Figures released at Senate Estimates Committee hearings in Canberra last night show that whilst ethanol consumption in Australia was rising, it was still below the 2002 usage rate and still too low to have any impact on green house gas reduction.
In response to a question from Senator Ron Boswell, officials from the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources revealed that 43 ML of ethanol had been blended and used by motorists in the last seven months (1 July 2006 - 31 Jan 2007).
Senator Boswell said that whilst the increase over the previous year (40 ML for 2005/2006) was encouraging, the bulk of E10 blended fuel was still being sold through independent fuel retailers, not the major oil companies.
“Last night's figures were not broken down between major retailers and independents, however it is clear in the market place that the major oil companies are still a long way behind the independents in making biofuels available to customers,” Senator Boswell said.
“These numbers indicate that only 0.2% of the total fuel in the Australian market is ethanol.
“Evidence from talking to producers and monitoring contract announcements indicates that only about one in every four litres (just over 10 ML) of the E10 fuel sold in Australia is done through the major oil retailers even though they control the majority of service stations and petrol pumps.
“It takes little effort on behalf of the motorists but if the majority of Australians used biofuel blended fuel, there would be a significant reduction in green house gas emissions from the transport fleet.
“The key is making the fuel readily available so that motorists can make the choice and the reluctant attitude of the major oil companies means that this is not happening,” he said.
“Biofuels are available at approximately 6% of the major fuel company's outlets.”
Senator Boswell said using E10 reduced particulate matter from vehicle exhaust pipe by 30%, reduced carcinogenic emission from each car by 26%, increased the oxygen in fuel so that it burns cleaner and more efficiently in your engine and resulted in less carbon dioxide being put into the atmosphere from vehicle exhausts.
“Filling our vehicles with E10 fuel every time we stop at the service station is something each and every one of us can do to have an impact on the volume of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere,” Senator Boswell said.
“Recent Australian research by CSIRO on the proposed ethanol plant at Gunnedah indicated total CO2 equivalent reduction from the 120ML bioenergy plant alone would be 303,720 tonnes per year, the equivalent of annually removing 70,000 cars from the nation's roads,” he said.
Senator Boswell said he believed Australians wanted to become involved in the future of the planet and wanted to take action by refuelling with biofuels but last night's figures proved that most motorists are not given that option by the major fuel companies. Sadly biofuels are still a very small portion of transport fuel market. ENDS