Queensland’s fledgling ethanol industry may finally get its time in the sun, thanks to the state government’s bipartisan support for a mandate.

A series of forums are being held in key regions across the state to gauge the public’s opinion and gain vital feedback for the proposal.

About 50 stakeholders attended the first forum in Dalby, including AgForce grains president Wayne Newton.

He said there was widespread support for a biofuels industry from grain producers on the Darling Downs as well as in central and southern Queensland.

“Growers can see the advantages for rural communities in terms of new jobs, and that it could bring a significant new player into the market that is a reliable consumer of grain,” he said.

Labor’s proposed Liquid Fuel Supply (Biofuel Mandate) Amendment Bill would start at two per cent of Queensland’s total volume of regular unleaded petrol and E10 fuel sold. However, Mr Newton said Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s visit with US Navy officials was a positive indication that there could be additional demand there for biodiesel in coming years.

Queensland is home to two of Australia’s three ethanol plants at Dalby, Sarina and Nowra in NSW.

A spokesman for Energy Minister Mark Bailey, who attended the Dalby and Bundaberg forums, said the minister spoke about creating Queensland jobs and supporting local industry.

He said the proposed two per cent target was very well received at both forums.

“We believe this target is achievable instead of a higher target, which would see Queensland relying on cheaper ethanol imports,” he said.

But some groups, including lotfeeders, are not happy about bipartisan support for a mandate.

Kev Roberts, managing director of Sandalwood Feedlot, Dalby, said it was immoral to be stumping up a few industries to the detriment of all other operating industries.

Mr Roberts said the ethanol mandate was dirty politics and an attempt to gain favour with Katter’s Australian Party due to the hung parliament.

“If this is a consultation process, why was the consultation made after the government has actually decided to put the mandate in place?” he said.

“Why are the LNP falling over themselves to try to have a bipartisan view but neither party put in their electioneering that they were going to possibly introduce an ethanol mandate?

“It’s not necessarily true – particularly when you have a hung parliament – that the majority of people in Queensland would want to have an ethanol mandate.”

Environmental consultant and ethanol advocate Larissa Rose said there were “plenty opinions raised and myths debunked” at Dalby.

At times there was robust debate between grain growers and lot feeders, but Ms Rose said it was important to look at the health benefits and long-term sustainable economic growth of Australia.

Ms Rose said people in regional communities had a greater understanding and awareness of ethanol compared to those in the city.

When visiting places such as Dalby she had heard people say “we make ethanol here”. There was an embedded sense of ownership.

“It’s really interesting why people choose things – a sense of ownership and identity – or it can be the other side where they know the benefits of it and they know the health reasons, are conscious of fuel security and that it’s better for cars,” she said.

Extracted in full from North Queensland Register.