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Oil Proofing Australia

Not that many people noticed in the early days of an election campaign, but yesterday the global oil price went through US $86 a barrel, and it is heading inexorably towards $100.

Of course, when prices at the bowser start rising in the middle of the campaign, then we'll see people paying attention. No doubt we'll see the populist idea being shouted from the rooftops: 'cut petrol taxes'! But what will that achieve? Like all tax cuts, it will just free up a bit more money so people can buy more.

Now, in a world where there was unlimited oil and no inconvenient climate problems caused by burning that oil, that might be fine. Neither of those being the case, however, we kind of need a more long-term approach to the issue.

That's where oil proofing comes in.

Christine has been raising the twin challenges of climate change and peak oil for years, since before she was elected to the Senate, and referred to them in her maiden speech and her Budget reply speech last year. You can read some detail on it in her report from early this year, Re-Energising Australia.

Yesterday, as the oil price breached that new record, Christine launched the first of the Greens' many transport related policies for this election campaign, a target to replace 10% of our petrol demand with biofuels by 2020, in line with Europe, and, alongside a major research and development program, replace 90% of petrol demand by 2050 with second generation biofuels and renewable powered electric vehicles.

Second generation biofuels will have to play a vital role in reducing transport emissions. Most people will now know of the many problems caused by what we currently use for biofuels: rainforest destruction across south east Asia for oil palm to feed the growing global demand for palm oil; the threat of fuel crops competing with food crops; increasing environmental destruction from unsustainable farming practices. The list goes on.

Second generation biofuels will avoid that problem. A range of waste products can be used to produce fuel, relying on technologies and processes that are not yet commercially viable, but far closer to reality than coal with geosequestration or generation 4 nuclear power.

Electric cars, of course, can only be environmentally friendly if powered off renewable energy. That means we will have to expand renewables even more by the middle of the century if we are to cover transport and energy needs, but that is certainly within our reach if we start now.

Now, where are Howard and Rudd on this issue?

Christine has done a YouTube video on this, but I'm struggling with a shonky lead and can't get it to upload. Will update this post when it's done.

Update - here is the vid.

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