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Creating the fuel of the future


Brigid Veale
8 December 2008
Southern Cross University has backed calls for the establishment of a national biofuels centre.

The University, which already plays a leading role in the development of Australia’s biofuel research capacity, has supported a proposal by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) to establish a National Biofuels Institute.

Professor Robert Henry, a world leader in plant genetics research, said Australia had a real opportunity to become a significant player in the emerging low carbon economy by securing a stake in the global biofuels and biofeedstocks technology market.

Professor Henry, who is attending the national Bioenergy Australia 2008 - Sustainable Bioenergy Opportunities for Australia conference in Melbourne this week, said Southern Cross University was already well down the track in biofuels research.

The University has formed the BioEnergy Research Institute (BERI) and is collaborating with research centres funded by the United States Department of Energy, which is supporting a $600 million biofuels research program.

“We have established strong links within Australia and internationally. This is a major step in the development of a national centre and puts us in a good position to help coordinate Australia’s effort to develop technologies from biomass,” Professor Henry said.

“We are concentrating on the development of ‘second generation’ sources of biofuels using non-food crops, which will have a much lower carbon footprint.

“The biofuels that exist at the moment are currently only marginally ahead of oil in terms of their carbon footprint. Turning food into fuel also has the potential to put upward pressure on food prices and threaten world food security.

“What we are looking at is non-food biomass, such as eucalypts and native grasses.”

The added benefit of using these plants is that they can be grown as annual crops in marginal areas which are becoming increasingly unsuitable for traditional food crops or grazing.

“We are also seeking funding under the Federal Government’s Second Generation Biofuels Research and Development Grant Program, with a collaborative bid involving key national and international organisations,” he said.

Photo: Professor Robert Henry is backing calls for a National Biofuels Institute.