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Tuesday, 30 November 1976
Page: 2992


Mr JACOBI (Hawker) - I deplore the Government's attitude and tactics in relation to this important national and international issue. I say at once that in the matter of energy there are no soft options. It is an easy solution to take a popular position with certain pressure groups. One crucial factor which governments and politicians throughout the world have been forced to grapple with over this past decade is the stark reality that it is energy which dictates policies. Decisions are being hammered out not because they are compatible with the dogma of socialism or capitalism but because of sheer necessity and the realisation that there is a correlation between energy and the standard of living. A diminution of the one inevitably leads to a diminution of the other. With fossil fuels we have built up a civilisation and a technology which gives us food supplies, transportation, clothes and medicines. All these are based on the availability of fossil fuels.

Let us be clear about the choices open to us in this debate on uranium. It is not a question of whether to mine uranium. It is a question of whether we have energy, a civilisation or, for many nations, a depressed standard of living. World energy consumption over the next 26 years and the sources of energy available to meet this need are critical questions in deciding the future of nuclear power. The Fox report points out that continued use of fossil fuels- coal, oil and natural gas- may influence the world's climate. The report states:

The effect of CO², and dust which is a direct environmental consequence of fossil fuel combustion, should be debited against those energy sources.

Some scientists have predicted that a glasshouse effect which may result from this form of pollution would be disastrous for the future of the world. We will have squandered on energy an invaluable source of raw materials, namely, coal and petrochemicals which should, if we are responsible, be kept for the production of drugs, plastics, fertilisers and durable materials which can be made only from these petrochemical raw materials. The changeover to uranium power will make it possible to extend the lifetime of fossil fuels and reserve these for uses for which they are unique. The report concludes that world resources of oil and natural gas may be depleted substantially by the end of this century and that renewable energy sources, such as solar energy, may not be of great significance in the next decade. That is a Fox committee recommendation.

In Australia we are lucky. We have available great reserves of coal and supplies of natural gas so that at the present we have no need for nuclear energy ourselves. Regrettably, other countries are not so fortunately placed. The post-war energy policies of many nations were structured upon cheap imported oil and gas. The 1973 Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries oil price hike had a devastating economic impact. It forced a complete reappraisal of policies. Firstly, the situation exposed the vulnerability of many nations. Secondly, nations could again be subject to boycott. Any government would be extremely naive to assume that this will not happen again. I include this Government or any government. I say to people who ought to ponder on this matter that if Australia had been forced to face an embargo or cut-off at the end of 1973, as many other nations were, we could have faced, within 3 months, an unemployment figure of between 250 000 and 500 000. I ask honourable members to remember that 30 per cent of imported crude oil is heavy crude oil which is our employment base. We should ponder this situation. Thirdly, the world is faced with the certainty of a price hike in December this year by OPEC. I make the prognostication that if OPEC increases its oil price by between 12.5 per cent and 15 per cent we can say goodbye to any increase in the standard of living throughout the Western world. We should reflect on that.

I ask: What has led to an escalation in nuclear power? That is a constructive question. Let us look at Japan. It imports 99.6 per cent of its crude oil. Its long term energy demand projections, despite efforts to diversify, show that it will continue to rely on imported crude oil. Japan's energy problem is a race against time. In fact, it is being forced to develop nuclear power. Its current share of nuclear power, compared with total electricity power, is 7 per cent. By 1985 it will be forced to increase that figure to 26 per cent. Italy has very little oil or gas. Its hydro-electricity situation is fully realised. Its economy was shattered in 1973. In 1974 its deficit had doubled, and 75 per cent of the deficit was caused because of the cost of imported crude oil. At the moment Italy is committed to 3 per cent nuclear power. It hopes to reach 40 per cent. This situation is supported by most parties in Italy.

Spain is in exactly the same position. It has a commitment to 22 000 megawatts by 1988. If we look at West Germany we see that its commitment is 50 000 megawatts while the United Kingdom has a commitment of 15 000 megawatts. We find that the position is the same in the United States. In 3 years its importation of crude oil has increased from 29 per cent to 44 per cent and that figure will increase to 50 per cent this year. Despite what the recently elected President may say, he may well need to increase nuclear capacity to at least 9 per cent. Russia is a country which has often been cited in this House. Some people will have to make some odd class positions on this matter. Russia is credited with selfsufficiency in hydro-carbons. It has half the Saudi Arabian reserves of oil and double the United States' reserves. However, its policy is to conserve oil and gas for industrial feedstock and petrochemicals. It will develop nuclear power and coal and hydropower. The reason is that Russian oil output is falling. From 1976 to 1980 Russia will remain East Europe's main oil supplier. The rate of increase will not be as high as it was between 1971 and 1975. East Europe's oil will have to come from the Middle East or from Africa.

