(Debate, 22 March 2016, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
I speak on the Biofuels Amendment Bill 2016. I have significant questions about the ethanol mandate and am concerned that the Biofuels Amendment Bill will require more petrol and diesel retailers to provide E10, increasing the use of ethanol for fuel and creating impacts on food supply and the environment. Manildra, the sole provider of ethanol in New South Wales, says that its ethanol is produced from waste and I acknowledge that it has received certification under the principles and criteria of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, which includes food security criteria. But agricultural industries say that ethanol is pushing up feed prices, which highlights there is more to the situation than a new use for food by-products.
Converting food to fuel is wasteful and unsustainable. What guarantees are there that increases in ethanol supply will not result in food being converted to fuel or that new land will not be converted to production of grains for fuel? If new crops are grown for fuel, we run the risk of deforestation, land clearing, soil erosion, fertiliser runoff and salinity, which occurred in Brazil when it increased its production of biofuels. Climate change will increase the incidence of extreme weather conditions including droughts and floods, putting immense pressure on food supply. We need to question whether mandates on ethanol will ultimately add to this pressure. As populations increase here in New South Wales as well as globally, demand for food will only increase.
This is a global concern that affects the world's poorest. The 2007 and 2008 world food crisis created political and economic instability and social unrest in poor and developed countries. The crisis resulted from a number of factors including increased conversion of food to fuel. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is concerned about the impact of ethanol on global food security. I do not believe we should extend the mandate to additional retailers without first addressing these concerns. Ethanol already receives a full refund on the fuel excise making it excise free. The Government has cited environmental benefits, new jobs for regional New South Wales and increasing fuel security as justifications for expanding the program.
But a damning Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics report of February 2014 assessed the costs and benefits of ethanol production grants and found that there are only relatively modest regional employment and greenhouse gas abatement benefits. The benefits from pollution were also found to be modest and declining, with the shift to higher fuel and engine quality standards. The bureau found no real benefit to Australia's fuel security; in fact potential risks were identified. There are cleaner and more cost-effective ways to reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels. The Government could start by reinvesting the massive funds for the environmentally damaging WestConnex project in public transport and improve its support for cycling. The arguments for this bill simply do not stack up. Many have cited the massive political donations Manildra has made to the Coalition. The public will be the judge of that. I do not support the bill.
You can read the full debate HERE