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Queensland to boost biofuels, Adani support questioned

The Queensland Government is throwing its support behind a new $60 million Atherton Tableland biorefinery that it says could generate 130 regional jobs and encourage diverse cropping in the region, however, politicians across the nation could well suffer from some voter backlash for their backing of the Adani mine in Queensland.

The good: sugar

Queensland Minister for State Development Dr Anthony Lynham said the MSF Sugar biorefinery was part of a multi-million dollar investment in 21st century bio-futures plants that could generate more than 130 jobs in regional Queensland.

“The proposed MSF Sugar biorefinery is expected to generate 80 construction and farming jobs and an additional 50 operational jobs, delivering a further boost to the region’s economy,” Dr Lynham said.

“Powered by an onsite bagasse-fuelled 24 MW Green Power station, the combined biorefinery complex is expected to produce 110,000 tonnes of raw sugar, 200,000 MW of green electricity for the grid and 55 million litres of ethanol biofuel annually.”

The company will trial large-scale blue agave cropping as an alternative feedstock to sugarcane in the off-growing season, which could potentially allow the biorefinery to operate 12 months of the year.

Blue agave is said to grow well in dryland conditions with minimum irrigation required.

Dr Lynham said the government was providing funding that would primarily be used by the company to progress feasibility studies, to accelerate construction commencement of the proposed biorefinery.

Dr Lynham said Atherton’s MSF Sugar biorefinery was another step towards achieving the state’s plan for a $1 billion sustainable, export-oriented biotechnology and bioproducts sector.

Acceleration of the Atherton project came out of the government’s $4 million Biofutures Acceleration Program that offers support to companies to build commercial-scale biorefineries in regional Queensland to process materials such as agricultural and industrial waste.

“More than 120 parties indicated interest in biorefining in Queensland through the program and 26 submitted detailed expressions of interest,” he said.

Other biorefinery projects coming to regional Queensland from the Biofutures Acceleration Program are:

  • A biorefinery in another Queensland sugarcane region by US biotechnology company Amyris that would create 70 operational jobs. The company aims to produce 23,000 tonnes a year of a sugar cane-based ingredient called farnesene used in products including cosmetic emollients, fragrances, fuels, solvents, lubricants and nutraceuticals.
  • A planned $26 million expansion of United Ethanol’s Dalby Biorefinery facility by 24ML to 100ML, creating 50 jobs. The company also plans to conduct detailed scientific studies to improve the marketability of its high-value and high-protein animal feed product called ‘dry distillers grain’ later this year.

The bad: subsidising coal

A new study has reinforced how cabinet ministers’ electorates strongly oppose coal subsidies.

New polling of seven electorates belonging to senior federal cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister, reveals strong opposition to a federal subsidised loan for Adani’s coal project, and support for instituting a moratorium on new coal mines.

The Australia Institute commissioned ReachTEL to conduct surveys of 4,712 Australian residents across the electorates of Wentworth (Turnbull), Cook (Morrison), Curtin (Bishop), Dickson (Dutton), Flinders (Hunt), Kooyong (Frydenberg) and Sturt (Pyne) on the 8th of June 2017.

Respondents were asked if they supported or opposed the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) giving Adani a one billion dollar subsidised loan for its coal rail line. 17-28% supported the idea while 51-70% opposed it.

“Despite a push by some conservatives for coal subsidy polices, these results – in key blue-ribbon Liberal seats – show strong opposition to that very idea,” executive director of The Australia Institute Ben Oquist said.

“It makes sense that the Liberal Party base would be so opposed to the idea of spending taxpayers’ money on subsidies for an industry as well established as coal mining.

“What makes less sense is the idea that ministers who represent those seats, who believe in free markets and small government principles, would ignore both the politics and economics when it comes to Adani.

“When asked more broadly about the idea of taxpayer subsidies for Adani, the opposition was even higher.”

  Cook Curtin Dickson Flinders Kooyong Sturt Wentworth
Support 10.7% 13.3% 19.7% 15.4% 15.2% 17.0% 14.6%
Oppose 70.8% 61.0% 62.2% 67.9% 66.4% 53.3% 70.1%
Don’t know/Not sure 18.5% 25.8% 18.1% 16.7% 18.4% 29.7% 15.4%

 

In every electorate, more people supported a moratorium on new coal mines than opposed the proposal. 51% of the Prime Minister’s constituents support the idea with 31% opposed.

“These results show that Malcolm Turnbull should be confident in staring down the pro-coal faction in his party room,” Mr Oquist said.


 
Cook Curtin Dickson Flinders Kooyong Sturt Wentworth
Liberal/LNP 63% 65% 56% 54% 56% 56% 61%
Labor 37% 35% 44% 46% 44% 44% 39%

 

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