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April 28, 2010

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says it remains to be seen whether the Federal Government’s promise to provide an additional $40 million to the Calera project at Yallourn, ever comes to fruition.

Mr Chester has cautiously welcomed the announcement of additional funding for the project but stressed that it is conditional upon successful trials of new technology that captures carbon dioxide emissions and turns it into building products.

The mineral carbonation project at TRUEnergy’s Yallourn site uses CO2 captured from the power station to make cement and aggregate material.

“Brown coal is an extraordinary natural resource and accepting the challenge to use it in the most environmentally efficient manner will help to protect jobs in the Latrobe Valley in the future,” Mr Chester said.

“Investment in new technologies which reduce greenhouse gases will assist the Latrobe Valley to continue to produce power from brown coal for the long-term.

“Rather than a massive new tax that will send jobs overseas, the Labor Party should be directing more of its efforts at ensuring the future viability of the Latrobe Valley power industry. We will always need a reliable baseload energy supply and rather than vilify brown coal, we should be continually developing these new technologies.

“Developing these new technologies will help to protect the future of local generators, workers and their families who are proud of their contribution to rest of our nation.”

While he welcomed the announcement from Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson to commit up to $40 million to the Calera project, Mr Chester said there was no certainty that the money would flow to protect or create jobs in the Latrobe Valley.

“It remains to be seen whether the pilot project is successful. The additional dollars are dependent upon the feasibility study proving the commercial viability of the project,” Mr Chester said. 

“While I agree with Minister Ferguson that the potential environmental benefits of this project are exciting, with the prospect of a world first brown coal carbonation process, there is no guarantee that the process will be commercially viable.

“The additional money announced by the Minister is wholly dependent upon a successful outcome in the first stage.”

In making the announcement, Minister Ferguson acknowledged: “Should these studies and the pilot plant indicate the construction of a demonstration plant would technically and commercially feasible, the Australian Government will contribute additional funding of up to $40 million toward the project.”

To be known as the Calera Project, the new conversion plant is a partnership between TruEnergy and Calera and construction is planned for later this year.

“I believe the future of the Latrobe Valley power industry and the thousands of jobs it supports is dependent on government investment in cleaner coal technologies,” Mr Chester said.

“TruEnergy was just this week on record discussing the uncertainty that still lingers as a result of the Rudd Labor Government’s climate change policies and its failed attempts to introduce an Emissions Trading Scheme.

“The industry has been calling on the government to invest funds during this time of uncertainty and it is reassuring to receive a commitment to new project like this that that might help to create a future for our local industry and its workers.”

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