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Tuesday, 16 August 2011
Page: 4465

Coal Seam Gas

Senator MILNE (TasmaniaDeputy Leader of the Australian Greens) (14:45): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. Can the minister inform the Senate whether coal seam gas extracted in Australia is less greenhouse gas intensive than black coal on a life cycle analysis basis and, if so, by what percentage?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:46): It is the case, through you Mr President, that gas is generally lower in emissions than coal. It has been some time since I looked at the figures, so I do not want to make a guess here in the chamber. In terms of a question about whole-of-life cycle and so forth I am not in a position to provide any information on that at this point, but I will see if I can provide some further information on that. I will say that in a number of countries where there have been carbon price or equivalent carbon price policies gas has been a transition field. The senator would know that because, in general, gas is less emissions intensive than coal fired power. From recollection, for example, in the United Kingdom gas is the transitional baseload power fuel.

Obviously we are a government that is investing very substantially in renewable energy. The first aspect of that has been the government's Renewable Energy Target Scheme which has previously been through this chamber, I think, on two occasions, increasing the amount of renewable energy in the market to 20 per cent. The senator would also know the range of investments in renewable energy that the government has proposed as part of the Clean Energy Future package in which she and other members of parliament were involved.

Senator MILNE (TasmaniaDeputy Leader of the Australian Greens) (14:47): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank for the minister for her answer and acknowledge that she indicated her remarks were probably on the basis of the megawatts at the point at which the burning takes place and not a life cycle analysis. I ask her further: has the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency conducted or commissioned any independent analysis of the greenhouse gas intensity of coal seam gas produced in Australia or is the government relying on industry studies from here and from overseas to form its view?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:48): I do not know what studies have been undertaken in relation to that issue by the department of climate change, so I will take that part of the question on notice and see if I can provide further information. I would say this, Mr President—and I know some of the senator's views on these issues, which are on the public record—this government does see LNG as a critical industry for Australia. The government does see LNG as a cleaner burning fuel and an essential part of the global solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This government does see the importance of this industry providing jobs and opportunities in regional Australia. So on this issue I suspect, from the tenor of the questions, Mr President, that Senator Milne and the government do have a different view about the importance of this industry and our support for the industry. Having said that, we recognise this is an issue that the senator has some concerns about and I will certainly seek information. (Time expired)

Senator MILNE (TasmaniaDeputy Leader of the Australian Greens) (14:49): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given that the minister has undertaken to get some more information, would she please get information on whether the government is relying on studies from industry alone, here and overseas, and whether those studies have taken into account not only the fugitive emissions from leaking wells and pipes but the energy input from reverse osmosis of the billions of litres of produced water and also the energy embodied in liquefication and transport here and overseas?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:50): I will take the detail of that question on notice, Mr President, and come back to the senator on those issues.