NSW ethanol laws unsustainable

Without a framework such as California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard in place to guide the production of biofuels, NSW risks losing an opportunity to cut global warming pollution and minimise environmental damage from the manufacture and use of alternative transport fuels.

“It’s disappointing that the current ethanol fuel debate in NSW does not include a discussion on how to develop an accounting system that measures the emissions profile of fuels and their environmental sustainability,” said Upper House Greens MP Ian Cohen.

“Equally disappointing is the lack of progress towards a low-carbon fuel standard. Standards are necessary to ensure that only the biofuels that provide clear environmental benefits are rewarded in the marketplace.

“It’s irresponsible for the Premier to blithely state that ‘biofuels are good for the environment’, particularly when his planning minister has just approved a plant at Port Botany that wants to manufacture biodiesel exclusively from imported palm oil.

“Palm oil is a very controversial feedstock, the production of which destroys rainforest biodiversity and produces carbon dioxide emissions often in excess of the fossil fuels it displaces.

“Ethanol is not necessarily a silver bullet. According to the USA’s Union of Concerned Scientists, ‘corn ethanol, depending on how it is processed, can produce higher emissions than gasoline or cut emissions
by 50 percent’[1].

“Developing an environmental fuel standard is crucial if the emerging alternative transport fuels industry is to help or hinder efforts to solve the climate issue and protect biodiversity.

“I also take issue with Tony Kelly’s comments about the food versus fuel debate being ‘irrelevant in NSW’. Bio-En Australia are currently planning an 80 million litre ethanol plant at Casino fuelled by 200,000 tonnes of corn, wheat, sorghum and barley.

“The CSIRO pointed out last year that ‘there will be increasing competition with grains for food, and with feedgrain for the livestock industry if the Australian ethanol industry expands to its planned production capacity and beyond’[2], said Mr Cohen.

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