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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 2287


Senator JESSOP (South Australia) - I use the opportunity of the debate on the Appropriation Bills to emphasise the importance to Australia of our future energy supplies. Senator Lawrie mentioned in his speech that we would be in serious trouble if we did not take a long term look at this question. The Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, recently suggested that it looks as though Australia will be out of fossil fuels, except for coal, in less than 1 5 years. I notice that he made some statement yesterday in the Parliament to the effect that coal will be used as a bridging energy source between the fuels we are using now and the use of uranium and solar energy. However hard we try, when using coal as an energy source and for the extraction of fuel, it will be extremely difficult to completely clean the gases that emanate from the use of coal. It is quite apparent to world scientists that the silent pollutant, carbon dioxide, is increasing in the atmosphere and will cause us great concern in the future. Other pollutants from conventional fuels are proliferating other gases in the atmosphere, not the least of these being the sulphurous gases which will be causing emphysema and other such health problems if we persist with this type of energy source.

Of course, I am putting a case for solar energy. Australia is a country that can well look forward to a very prosperous future if it concentrates on solar energy right now. Scientists say that it will take about 20 years to perfect this source of energy but I am convinced, and there is scientific backing for my belief, that the development of solar energy can be accelerated and that probably within 10 years solar energy could be a definite proposition for Australia. Professor Bockriss, head of the Department of Physical Sciences at the Flinders University, has taken a very active interest in this subject. He has requested that Federal funds be made available to that University to provide added research facilities in an attempt to make solar energy economically possible in a shorter time. I realise that this development will cost a lot of money but I think that Australia needs to be forward looking in this area.

We should realise that 59 per cent of our continent is desert. I would say that per unit of area more sun falls on this continent than on any other country. For example, Alice Springs has 9.7 hours of sunshine a day. This is a source of energy without pollution; it is probably the only source of energy that ecologists would welcome because it is a non pollutant in every respect. Of course, it is possible, having established a solar energy farm, to pipe charged hydrogen to any capital city or any concentration of population wishing to use it. It can be converted and used to generate the power we require in Australia. It is interesting to note that by the year 2000 the energy requirements of the world will be three to five times what they are today. In addition to the conversion of charged hydrogen for capital cities and other areas requiring power, it is quite possible that the charged hydrogen could be liquefied and transported to other countries which require this source of power. Probably it could be argued that we should sell all our coal overseas and use the money that accrues from such sales to accelerate our efforts towards developing solar energy. I think Australia could certainly become the world's source of solar energy, a source upon which countries could well rely.







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