Opinion: time for action on fuel security

By: Geoff Crouch


Tapping oil in rented US reserve space is not realistic

Opinion: time for action on fuel security
Geoff Crouch

 

The move to establish Australia’s emergency fuel reserve in the United States is a serious strategic error.

Liquid fuel is critical to trucking and critical for our economy. Without trucks and the fuel that powers them, Australia stops.

Last month, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor announced that the Australian Government would spend A$94 million to establish a strategic fuel reserve in the United States. Also included in this figure: A$2.5 million to lease space in the reserve.

But the United States is on the other side of a very wide ocean. The arrangement to meet Australia’s fuel security obligations by tapping into the US reserve is simply not realistic.

Australia has signed an international treaty that says we will maintain an emergency stockpile of 90 days of liquid fuel. But we don’t do that.

At the end of 2019, Australia had only 24 consumption days of petrol and 22 consumption days of diesel in stock. Angus Taylor has said himself that it could take up to 40 days for fuel to make its way from the United States to Australia.

That means Australia would be brought to a standstill for up to 16 days with no access to fuel. No fuel means supermarkets would go empty, medicines wouldn’t get delivered and rubbish bins wouldn’t get emptied.


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The Government has also announced that it will work with the private sector to identify the best options for further strengthening fuel security in Australia. If we’re to bring our fuel security home, this should be the focus for Government.

Standing up for trucking and the wider community, in 2019 the ATA made a detailed submission to the liquid fuel security review, calling for domestic fuel security as well as the need to address the legal uncertainties that trucking businesses would face if expected by government to prioritise the delivery of particular goods during a fuel emergency.

The ATA ran a fuel security exercise in 2015 which demonstrated that in a fuel shortage emergency it cannot be assumed that the trucking industry would have the commercial ability to implement the Government’s priorities.

The legislation governing a fuel shortage emergency needs to be reviewed and amended to include the need to ensure that trucking businesses cannot be sued for prioritising customers in line with government policy during a fuel security emergency.

It’s time for government to take action on fuel security. Not just to ensure the viability of the trucking industry, but to ensure the future of the Australian community and our economy.

This issue has been dragging on for far too long. Band aid measures such as $94 million of fuel being kept on the soil of a foreign power, on the other side of the world, are just not acceptable.

The nation’s fuel reserves simply must be kept on Australia soil.

Geoff Crouch is the immediate past chair of the Australian Trucking Association

 

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