Time to end oil re­liance

An au­to­mo­tive ex­pert warns we have five years to find a new source of fuel, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

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AUS­TRALIA faces a se­vere oil sup­ply crunch within five years, ac­cord­ing to re­spected Mel­bourne-based au­to­mo­tive en­gi­neer Lau­rie Sparke. Diesel fuel sup­plies for the trans­port sec­tor will be par­tic­u­larly hard hit as global oil pro­duc­tion is squeezed, Sparke told a So­ci­ety of Au­to­mo­tive En­gi­neers Aus­tralia con­fer­ence on gas fu­els.

‘‘Rapid grow­ing use of diesel fuel is of con­cern be­cause it will re­quire in­creased im­ports of diesel,’’ he says.

He be­lieves the coun­try needs to se­cure its fu­ture fuel re­sources, cit­ing LPG and nat­u­ral gas as po­ten­tial fuel sources.

LPG and nat­u­ral gas have the great­est po­ten­tial to in­su­late the coun­try from any fu­ture global oil shocks, he says.

‘‘World en­ergy con­sump­tion stripped world sup­ply,’’ he says.

‘‘Aus­tralia will not have ac­cess to enough oil in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture.

‘‘In or­der to se­cure a sus­tain­able fu­ture we need to re­move its cur­rent de­pen­dency on oil.

‘‘The op­por­tu­nity to utilise nat­u­ral gas in a way that has less en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact than oil has is a com­pelling one.’’

Aus­tralia pro­duces less than half the oil it needs, but has vast re­serves of gas that could se­cure our trans­port fu­ture, he says.

‘‘Most im­por­tantly, gas can re­place the short­fall of oil in the near fu­ture,’’ he says.

The In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency pre­dicts that global oil sup­plies could be­come ‘‘ex­tremely tight’’ within five years.

‘‘This will be felt dis­pro­por­tion­ately in Aus­tralia,’’ Sparke says.

With global de­mand grow­ing at 2 per cent a year, he cited re­search by Aus­tralian gov­ern-


out- ment eco­nomic re­search agency ABARE that there was a 90 per cent prob­a­bil­ity of a sig­nif­i­cant and im­me­di­ate short­fall of oil.

‘‘Shift­ing to LPG needs to be pro­moted as the wise and so­cially re­spon­si­ble thing to do.’’

Sparke says oil pro­duc­tion in most of the na­tions sup­pling Aus­tralia is fall­ing.

Many of th­ese na­tions are build­ing their own economies, which will re­quire more oil for their own do­mes­tic pur­poses, he says.

Most of Aus­tralia’s im­ported oil comes from Viet­nam, where oil pro­duc­tion peaked in 2004. Since then there has been a sig­nif­i­cant de­cline in pro­duc­tion each year and oil ex­ports have al­most halved be­cause of in­creased do­mes­tic de­mand.

Of the four main sup­pli­ers of oil to Aus­tralia, only the United Arab Emi­rates con­tin­ues to main­tain pro­duc­tion, he says.

Sparke re­tired re­cently af­ter a long ca­reer at GM Holden.

Un­sus­tain­able: Lau­rie Sparke (left) says we need to re­place oil with gas.

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