Biofuel production could be “the next growth industry” for regional Queensland, according to Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk, who was in America over the weekend investigating the potential for the Australian state to become a green fuel supplier to the US Navy.
According to reports, Palaszczuk visited the Pentagon in Washington DC as part of her first trade mission as premier, where she met with officers from the US navy, which has set a goal to meet half its energy needs with renewable sources by 2020.
“We saw the boom of the LNG industry – this [biofuel] has the potential to be our next growth industry,” she said on Saturday. “We know the technology is there, we know we have the people already working in this field, what we now need to do is seek out those industry partners.”
Palaszczuk said the talks were in their early stages and the state needed to decide where it would place production plants.
“Initially, it could be in Mackay or Gladstone,” she said. “But we also know we have Townsville there – a ready port which would be able to utilise the fuels for the US navy.”
The negotiations come at a time when plans to expand a coal port in Queensland’s north – right alongside the World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef – are coming under increasing environmental and economic pressure.
The expanded port at Abbot Point, as well as a connected rail expansion, is intended to support the development of mega-coal mines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin – a project that is looking more and more risky in a declining coal market and a warming world.
Indeed, just this week, the absurdity of these Queensland coal export plans will be highlighted in an ABC Four Corners program, by an heir to one of America’s biggest oil empires.
Valerie Rockefeller Wayne – who is chair of the $1.1 billion Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a charity committed to social change – told the program, which will air Monday night, she was “baffled” by the Australian government’s support of new coal mining projects, in this day and age.
“You look at Australia, which is such a fragile environment in so many ways, and you think of what’s planned for the Galilee Basin,” she said.
“It is just heartbreaking and I just don’t understand.
“In my mind Australia’s an extremely progressive country that has been an international player on so many issues.
“It is baffling to me why the current Australian Government is stuck in the past rather than looking towards the future and becoming part of the solution.”