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.