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Monday, 15 October 1990
Page: 2818

Mr MARTIN —Can the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy explain the impact of the Government's decision to adopt targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions on the Australian coal industry?

Mr KERIN —I have been enjoined to talk about sheep, Mr Acting Speaker. I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. Some people in the coal industry in Australia have expressed concern that the adoption of a target for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the Commonwealth Government will have serious implications for the coal industry. However, the Australian Coal Association-and the industry generally-says:

. . . places a very high priority on the reduction of greenhouse gases generated by coal production and combustion.

It goes without saying, of course, that the coal industry has been working on this question for quite some time.

The coal industry supports the Government's commitment to set an achievable national target to reduce emissions and, as I have said, it is already taking steps to reduce the level of emissions from that industry by promoting clean coal technology, by undertaking a survey of methane emissions from coal production, by increasing the capture of methane emissions from coal production for use as an additional fuel resource, by participating in the development of technologies to improve the efficiency of coal combustion, and by supporting greater emphasis on energy efficiency and conservation measures.

My colleague the Minister for Resources and I negotiated an understanding with the United States, for example, to develop a research relationship looking at a better coal combustion. We have pretty high thermal efficiency in our coal-fired power-stations, but we believe we can achieve even greater efficiency. Similarly, the honourable member for Lalor will be interested to know that I saw an article in the New Scientist recently indicating that the British also believe that there is a big potential gain in this area. Our efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions will clearly provide a major challenge for the coal industry and it is equally clear that coal will continue to be a fundamental source of energy in this country-something like 90 per cent in New South Wales and Queensland, 50 per cent in Western Australia and 40 per cent in South Australia where they are using a lot of gas.

The necessity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions provides the Commonwealth, the States, industry and the public with considerable challenges. The Government's stimulus to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will also provide opportunities for business to use our resources more efficiently in refining existing technologies and developing new ones and to explore alternatives and exploit new markets. I believe that there is a lot we can do. As the world's foremost coal exporter, we will certainly be leading the charge and I believe the industry will be working with us.