The head of Queensland’s only sorghum biorefinery says a mandate on ethanol in fuel is essential for the future of his business.

It comes as the agriculture sector is shaping up for another round of fighting between two key industries on the regulation of the production of ethanol.

The issue is simmering after bipartisan State Government support was shown to mandate the use of a certain level of ethanol in fuel sold in Queensland.

While the mandated ethanol level is yet to be determined one party, Katter’s Australian Party, is calling for a 10 per cent mandate.

That has upset one group, who say a mandate would hit people’s hip pocket by increasing fuel and food prices in Queensland.

Opposition to turning ‘food into fuel’

The Alliance Against Ethanol Mandates is comprised of companies from animal production and marine industries plus stock feed manufacturers.

Alliance spokesman Don Mackay said turning food into fuel did not add up.

“The available land for the production of grain is not likely to change significantly so it will simply take it away from other grain types which would go into flour for bread or whatever it might be so there’s just not a lot of common sense in our view in this style of mandate,” Mr Mackay said.

“It doesn’t deliver for the consumer and it simply sets one agricultural industry against another.”

Mr Mackay is also the president of the Australian Lot Feeders Association and said “it reeks of political expediency rather than looking at what has occurred in other states and understanding what has happened around the world and reviewing this as a proper decision as to whether it’s a good decision to take grain and turn it into petrol”.

Biorefinery says ethanol mandate good for environment and regional development

But many, including the head of the Dalby BioRefinery, strongly disagree.

David Szymczak is the chief operating officer of the plant located on the Western Downs, the state’s only facility that turns grain into ethanol.

“I think what they’ve got to say is absolute rubbish, most of their points are points that make either no sense or are just untrue.”

Mr Szymczak said that at peak production the plant would use 192,000 tonnes of sorghum per year.

He said the refinery was hoping for a 5 per cent mandate to begin next year, a measure that would save an otherwise unviable operation.

“As a business that has been struggling over the last few years through lack of demand due to a reluctance of major oil companies to sell the product.

“We do believe that it will happen this time, the political will is there, it’s a great story for Queensland and supports regional development, it’s better for the environment, it’s a better fuel and it’s great for the balance of payments.”

Grain growers hopeful of new market

Grain growers are understandably bullish about the prospect and say they feel a mandate is closer than ever before.

Wayne Newton is the grains president with rural lobby group AgForce and he paints a rosy picture.

“It would afford a very good and absolutely reliable consumer of our grain, the beauty with ethanol plants and the production of bioethanol is that they need grain all year round.”

Mr Newton said the feedlot industry cannot guarantee such demand, sometimes they do not buy much grain and other times they have a very high demand.

“I will concede because of drought conditions and good prices for export beef that they have been strong buyers but they have not been reliable buyers … it’s that reliability that we’re really looking for because it maintains a steady price and it allows our producers to know that they’ll get a good return for their hard work.”

The influence a mandate would have on the price of sorghum is largely unknown, particularly in the volatile Queensland market.

Mr Newton said in this case some tinkering by the government was justified.

“We’re in a business where we’re competing with three or four of the world’s largest and wealthiest corporations and unfortunately they do everything they can to prevent ethanol from getting a toehold in the market.

“This is the real basis for introducing a small mandate just to allow access to this product by the consumers.”

Extracted in full from ABC.