It's one of the great environmental debates of our time -- can we still make green if we go totally green?
The reality is that for most people, outside of those in the know, the whole green energy conversation is something they hear a lot about but probably understand very little. More importantly when talk turns to future proofing our resources and environment, decision makers are focused on the bottom line. In this day and age, money matters and any movement - including a shift to biofuels - that can prove it has a financially secure future and a chance at being profitable, is headed in the right direction.
Which is why it's more important than ever to look at how a transition to alternative energy and fuels in Australia could actually make sense, because it makes cents.
The biofuel transition is already well underway in Australia, with Queensland taking the reigns as a our "renewable energy" capital. Already the sunshine state has instituted it's commitment to biofutures with a ten year Roadmap and Action plan. This, in conjunction with other initiatives like the Biofuture Commercialisation Program and Queensland Biofuel Mandate are providing a biofuel foundation for future. The task at hand could be even easier when people realise the economic benefits that come with a biofuel future. So how can going green earn us a little more green?
Read on to find out how biofuels could be the best way to safeguard our future, ethically and economically.
Job Growth: Environment And Employment Go Hand In Hand
"There's no question that renewable energy and biofuels are a fast growing sector and we're seeing a big increase globally in the number of jobs engaged in these industries," Professor Ian O'Hara, Queensland's biofutures industry envoy said.
A recent study, commissioned by Queensland University of Technology and Deloitte Access Economics predicted a diverse biofuel industry could add $1.8 billion to the state economy and create 6640 jobs over the next 20 years.
"The best part about this report is that it looked at how the biorefinery industry could contribute to job growth in regional Queensland," O'Hara said.
A new biorefinery was discussed and what came out of that was the potential for more than 6500 new jobs and an additional 1.8 billion dollars in state produced per annum over the next 20 years.
Professor Ben Hankamer, Director for the Centre for Solar Biotechnology believes that if we get to a point where biofuels are used to address Australia's petroleum demand, the job growth would be even greater.
"Our estimates are that if we were to produce petroleum demand for Australia it would be something in the order of 70,000 direct jobs," Hankamer said.
Your Back Pocket: Using Biofuels Could Cut Down Your Monthly Budget
If using biofuels can save cents, it's clearly better for your budget. And there's no denying that the more advanced the biofuel movement becomes, the greater the changes of cutting costs for individuals and families.
"If we look at ethanol, the use of E10 is generally cost neutral in terms of family budget, there are significant benefits to communities across QLD, the farming sector and this leads to increased job growth which benefits all Australians," O'Hara said.
The other added budgetary benefit is that the more common biofuel usage becomes, the more quickly they become the norm, which brings costs down.
"As we've seen in the solar sector, the more people using renewable energy technology results in lower prices for consumers, over time we expect the same to be true of biofuels," O'Hara said.
"Ultimately it will be cheaper to use biofuels than fossil-based fuels, we're not there yet, but the more people who use these fuels will help speed up growth and get us to that point quicker."
Kickstart Investment: Biofuel Is The Birth Of A New Market
To make money, it's important to have a solid marketplace, and as renewable energy becomes a more permanent part of our future, the opportunity for investment has never been greater.
"The investment in renewable energy is already bigger than gas, coal and fossil fuels globally and the markets for investment are expanding," Hankamer said.
Last year alone, Australia saw more than $4.2 billion invested in clean energy markets.
"There is a lot of traction at the moment in these sunrise industries -- like biofuels -- and there is capital flowing into them," O'Hara said.
Queensland is ensuring it is in prime position as Australia pushes to be the dominant biofuels force in Asia.
"We're seeing a large amount of investment in this biofuels space so we now need to capitalise on that and make Queensland and Australia an attractive place for these people to invest," O'Hara said.
Tech Development: The Push For Expansion
As the expansion of renewable energy rolls out around Australia, so too does the need for technology to accommodate it.
"As a result of technological advances, significant innovation has occurred in developing new liquid fuels from renewable biomass," O'Hara said.
The technological leaps and bounds mean that we're more likely to see biofuels become a part of our everyday life, eventually leading to a lower cost.
"The costs associated with new technologies decreases as these technologies become more widely deployed," O'Hara explained.
"There have been considerable developments in the production of renewable diesel and aviation fuels, with companies such as AltAir now supplying bio-derived jet fuel for flights from Los Angeles airport (LAX) on a regular basis."
We have seen this with the decrease in solar and wind energy costs in Australia and the same effect was noted with the expansion of corn ethanol in the USA. O'Hara's thoughts are echoed by Heather Bone, founder of RebusJ Sustainability, a firm specialising in sustainability advice and services.
"The technologies being developed to take waste streams to more valuable products will be important, and the technologies that reduce the cost of the product to market," Bone said.
The Queensland Government is leading Australia's bio-economic revolution through the Advance Queensland Biofutures 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan. One of the actions from this plan is the introduction of a biofuels mandate. The biofuel mandate is a step towards growing Queensland's biofuel and bio-manufacturing industries. It will provide certainty so the industry can invest, innovate and create jobs as part of a cleaner, greener future for Queensland. A flourishing biofuels industry will also create the foundation for a new high-value bio-manufacturing industry.
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