Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Rudd promises $100m for clean coal

Canberra Times
Saturday 20/9/2008 Page: 2

The Federal Government hopes to seize the lead on the world stage over the contentious issue of clean-coal technology, pledging $100 million to establish a global institute on carbon capture. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the funding yesterday with Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, who said Australia, as a resources "superpower", was perfectly placed to be the frontrunner among 20 nations working in the area. Mr Rudd said that all major models of how the world could achieve lower greenhouse gas emissions expected a significant part of the reduction to be achieved through the use of carbon dioxide capture and storage, known as CCS.

However, only small-scale trials of the technology had been conducted, with no industrial-scale integrated CCS power stations yet built. Government funding was critical to achieve this breakthrough and Mr Rudd said it would be good for Australia to "get some skin into the game". "The clarion call from industry has been] let's get this going," he said. The institute was needed to "close the information gap, identify projects and organise finance - and to turn all these aspirational statements into reality", putting an end to the "litany of good intentions".

The Opposition attacked the announcement as the latest of Mr Rudd's "desperate attempts to make a splash on the global stage". Mr Rudd, a former diplomat and for five years Labor's foreign-affairs spokesman in opposition, is to address the United Nations next week. Shadow climate minister Greg Hunt and shadow resources minister David Johnston said Mr Rudd had only rebadged various Howard government initiatives, some of them seven years old.

The previous government committed $400 million to help develop clean-coal technology, including $100 million for a $750 million, 400 megawatt power plant in Victoria's Latrobe Valley. Senator Johnston said "with Australia's reliance on coal for 80 to 90 per cent of our base load power, we need to be concentrating our efforts on clean coal carbon capture and sequestration at home - not junketing around the globe lecturing other nations on their responsibilities".

Coal is Australia's largest source of export earnings, bringing in an estimated $43 billion in 2008-09. Industry and training unions welcomed the Government move to establish the institute. The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's national president, Tony Maher, said that the institute would put Australia in "the driving seat". "Today's announcement ... is good news for Australia's environment and good news for the future of Australian jobs," he said. The Greens called on the Government to fund each major renewable energy technology by at least as much as it assisted the coal industry.

Senator Christine Milne asked: "Where is the $100 trillion fund to make Australia's world-leading solar researchers a global knowledge hub? "Where are the half-a-billion dollar funds to roll out solar thermal power stations, ocean power stations and geothermal demonstration plants? "All of these are ready and able to provide vast quantities of base-load power well before a single coal power plant using geosequestration [carbon capture] can be built."