Ethanol in Oz (part 1)

As I drove home last night I heard a radio interview with a Brazilian guy here in Australia for a conference on alternative fuels. He was talking about the Brazilian experience with ethanol and noted the similarities between Australia and Brazil, both of which have a considerable sugarcane industry.

As I listened I couldn’t help but think “I hope Parveen’s up there in Sydney….”

It turns out he was, and he’s got his picture in the papers today….


As mentioned, the conference is looking at the viability of ethanol and other alternate fuels here in Australia. It was convened by one of the peak motoring bodies in Australia, the NRMA. Saab Australia used the meeting to expose the Biopower technology already on sale in Europe.

The full report is in the Sydney Morning Herald:

A FEDERAL Labor government would abolish tariffs on imported hybrid and ethanol-compatible cars, reducing their price by up to $2000, the party says.

City drivers of these cars would receive traffic and parking advantages, the party leader, Kim Beazley, told a summit on alternative fuels hosted by the NRMA in Sydney yesterday.

He also promised to convert the Commonwealth’s car fleet to green engines if the Australian car industry could develop the technology. “You build it, we’ll drive it,” Mr Beazley said.

Quick political tutorial……Kim Beazley is the leader of the federal opposition, the Labor Party. Labor have been in opposition since 1996 and even with the current government’s stuff-ups taken into consideration, Labor don’t really look like a chance of winning government in the next election.

Back to the report….

But Australia’s first 100 per cent ethanol-compatible car, which can also run on petrol, or some combination of both, will come from Europe.

Saab unveiled its “flex-fuel” engines at the conference. It will install the ethanol-compatible technology for an extra $1500. The technology, which is available in Sweden and Britain, has been used for decades in Brazil.

Professor Rubens Maciel Filho, of the State University of Campinas, Sao Paulo, told the summit it was hard for Brazilians to understand why Australians were not already using ethanol technologies.

“There is no pure gasoline in Brazil,” Professor Filho said. “All of it has 25 per cent ethanol in it.”

The Brazilian Government mandated a minimum 15 per cent ethanol content in 1979, and eight out of 10 new cars bought in Brazil had flex-fuel engines, he said.

This Rubens guy was the one on the radio last night. He draws a neat parallel between Brazil and Australia. The same question has been asked a bunch of times on this blog and elsewhere – with such a big sugar industry (and one that got screwed in the Free Trade Agreement with the US) why doesn’t Australia get involved more with ethanol?

If we’re looking for government support with the current conservatives in power though, don’t count on it:

The federal Minister for Trade, Warren Truss, criticised Labor’s tariff proposal, saying it would hurt domestic car manufacturers. “I would prefer to support an Australian hybrid-car industry rather than subsidise imports,” he said. Mr Truss said the Government’s exemption of biofuels from excise had already provided incentives for the development of alternative fuels.

“I think the most important thing is for consumers to use word of mouth to tell other consumers that they’re using ethanol and that their experiences are good,” Mr Truss said, adding, “I’m a proud user of an E10 blend.”

That’s the extent to which our government here will support a further expansion of ethanol fuel in Australia – an exhortation to tell your friends about it. Here’s hoping they can take the blinkers off and see the positive experiences in other countries and the potential here, where we have a big sugarcane industry and relatively concentrated centres of population.

Australia currently has E10 available in various outlets, primarily in the eastern states. The E10 on offer varies from 91 octane right through to 100 octane.

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  1. this combined with the news that the 9-5 BioPower could be coming to Australia is promising. of course, the chances of Labor winning at the next election with Big Kim at the helm is questionable. they already had my vote purely on ideological reasons, but this is definitely reassuring. what we need now is more noise being made about it – this is the first time i’ve heard about it!

    “You build it, we’ll drive it.”

    Provided it is a Holden Statesman Hybrid! I can’t see all the ministers lining up to pile into Priuses…

  2. Fantastic developments.

    Never mind the prius ben, that thing is soooo last century. Still uses 5-6 litres of fossil fuel per 100 – even more on the highway.
    Biopower is the future.

    Of course, we saw this coming about 18 months ago didn’t we swade?

    Ahead of our time mate, ahead of our time.

  3. heheh you’re not wrong PT… Fifth Gear did a fuel efficiency test on a Prius, a small engined petrol (i think a Honda) and a small engined diesel (Citröen) and the Prius came dead last… 34mpg versus nearly 60mpg for the diesel C2. the Prius is reasonable in the city but at highway speeds the underpowered engines and weight disadvantage means it chews through the fuel to keep up.

    for the Australian market, where big(ger) cars still rule the roost, biopower hybrids are definitely the way to go. while i myself would of course prefer a boosted 2L four, sub-3L V6s with new technology like direct injection and the ability to run from 100% ULP to E100 and anywhere in between will help convince our rather conservative public.

    Imagine a Commodore Hybrid than can run on ethanol or ULP, with a plug-in+regen electric system that allows electric only “city mode” – that’s where critical mass for the hybrid revolution in Australia is.

  4. It is interesting that Beazo has proposed a tariff drop on imports rather than incentives on local product. While this may seem un-Australian it is likely designed to stir up the locals. Despite all the rhetoric, the locals have not shown any cold hard evidence that they will release any diesel powered vehicles let alone hybrids or other fuel options (besides the old LPG). Furthermore the lack of widespread ethanol upsets me. After all the ethanol backlash and negative publicity of a few years ago we finally have some stations that trumpet ethanol, but what about the biggies, BP, Shell etc? There’s still no sign of any widespread availability through these. I have a company fuel card with one of these that precludes me using another supplier that supports ethanol. I would use E10 in a moment if I had a choice.

    Anyway good to see Parveen’s beaming face in there!

  5. Actually parveen looks pretty serious there. Its the car that steals the show though – love the sugarcane paintwork. Finally some left-field marketing initiatives combined with an agressive business concept! Bet this makes all the evening news bulletins – if it didn’t already last night.

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