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Will Australia turn to EVs to address poor fuel security, or ignore them?

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The Australian federal government has announced a long long-awaited review of the country’s precarious transport fuel security – focusing on liquid fuels such as petrol, diesel and jet fuel.

But it is not clear how much the prospects of electric vehicles will be taken into account by the government study into Australia’s fuel security, which has less than 50 days reserves, little more than half the recommended level.

Environment and energy minister Josh Frydenberg issued a media release and published an op-ed in Fairfax press on Monday highlighting the need for a review, citing Australia’s failure to keep up with international standards for fuel security, and its vulnerability to supply shortfalls.

“Over the past two years, we have been focused on securing reliable and affordable electricity and gas. It is time now to consider Australia’s liquid fuel security.”

But – in an era where the transport sector is looking increasingly at electric trucks and electric vehicles for car fleets and individual ownership – there was no mention in either document of EVs.

Australia’s woeful fuel security issue was highlighted in the recent country report issued by the International Energy Agency earlier this year, which couldn’t quite believe that Australia could be so cavalier.

The level of security been deteriorating since 2000/01, when Australia production accounted for all domestic consumption, but hit a low last October, the IEA says, when stocks fell to just 48 days of supply – well below the 90-day thresh-hold required under international guidelines.

“Australia is the only IEA country which is a net oil importer and solely relies on the commercial stockholding of industry to meet its minimum 90-day stockholding obligation under the International Energy Program,” the IEA wrote.

“The country does not have public stockholdings and does not place a minimum stockholding obligation on its domestic oil industry.”

The issue is growing, particularly with Chinese moves into the South China Sea and the potential for bottlenecks from Australia’s largest source of fuel – the mega-refineries in south-east Asia.

The vulnerability has been highlighted by an number of reports, including from the NRMA and ClimateWorks.

NRMA last year wrote that EVs will improve Australia’s fuel security by reducing demand for imported fuels

“The Australian Government should prioritise domestic electricity generation to improve Australia’s fuelsecurity and bring forward the benefits of electric and automated vehicles, it wrote in its report: The future of cars is electric.

“At a time when close to all of our oil supply is relianton importation, transitioning our road eet to run on domestically-generated energy would signi cantlyimprove our national fuel security.”

It recommended that the government should provide a short-term exemption to Fringe Benefits Tax and abolish the Luxury Car Tax for electric vehicles and associated infrastructure to encourage mass adoption.

Australia currently suffers from a paucity of EV models to choose from. The few that are, or will be available anytime soon, are expensive.

AGL and ClimateWorks have both recommended that encouraging the uptake of EVs could save consumers billions of dollars, enhance fuel security for the country, help reinforce the grid and help emission reductions.

However, tentative steps by the federal government into EVs and tightening Australian fuel standards (it effectively doesn’t have any, leaving the country to become a dumping ground for dirty and inefficient cars) has been attacked,  absurdly, as a “carbon tax” on cars by the Murdoch press.

This may explain the government’s hesitancy in mentioning EVs and fuel standards in its latest review.

A spokesman for Frydenberg said he assumed review, which would be undertaken by the department, would consider electric vehicles, but later added:

“The fuel security review will be conducted by the Department of the Environment and Energy.

“The Department will consult widely with government and industry. The review will consider potential changes in demand, including the uptake of electric vehicles.”

Australia is not the only country to fail to meet its fuel-stock agreements, which is considered important because adequate fuel stocks are considered an important issue because they will be needed to contribute to joint security efforts. i.e. in the event of war.
Australia has been non-compliant since 2012, and the government has vowed to boost its stocks back to compliant levels by 2026.
Many private analyses suggest that EVs could be a key, and it was interesting to note that the Australian Energy Market Operator recently significantly increased its forecast scenarios for EV uptake. In fact, it doubled them.
Australia compounds its poor fuel security with lousy fuel quality, particular in levels of sulphur. The IEA noted that while diesel sold in Australia is already subject to a 10 parts per million (ppm) standard, petrol limits are just 150ppm in regular unleaded and 50 ppm in premium.