Honourable members may have noted in the newspaper recently that Algeria and Iran have cut off any further exports of gas. That is important for the American market and for many other markets. Iran has reserves for 30 years if the supply is escalated. If it husbanded well it has reserves for 50 years. Any country which is relying on a long term supply as far as Iran is concerned ought to start thinking. In Russia at the moment current nuclear power supplies 1 per cent of the total electric power. It is estimated that by the end of this century that amount will rise from 6 million kilowatts to 100 million kilowatts. Canada is facing the same dilemma and, equally, so is France. I tum to a question which has been raised. I think we should examine the Fox report on the matter. It appears that the Fox Committee report envisages competition between coal and nuclear power in meeting world energy needs as though one type of power or the other could meet world demands. In other words, new coal fired stations rather than increased nuclear capacity could be built to cope with the increased demand for electricity, at least until other sources of energy are fully developed. However, it does not investigate in depth the problems associated with such a course of action. It devotes only 3 pages to the environmental hazards of non-nuclear energy resources and concludes that the environmental hazards of fossil fuel use are severe, particularly in the case of coal. It does not consider in depth the economic or political problems in opting for coal. We ought to look at that aspect.

Chapter 9 investigates the benefits and costs of exporting and not exporting Australian uranium. It goes so far as to advocate: . . exports of steaming coal by Australia could minimise any fuel shortage which would otherwise arise if other countries decide to reduce their reliance on nuclear power below present expectations.

The concept of Australia becoming the quarry of the world is thus promoted by the report. Such a policy is not only unlikely to be acceptable to the people of Australia but also ought to have been investigated by the commissioners as it has many pitfalls. Hydrocarbons have important uses besides electrical energy generation. The uses for hydrocarbons are of such importance that governments are obliged to reserve large quantities of these materials. Australia should not be an exception. Also the report overlooks the problems in making coal the sole electrical energy generation source. Coal is not so universal that a country-by-country breakdown of resources does not reveal significant differences. France has about 10 times less usable coal than Britain, Britain has 10 times less than West Germany and West Germany has 20 times less than the United States. Not surprisingly, much of the good black coal on or near the surface has already been exploited, so the remaining reserves are often deep underground or unproven.

Now let us look at the cost of coal as a raw material. At one extreme is the Australian situation, where power stations' internal cost of Victorian brown coal is between $1 and $2 per tonne. The cost of New South Wales black coal is about $6 to $9 per tonne. The price per tonne f.o.b. of New South Wales coal for Japanese power stations rises to $25 to $35. Since Europe is at the other end of the price scale, the good fields of Germany, Britain and France average US$50 per tonne. Production costs in the poorer fields of Europe are roughly twice as high. Australians need to consider the ramifications of a policy of steaming coal exports replacing uranium exports. Whereas by 1985 Australia will easily be able to export 15 000 tonnes of uranium oxide a year, the equivalent in black steaming coal amounts to approximately 200 million tonnes a year. We ought to remember that in 1976 exports of steaming black coal will amount to 3.5 million tonnes.

Australia is already suffering from the environmental effects of a fossil-powered economy. It is ironic that the development of coal loading facilities, coal dumps and so on is resisted strenuously by conservationists throughout the country, yet such an infrastructure must become commonplace in a world relying completely on coal for electricity generation. The point was put rather lucidly by the Chairman of the Consolidated Edison Company of New York Inc. when I was there. He said:

I do not want to suggest that the U.S. is facing a choice between nuclear fuel and coal. If the U.S. is to achieve a capability for energy independence at any time during the remainder of this century we will require vastly increased contributions from both.

In my view we ought not hide ourselves in our little cocoons of fear of social change, of selfsatisfied ignorance, and evade our national and international responsibility. Our increase in consumption is outstripping population. Our productivity in the supply of energy is lagging behind our burgeoning growth in energy demand, and improvements in efficiency are becoming more fractional and more costly.

I say to the trade union movement- there are some regrettably who take almost a Luddite attitude towards this matter- that the Australian trade union movement has a very constructive role to play. Many miners throughout the world have suffered because of inadequate and inappropriate health standards in mining operations. Trade unions have a role to play. They can play it effectively, efficiently and successfully. Another point I want to make concerns the conservation movement. I do not think that fission power is anything more than an interim source of energy. I hope that solar energy, and I trust that fusion energy, will be able to meet the world 's demands by the end of this century. One thing that uranium can give us is a source of income so that we can put money into those areas if we want to replace fission power by the end of this century.







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