Still propping up fossil fuels

Yesterday’s announcement that $83.5 million is to be invested in oil refining companies as part of its commitment to jobs, affordable fuel and Australia’s long-term fuel security is classic, Morrison Government sleight of hand.

Petrol and diesel fuel users have enjoyed record low prices at the pump since the beginning of the year – from $1.60/litre they dipped to $1.15 in November. This is due to the oil giants flooding the market following the Covid-related drop in demand. It’s not so easy to turn off oil production and storage facilities world-wide have largely filled with oversupply.

Rescuing refineries makes little difference to security or jobs. What’s needed is a genuine effort to shift transport from imported oil to home-grown electricity or hydrogen.

With no standards, a bare minimum in public charging networks, no incentives to switch to EVs, and high purchase prices as a result, it is little wonder that EVs were just 0.6% of new sales in 2019. In fact 0.6% was triple the sales of 2018. Globally new EV sales are closer to 5%.

And it’s not just us saying so. The Government should read it’s own Australia’s Liquid Fuel Security Review April 2019:

Australia may be left behind as the world moves away from oil-based fuels to other forms of transport energy such as electricity and hydrogen. 

Take-up of other sources of transport energy in Australia has been slower than countries like New Zealand, Norway, Japan and China. This can be largely attributed to the fact that these countries have specific policies such as zero- and low-emissions vehicle targets, light vehicle fuel efficiency standards and strategies for hydrogen development. Australia has largely relied on markets to innovate and introduce new technology. In Australia, the market share of electric vehicles is less than one-seventh of the market share in the United States (US) and Canada. 

Australia was once largely self-sufficient in oil but production peaked in 2000s and has been in decline ever since. Around 90% of Australia’s oil – refined and crude – is now imported, 40% from the Middle East. 

Australia’s refining capacity has also dropped with 3 of its 7 refineries closing in the last decade.

New refineries, like coal-powered electricity generation, are no longer viable.

 It has also been known for years that Australia holds less than the requisite 90-day supply but holding stocks of fuel costs money and fossil fuel security is not the biggest problem Australia faces.

  • Transport is Australia’s third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions (96MtCO2e per year, 17% of total emissions) 
  • Transport emissions have grown more than any other sector, increasing nearly 60% since 1990  
  • Cars are responsible for roughly half of all transport emissions. Collectively, Australian cars emit roughly the same per year (43MtCO2e) as Queensland’s entire coal and gas-fired electricity supply 

(Australian Government 2017; Queensland Renewable Energy Expert Panel 2016).

Australia has lower taxes than other countries of similar economies; therefore, it has lower comparable petrol and diesel prices. 

Compared with other OECD countries of similar economies to Australia, our price of fuel per litre is comparatively low. Only the US, Canada and Mexico have lower petrol prices than Australia. Countries in Europe have higher prices of up to AUD$2.50 per litre, including taxes upwards of AUD$1 per litre.  

Australia’s Liquid Fuel Security Review
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