“Australia’s fuel quality standards are relatively outdated and have not kept pace with world best practice and changes in the oil industry and global markets,” the IEA said.

  

Pocket
  • Andrew Lang

    There must be a coal converter kit we could retrofit to all our cars, the brains-trust of the coalition is missing an opportunity here.

    • Lance Collins

      I recall just after the end of WW2 seeing many gas producers dumped by the side of the road.

    • Steve159

      And wood fired steam engines, when we can’t dig enough of the black or brown stuff up quick enough

  • Robert Westinghouse

    Not surprising, as the government has been systemically dismantling all Australian manufacturing, refining, innovation and selling it all to foreigners. Then they can come in to save the day, after they have ruined it. And we PAY again…Brilliant plan. We must stop these idiots.

    • Joe

      Next Election could be coming a little bit sooner than we all had hoped. The Liberals Plan A of Budget Bribes will be helicoptered all over the joint in a last desperate bid to buy votes. Then lets see how many voters take the bribery teasers and forget all about the disaster of the last 5 years.

      • Robert Westinghouse

        Hi Joe – lets’ vote for One Nation and then Trumbil and the Silver Tails will be out of a job. Drastic Times demand Drastic Measures….LNP are a-holes.

        • Joe

          As much a I dislike The COALition I’ll never give One Nation a tick on my ballot paper. For me it is always Greens 1, Labor 2 and then it be Informal if the COALition was to be the only runner on my ballot paper. One Nation is NEVER EVER territory for me.

  • Ken Dyer

    Frydenberg’s review is a thinly disguised excuse to accelerate the oil drilling proposal in the Great Australian Bight.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-19/great-australian-bight-proposal-slammed/9271274

    Just as they are wedded to coal, the Federal COALition loves fossil fuels of all types.

    They won’t turn to EV’s at all or provide incentives. They have tax cuts for the wealthy to budget for.

    • Joe

      Yep, another lifeline being sent out to the FF Industry courtesy of our (Non) Environment Minister, the Joshie. All of a sudden we have a ‘Fuel Emergency’…time to get digging and pumping Bigtime for Old King Oil and Gas.

    • Peter Campbell

      Tell them EVs will keep the coalers going. Then they will love EVs!

      • Joe

        ….with the Kelly piloting the first Aussie made EV, number plated……. ‘Coaler Kelly 1’ ?

      • Nick Kemp

        They want us to drive coal fired steam cars

  • George Darroch

    It’s infuriating. Electric motor vehicles would greatly increase our fuel security. So too would increases and improvements in public transport (especially but not only electrified trains and trams), and increases and improvements in walking and cycling in our cities.

    But none of these fit their deliberately narrow agenda. And all of these would reduce our climate change impacts. So they’re off the table completely, while oil drilling is the actual purpose of this sham exercise.

    I know that the Coalition don’t give a fig’s leaf about it, but it’s still very important.

    Give your local Liberal member the boot, whether they’re Federal, state, or even your local council. They’ve lost their right to govern.

  • RobertO

    Hi All, I worry that the bribes (small tax cuts with the lies of bigger one’s in 3-4 years’ time) with the lies that are (will be also) told about what they’re doing to make Australia (smaller rules and less interference for big business) bigger. They made communication (smaller and less workable) with their FTTN plan. The NSW COALition have made the EPA work to pollution levels (reduce controls is best option. Most people would believe that the EPA is there to control pollution levels the new Water rules allow pollution to control the levels such as Springvale Coal Mine water into Sydney Drinking Water). The current COALition aims are to let big business run rampant and do anything they wish and the sooner that are gone the better.

