Friday, September 19, 2008

Clean coal centre 'must focus on Australia'

ABC News Online, Posted Fri Sep 19, 2008 5:49pm AEST 

Updated Fri Sep 19, 2008 7:48pm AEST

The Federal Opposition has warned a new international clean coal research centre in Australia must focus on the country's domestic needs.

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

The Carbon Capture and Storage Institute is due to open next year.

The Prime Minister will pitch his plan to the United Nations General Assembly when he visits New York next week.

The Opposition's resources spokesman, David Johnston, has welcomed the investment but says the priority has to be practical solutions for Australia.

"I get the impression this institute is about promoting things on the global stage and what I've said is it's all very well to be telling others what their responsibility should be," he said.

"We need to focus here in Australia because an emissions trading scheme is going to increase electricity tariffs and bills into households in this country by a substantial percentage."

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

"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.

Missing link

The coal industry has hailed the carbon capture research institute as the "missing link" in the climate change solution.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Mitchell Hooke said it was a tangible demonstration of Australia being a global leader.

"We're the largest exporters of coal in the world. We're well positioned to develop this technology," he said.

"This is the missing link in the suite of policies we need for a balanced approach to managing climate change.

"There's no point having an emissions trading scheme, even a national protocol, if you don't have the technologies you need to change industrial behaviour.

"This is a really good step."

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

World first

The Government said earlier it 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 said the Bill, which has passed in House of Representatives, would 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 said research should be directed at renewable energy sources rather than helping the coal industry.

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