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Thursday, 26 February 1987
Page: 671


Senator SANDERS(11.28) —The Australian Democrats will support the Liquid Fuel Emergency Amendment Bill 1987, but I must say that I agree almost wholeheartedly with the comments made by Senator Sir John Carrick. We have often disagreed on various aspects of fuel policy and such, but in this instance I find that his remarks were well thought out, cogent and very much to the point. He did bring up the fact that this Bill really is a result of the world energy crisis of the 1970s and he pointed out that a crisis will come again; and it will. A glut of oil on the world scene is a temporary situation. We have to take steps now. We have to lay the foundations now so that we can avoid future emergencies.

We are basically now living in a fuels paradise. We have access to a great number of mineral fuels which have been laid down over geologic time. The oil is a result of forests and plant life which existed hundreds of millions of years ago. It has been laid down over long periods, it has gone through chemical change over long periods and we are using it all at once. This material is being created now, of course, but we cannot wait another 200 million years to extract it. Therefore, we are utilising a resource which is definitely finite. In fact, all of our mineral resources are finite, including uranium. The world is not made of uranium. The world is a finite entity. So we must look to the time when we cannot simply dig things out of the ground and use them for fuels.

Exploration, therefore, will not solve the problem. I think this is the only area in which I differ from Senator Sir John Carrick. Exploration will not solve the problem simply because, even if we find fuel in more obscure and difficult to reach places, whatever we are looking for it simply will not do in the long run. Therefore, we must move to renewable resources. The easiest way to switch our reliance, or to alleviate some of our reliance, on fuels is conservation, as Senator Sir John Carrick mentioned. This was a very familiar buzz word during the 1970s, and all over the world people were talking about driving slower in their cars, and smaller cars ensued. People talked about turning off lights in buildings, and President Johnson went around turning off lights in the White House. It may have been carried to some extremes at the time, but the thought was there. This seems to have disappeared. We seem to have been lulled into a false sense of security. Conservation is the best and cheapest way to manage fuel supplies.

Reliance in the future for energy will be based on the sun, in all of its forms. There are a number of ways that the sun furnishes fuel, and one is called biomass, which is simply a rather overblown term for growing things in the sun; trees, plants and those sorts of things. As far as fuel goes, we can get methanol from wood and plants. It can be made into petrol and burnt as methanol. We can obtain ethanol quite easily from plants. In fact, that would be a good thing to do with the Queensland sugar crop at this moment. If the farmers cannot sell sugar it could be used to make ethanol. In fact, there has been an ethanol plant at Sarina for some years. It can combine easily with petrol. An engine can be run on a 10 per cent ethanol mix with petrol at absolutely no disadvantage. It is interesting to note that ethanol was introduced into the automotive area very early on in the development of the motor car, as an anti-knock additive. Then the lead companies decided it would be more profitable to sell as lead. As I have said, a 10 per cent mix serves as an anti-knock property.

The other way we could go in terms of transportation fuels is to eliminate the use of liquid fuels and turn to human power; and here I am referring to bicycles. I think bicycles are the finest development of the human brain in terms of inventiveness. Bicycles are a benign invention. They tone up the body that uses them.


Senator Haines —Especially a bicycle built for two.


Senator SANDERS —Yes, the bicycles built for two are very important to the development of our cultural attainment. Bicycles are used widely by most of the world's population for transportation. They are environmentally sound, they require very little material to build them and they have quite a long life expectancy. But of course they cannot be used without bikeways. Bikeways are necessary for bicycles. It is suicidal to ride a bicycle in a mix with automobiles. I think this is an area in which the Government can show the way. In the United States of America I was a member of a group called Bikeology and our major goal was to get the various governments of the United States-Federal and State-to include bikeways with any highway project, and we got it. Any highway which is now built in the United States requires a bikeway alongside it. This is something that the Government could do and should do.

The other way of conserving fuel is, of course, to get people out of individual cars and into public transport. Frankly there is no way to do this except by making public transport free. It has to be free. Even then, it might be difficult but still there would be a better chance of getting people into buses if transportation is free. If we look at the cost of running most of the bus systems in Australia, the fixed costs are so high anyway that they are all running at a loss. The fares do not make them into profitable organisations. In fact the cost of collecting the fares increases the cost of running the bus services. A retired traffic supervisor for the Metropolitan Transport Trust in Hobart, Tasmania, came to me with figures which showed that it would be cheaper to run the buses free rather than to collect the fares. This is so when we consider the costs of printing the tickets, of putting them into the buses, of furnishing the protection for the bus drivers when they are carrying money, the fact that the bus has to sit at a signal while the bus driver collects the money and then, late in the day, the fact that he spends his time in accounting for it. According to this man's figures it works out that it is cheaper to run the buses free. We would certainly then get more people on them.