    • Joe

      You couldn’t script it, even if you tried, a scenario where the authorities ‘collude’ to pollute Drinking Water and Drinking Water is the most precious resource on Planet Earth. Well it did happen in Flint, Michigan, USA and now its happening here in Sydney. The citizens should be hopping mad against a NSW Govt. that acts like a dictator and governs only for Big Business. The word ‘environment’ does not exist in the lexicon of the The NSW Coalition Govt. Out they must go ASAP and The Springvale Coal Mine closed. It is a scandal what has gone on with Springvale Coal Mine but where is the media when our Drinking Water is being poisoned.

  • Ian

    All the solar and wind resources going to waste…. its mind boggling that transport electrification isn’t at the top of the agenda to address this issue.

    Secretly I hope the fuel gets rationed while I’ll continue to commute by bicycle and train.

    This government needs to be sacked for negligence

  • MaxG

    Since when do government have foresight?!

    Firstly the fuel reserves are 23 days and include tankers en route. The latter meaning that is fuel not even in the country; and guess how quickly they turn around, out of routes close to Asia, when Llyods withdraws insurance from the shipping companies, if they cross these waters… should a Korean war ensue.

    Interestingly enough I was contemplating the scenario of a rapidly increasing fuel price a few weeks ago at the height of the recent Syrian and imminent Korean crisis.

    A bit of history: Why do we have lockable fuel caps? Because fuel was siphoned off cars in the 70s oil crisis.

    So, I have horded some petrol (say a few hundred litres); have a tank capacity of 90l, but only fill in 8l, and keep 10l in a can for the drive back home (I commute 100km one way).
    I would leave the fuel cap door open, so it would not be broken into. Out of revenge that I had planned emptiness and left nothing to pillage; my windows get smashed in or creative scratches are being applied. I would continue to go to work, but have to mindful, when I go on lunch, that my fuel can at work will disappear… or when I walk the street, the handbag snatchers have turned fuel can snatchers.

    Then I switch to “I drive an EV”… the scene then goes as follows: as desperation increases, I see myself forced out of the car at gun point (at some traffic light, etc.) and I am no longer laughing at those who did not switch early enough. Who is laughing now?

    Modern crisis will be awful. The world has changed, along with the value system inherent in society. Where some order could be maintained during WWI and II, we see instant pillage and riots when one (presumably innocent person, or person of colour) gets killed by police, or some cyclone hits north Qld, and the milk is out after three hours on that day… wait what happens in times of energy, food or water crisis.

    Imagine Mad Max scenarios if this country is dropped into a crisis. You do nto need to be a doomsday-er to figure this out.

    In closing, no matter what the fuel reserves; these will go first and foremost to military and industry; Joe Bloke will be the last one to see a drop. Hence, the populace can’t go to work, the economy down crap creek in no time…

    • Joe

      ‘End of Days’

    • Ian

      MaxG’s Carmageddon : scary stuff. This is a distinct possibility and EV/ ebikes/ public etransport and the like are the answer. I tried to calculate how much oil the Clem7 in Brisbane could hold, repurposing this , shall we say, expensive infrastructure project but it wasn’t much. Where else are you going to put so much petrol and diesel? In one of the big mining pits? Covered with a tarp?
      Decarbonising transport is a national emergency. It’s so obvious.

      • Ian

        MaxG, your waxing lyrical, sparks a few other ideas. We all know that there will be a last curtain call on the oil play. But who would have thunk it to turn out like this. We initially thought the final scene would be oil wells drying up, people paying more and more for the precious commodity, then we thought we would all slowly choke to death as the air fouls and heats, and now the horseman of death may well be a sudden loss of trade – no ships bringing the life giving liquid, no stores big enough to sustain ourselves, just a sudden silence and an abrupt stop. The last drink, the music stops and the party’s over, time to walk home.

  • Ray Miller

    We need an inquiry to tap the side of the almost empty tank and determine it empty?

