generators should be extracting the solid carbon and burning the gas, he said.

He said this would cut emissions by two-thirds, save "two desalination plants worth of fresh water", double the number of coalminers' jobs and leave the solid carbon to be converted into marketable products.

Activated charcoal, for example, could be sold to India and China for $1200 a tonne to be used in water purification.

"We're currently getting nothing for (the carbon) and killing the planet, and when there is a carbon price we will be getting negative $30 for it," he said yesterday. "This is dumb and demonstrates a lack of business leadership.

"Some people are too busy trying to defend the way they've always done things rather than finding ways of reducing waste and creating value, creating jobs and lowering prices."

The speech was the former internet entrepreneur's first major foray into public policy since he turned down a ministry and resigned from Parliament in December.

He was later accused of lying about offering Better Place advice while he was a parliamentary secretary — claims he denies.

Mr Thornley yesterday said he quit politics after he came across the "single most compelling project" he had seen in 20 years.

He said Australia could slash fuel costs as it moved to electric cars, from $20 billion spent each year on petrol to just $5 billion needed to run the national car fleet on renewable energy.

He said most of the big changes in environmental practice would come through changing equipment, not changing behaviour.

The green jobs forum, organised by Environment Victoria and the Brotherhood of St Laurence, heard about 26,000 green jobs could be created in five industries through policy changes and the investment of $186 million over five years.

Skills Minister Jacinta Allan said a recent roundtable hosted by Premier John Brumby discussed opportunities to create jobs and cut emissions by refitting buildings. The State Government has promised to release a green jobs plan in June.

The Australian Industry Group said a recent survey found 50 per cent of employers believe their managers need improved green skills.

Opposition environment spokesman David Davis said the Australian Bureau of Statistics should be asked for a definition of "green jobs" and to monitor their growth.

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