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Australia

Australia

Queensland gas-driven rhetoric

A state program unveiled in Queensland to support renewables, innovative energy technologies and greenhouse gas emission reduction has been criticised by environmental groups as being "gas-driven" and full of rhetoric. "It ignores the supply of renewable resources available in Queensland and establishes another fossil fuel-based energy industry sourced from deposits outside the state," says Gareth Walton of Greenpeace. Heralding the policy as "A cleaner, smarter plan for the future," state premier Peter Beattie says no more licences for coal-fired generation will be approved. A loophole allows a license to be issued if there is a "clear and demonstrated need" for more plant, however, points out Queensland Conservation Council's James Whelan -- and this has just been shown (above). In addition, the Queensland Mining Council questions the fast approval of a gas-fired baseload power station in Townsville and the next stage of a pipeline running from Papua New Guinea to Brisbane. But the new policy is aimed at sourcing "an abundant supply of competitively priced gas," and it contains a licence scheme that requires retailers to source 15% of their electricity sales from gas or renewables from 2005. Along with the federal 2% renewables target, this scheme will mean retailers will be able to source up to 13% of their generation from gas. In addition, the A$50 million, five year program proposes spending in its first year to what Whelan describes as "a surprising level of assistance to the coal industry," including funds for reuse of coal mine gas waste and a demand side program for retailers to encourage efficiency from consumers. Otherwise, funding will support the purchase of 5% of the government's energy from green power sources and continued funding to a solar hot water rebate scheme and the Queensland Sustainable Energy Innovation Fund.

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