    What fools does the likes of Frydenberg think we are?
    We have had ample opportunities to make fuel efficiency savings, go to EV’s, even electrify more of our rail network from a security point of view. But instead we are investing in more roads and go around like chooks with no heads about a couple of boats. Abbot and co have been screaming fear, fear while distracting us about their real failings..

    Our current government is doing more damage to its own citizens than if our government were controlled by North Korea. We are blindly walking over a cliff.

  • lin

    We have closed down our refineries, so even if we had local oil, we couldn’t use it in an emergency.
    Most of our gas is tied up by export contracts, so even if we’d had the foresight to build a local fleet of LNG cars, trucks and tractors, we’d still be short of fuel.
    And our “government” is doing its best to stifle the upcoming EV market, because if offers freedom from fossil fuel consumption.
    Between big business and their puppets in power, we are royally screwed.
    We should make a list of the names of the treacherous arseholes who got us to this perilous position, lest we forget.

    • Joe

      …a Royal Commission into ‘The Fuel Emergency’ perhaps

  • David Osmond

    Even better than electric cars is electric bicycles (and scooters and skateboards). They only consume a tiny fraction of the energy, are far more affordable and they reduce congestion. Once again the ACT Government is leading the way with their progressive policies:
    https://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/act/e-bikes-will-turbo-charge-more-than-our-emissions-efforts-20180416-p4z9wt.html

    • George Darroch

      Thanks for reminding us. e-bikes are a huge step forward in mobility for most people, and have huge potential to increase our health (we’re on track to have 80% of our population overweight or obese within a few years).

      But our state governments don’t seem to care very much, because bike lanes don’t win votes in the way that opening a new multi-billion dollar 10 lane motorway does. Even the ones that claim to care about climate change, like Victoria, are doing absolutely nothing.

  • Nick Kemp

    Hands up anyone who remembers petrol rationing in the late 70’s

    • solarguy

      Sure do, odd number plates one day, evens the other and the bloody line ups.

  • ben

    Most of Australia’s oil is not the right grade for fuel so I don’t think it’d be useful drilling for more for that purpose. We also cannot refine it anymore

  • Peter Hormann

    We were in Sri Lanka in April and had an hotel to airport transfer in a new 2018 model Nissan Leaf. What an amazing vehicle. Without a petrol tank the boot space was enormous. It is such a shame that Australians will need to wait until 2019 for the same. I noted that 30 to 40% of all cars (not trucks, vans or tuk tuks) in Sri Lanka were hybrid or all electric. I spotted 5 to 6 hybrid vehicles from Toyota, Nissan, Suzuki, Honda and Mitsubishi that I have never seen in Australia before. Despite being a develping country, it’s amazing what progressive governments (motivated to reduce fuel imports) can achieve. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e7dab09a9446c9e4aa1fb3994da9036c8bf8f3d9fb5bed0efb472726cc52835c.jpg

  • Ian

    Well done Giles, amongst the reasons to decarbonise transport , the issue of energy security has been low down on the list, a side-note, a passing whim, but in fact it’s a huge factor. EV and other modes of transport that use locally produced energy should be attracting as much government spending as defence.

    Personally, I would like to see a battery and EV manufacturing industry established and supported in Australia.

    If the focus is on energy security through transport electrification then we need to consider some priorities. 1. Freight and goods transport. 2. Commuter transport in high population density areas electric busses trains etc 3. Emergency and maintenance services

  • Electric vehicles (EVs) and/or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) could do more than eliminate Australia’s transport fuel security problem. They can also slash electricity prices.
    Having billions of dollars invested in generating capacity and Snowy Hydro storage capacity that is idle for all but a few very hot days a year is very costly. This idle investment is the only significant contributor to Australia’s soaring electricity prices.
    Tens of thousands of EVs and FCVs sitting in parking stations connected to the grid and able to supply power on demand to provide their owners with a credit off daily parking fees do not require payment for a return on investment for the other 350 to 360 days a year when the additional generating capacity isn’t call on.