Another thing we must look towards is better town planning. At the moment our towns, if they are planned at all, are planned around the needs of the automobile. We have developed because of the automobile. Our cities are functions of the automobile and that should be turned around. Our cities should be functions of the needs of the people. What about power production, because after all only 20 to 40 per cent of the fuel is used for transport? We will find increasingly the use of solar power in its various forms and hydro power, which is probably used on a small scale now. The massive dams have been built and the massive areas have been flooded, but there still is a great opportunity for small-scale developments. Here, as in other areas, there is an opportunity for Australian industry. A small firm in Tasmania, Tamar Designs Pty Ltd, builds small hydroelectric developments which are exported all over the world. That firm gets very little support from the Government. The owner is pretty much on his own but he is doing a good job. Throughout this debate I must stress that there are tremendous opportunities here for Australian industry. Australians used to have the reputation for being inventive, for giving it a go and for turning out devices which met needs. We seem to have lost that in recent years, but I think there are still people out there who could contribute.

In terms of solar power, wind power is becoming more and more operational around the world. Wind, of course, is a function of the sun. The wind blows because of differential heating on the earth's surface, and wind power is a reality in many countries. Unfortunately in Australia it is not. This is a direct result of the lack of concentration on wind power by the Government and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. CSIRO was fortunate at one time in having one of the world's great experts on matching wind systems to existing power grids. However, because of policies within CSIRO it was found that wind power was not popular and other big hit technologies, such as liquefaction, shale oil and that sort of thing, had the Government's ear. Therefore the wind section has now all but disappeared. So Australia is once again lagging well behind in the world then in fact we could be pioneers.

The privately owned utilities in California are very enthusiastic about wind. They have literally thousands of wind or aero-generators which have 800 megawatts of power under contract from wind. On the big island of Hawaii 10 per cent of the island's grid is powered by wind. It is a reality. It could solve many of our problems, but it is not politically popular. The future is going to include more and more renewable sources of energy. It has to. I have some figures here from the Worldwatch Institute which show that by the year 2000, 26 per cent of the world's energy use will be from renewable sources. At the moment it is 18 per cent, but it is increasing all the time. This includes such areas as the passive design of solar energy, residential collectors, industrial collectors, solar ponds and the use of wood.

At the moment we are misusing our wood resources in the form of woodchips. We are just wasting our forests. Wood is a very good fuel for heating and biogas develops methane gas from small digesters. We can actually get energy from urban sewage and solid waste. We can use energy crops such as seed oils to furnish fuel for diesel tractors and that sort of thing. We can use solar voltaics. The development of solar cells is continuing so rapidly that experts have predicted that the cost of a solar electrical power producing unit will be limited by the cost of the material that it is put on. One could, for instance, put it on a garbage bag. It would be very cheap to produce electrical power directly from the sun. Geothermal energy is another area that has barely been tapped. The future looks very bright in these areas. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the tables from which I have been quoting.

Leave granted.

The tables read as follows-

Table 11. 1.

WORLD USE OF RENEWABLE ENERGY, 1980, 2000, AND POTENTIAL

Source

1980

2000

Long-term potential

(exajoules)

Solar energy: passive design...

0.1

3.5-7

20-30

Solar energy: residential collectors...

0.1

1.7

5-8

Solar energy: industrial collectors...

0.1

2.9

10-20

Solar energy: solar ponds...

0.1

2-4

10-30+

Wood...

35

48

100+

Crop residues...

6.5

7

-

Animal dung...

2

2

-

Biogas: small digesters...

0.1

2-3

4-8

Biogas: feedlots...

0.1

0.2

5+

Urban sewage and solid waste...

0.3

1.5

15+

Methanol from wood...

0.1

1.5-3.0

20-30+

Energy crops...

0.1

0.6-1.5

15-20+

Hydropower...

19.2

38-48

90+

Wind power...

0.1

1-2

10+

Solar photovoltaics...

0.1

0.1-0.4

20+

Geothermal energy...

0.3

1-3

10-20+

Total...

63.5

113-135

334-406+

+ indicates that technical advances could allow the long-term potential to be much higher; similarly, a range is given where technical uncertainties make a single estimate impossible.

means less than.

Source: Worldwatch Institute

Table 11. 2.

WORLD ENERGY SUPPLIES, 1980 AND 2000

Sources

1980

Amount

Share

2000

Amount

Share

Change

1980-2000

(exajoules)

(per cent)

(exajoules)

(per cent)

(per cent)

Oil...

133

38

113

26

-15

Natural gas...

61

18

79

18

+30

Coal...

82

24

105

24

+28

Nuclear power...

8

2

23

5

+190

Renewable energy...

63

18

113

26

+75

Total...

347

100

433

100

+24

Source: Worldwatch Institute


Senator SANDERS —I thank the Senate. I think they are important to the discussion at hand. There are ways of avoiding the emergencies that will face us. This Liquid Fuel Emergency Amendment Bill, as Senator Sir John Carrick has said, is a stop-gap measure. It meets one need in one area, but it will not save us from the oncoming world-wide emergency of the depletion of our liquid fuel resources. Therefore, I urge the Government to establish firm goals now, to instruct the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to make the development of renewable fuel sources a major priority and to establish a crash program to implement conservation and renewable energy systems. We support the legislation.