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Manufacturers ‘disappointed’ with Ferguson gas decision

Manufacturers disappointed with energy minister's decision not to push for carbon tax funding of refuelling infrastructure for CNG and LNG

By Gary Worrall | April 19, 2012

Truck manufacturers say they are disappointed with the announcement by Energy Minister Martin Ferguson not push for carbon tax funding of refuelling infrastructure for compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Ferguson’s office confirmed his decision to ATN this week, saying instead market forces would be relied on to fund the introduction of a widespread network of fuelling stations.

This is despite a government study acknowledging the high cost of construction and low initial sales volumes as being likely to preclude large scale investment.

Making the decision even harder to comprehend is the establishment of the Clean Energy Investment Corporation as part of the carbon tax that takes effect on July 1.

The corporation will have a $10 billion allocation to fund the commercialisation and deployment of clean energy and low-pollution fuels.

Isuzu Australia Marketing Manager Jeff Birdseye says although Isuzu is selling CNG-powered trucks, with recent deals including Hobart City Council and Toll Group, a full scale refuelling network would encourage greater take up of the trucks.

Birdseye says the Toll deal, which makes it the largest operator of CNG trucks in Australia, was possible because of the back-to-base nature of operations that allowed Toll to install an onsite refuelling point.

“It is disappointing they have ignored CNG and LNG,” he says.

A widespread network would allow other operators to enjoy the same advantages, Birdseye says, including greatly reduced nitrogen dioxide (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, as well as virtually eliminating particulate matter.

“Yes, it is disappointing, particularly in light of the fact the Truck Industry Council met with Minister Ferguson on a couple of occasions and talked about how manufacturers are meeting ADRs on emissions, but they also offer CNG and LNG trucks that are cleaner again,” Birdseye says.

The Senior Manager of Corporate Communications for Mercedes-Benz Australia-Pacific, David McCarthy, had a similar reaction when told of Ferguson’s decision, saying the company was “a bit disappointed”.

“For a government seemingly committed to reducing carbon emissions this is unusual,” McCarthy says.

“Us and others can import CNG and LNG trucks and vans at the flick of a switch, but operators need refuelling infrastructure.”

Pointing to Australia’s vast reserves of natural gas that can be used to reduce vehicle emissions, benefit energy security and have a positive impact on the national balance of payments by reducing oil imports, McCarthy’s view was succinct.

“It ticks all the boxes,” he says.

Birdseye says with a $10 billion investment pool for clean energy projects, he is curious to know which projects will be funded and what criteria is applied.

“It would be nice if some money was diverted to natural gas refuelling infrastructure,” he says.

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