Eco industry opportunity for regions

Barcaldine Regional Council Mayor Sean Dillon, Professor Ross Garnaut AC, LAWMAC Chair Cr Neil Fisher (Rockhampton Regional Council), LAWMAC Vice Chair Cr Brett Moller (Cairns Regional Council) and Cr Russ Cook (Townsville Regional Council) at the LAWMAC meeting in Barcaldine.

By Matthew Pearce

Leading economist Ross Garnaut says zero carbon industries are a big opportunity for the bush.

Representatives from more than 30 councils from throughout Queensland attended the LAWMAC (Local Authority Waste Management Advisory Committee) meeting at Barcaldine on 22 and 23 July.

Guest speaker at the event, Mr Garnaut, a Professor of Economics at the University of Melbourne, spoke about the proposed Barcaldine Renewable Energy Industrial Zone, Australia’s first renewable energy industrial development.

“I wanted to inform people of what we’re doing here in Barcaldine which is building an industrial precinct based on the areas of renewable energy and biomass, in particular detailing one of the new technologies, which can convert municipal waste in valuable char (a avaluable form of carbon like charcoal) and bio oil,” he said.

“I can also be used with agricultural waste or forestry waste as well as with waste biomass like prickly acacia.”

Prof Garnout said LAWMAC representatives had been interested in seeing how the technologies employed at the Zone might be applied in their regions.

“We’re still working through the regulatory processes and approvals, but if the Barcaldine Renewable Energy Industrial Zone goes ahead, that would mean 500 permanent jobs and would have quite a lasting effect on employment and income in the Barcaldine region.

“A number of different businesses in the hub will use each other’s waste and bio oil burned there will generate electricity for when the sun’s not shining,” he said.

“Burning the oil will create carbon dioxide which will go into another plant turning hydrogen into ammonia and urea

– all the wastes of one process become the raw material of the next process.”

Prof Garnout said environmentally friendly industries were a big opportunity for regional areas.

“Regional areas have the resources to make use of the new opportunities that are opening up in zero carbon industries – meaning the areas with the most opportunities in the new economy are actually in rural and provincial Australia.

“It’s a big opportunity for the bush.”

Prof Garnout said the intention of the Renewable Energy Industrial Zone was to establish a model to show how it could work in other areas.

“Barcaldine was chosen as the location because it has a few advantages,” he said.

“There’s a lot of sunshine and the base of a lot of the industries is low-cost renewable energy which is these days very much lower cost than other electricity.

“Out of all the regions in the Central West, Barcaldine has the best connection to the electricity grid and it’s quite an important transport crossroad, including sitting on the east-west highway from Rockhampton through to Longreach and Winton.”

Prof Garnout said the best time for industries to take action on climate change was actually ‘a few years ago’.

“We’re already getting some damage from climate change but the next best thing is to move as soon as possible,” she said.

“Since the election of President Biden in the United States, all the developed countries are very serious about this and if we don’t join them we’re going to be cut out of a lot of trade and we’ll miss out on some big opportunities.

“It’s about using the resources that we’re not using now to create sustainable jobs.”