One of the Liberal Party’s rising stars is at odds with Tony Abbott over the Prime Minister’s claim that coal is the key to providing developing countries with low-cost energy..
NSW Liberal MP Angus Taylor, who was elected the member for Hume in the 2013 election, says gas is the better way to reduce carbon emissions and supply countries such as China and India with the energy they need to continue their rise.
Mr Taylor, a Rhodes scholar and former partner at McKinsey, told Fairfax Media that the fastest way for the world to reduce carbon emissions while containing energy prices “is to build new natural gas generators, instead of coal generators, in the developing world”.
“This is an enormous economic and environmental opportunity for Australia – as a supplier of relatively cheap, secure, lower-emission natural gas,” he said.
“The IPCC itself accepts that gas can drive sharp reductions in emissions,” he said.
Mr Taylor said Australia’s impact on reducing global emissions through encouraging gas-fired power in the developing world would “dwarf any domestic emissions reductions efforts”.
His comments came as a British company, BG Gas, successfully shipped liquefied gas from coal seams at its Queensland Curtis LNG project, off Gladstone in Queensland. The shipment of gas will be the first in Queensland’s history.
Mr Taylor’s comments put him at odds with Mr Abbott, who has repeatedly insisted that coal is “good for humanity” and the “foundation of prosperity” for “now and the foreseeable future”, because it is cheaper.
As recently as the G20, Mr Abbott said it was up to Australia and other energy exporters to deliver power to the fifth of the globe that doesn’t have access to electricity and said coal would be an “important part … for decades to come”.
Economist Frank Jotzo said Australia is uniquely placed to exploit all changes in global energy demand.
“Australia is not just rich in coal, Australia is rich in gas, Australia is rich in uranium, Australia is rich in renewable energy potential,” he said.
He said natural gas was an option but not the end game for the developing world.
“Gas is about half the carbon intensity for coal for electricity generation so it can be a useful transition fuel on the way to a low-carbon energy system,” he said.
However he said because gas is expensive, developing countries were investing in renewables and also coal.
“India is the standout, where expansion of power generation is happening in coal or solar,” he said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in December that Australia’s natural gas exports increased by nearly 20 per cent last year, making it the third largest exporter of LNG in the world. But natural gas is Australia’s fifth largest export item behind iron ore, coal, gold and education services.
Australian company Origin Energy will begin exports of natural gas to China and Japan in mid-2015. When both its production plants are fully operational, it will be capable of producing 9 million tonnes per annum (mtpa).
Under existing supply contracts, 7.6 mtpa will be sold to China’s Sinopec and 1 mtpa to Japan’s Kansai Electric.
A company spokesman said: “Each tonne of emissions produced in Australia as part of LNG production reduces emissions in China by four tonnes when it’s used in place of coal to generate electricity.”
The International Energy Agency predicts in its World Energy Outlook report for 2014 that by “2040, world energy supply is divided into four almost equal parts: low-carbon sources (nuclear and renewables), oil, natural gas and coal”.
Recently, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said any honest conversation about reducing Australia’s domestic emissions had to include a debate about nuclear power, describing it as an “obvious direction” for a country blessed with uranium supplies.
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