Western Downs Mayor Ray Brown
Western Downs Mayor Ray Brown

Western Downs mayor looks toward a natural gas future

UNDERSCORED by the harvesting of coal seam gas from his region, Western Downs mayor Ray Brown imagines an energy revolution.

It would be one in which the farmer's tractor, fertiliser and the light switches in the home are all created using the liquefied natural gas refined from CSG.

Cr Brown outlined his vision in brief at the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association conference in Brisbane last week, but fleshed it out to APN on Monday.

"Wouldn't it be great to see the Federal Government look at a process of converting all our heavy vehicles, trucks, tractors and trains to compressed gas into the future?" he asked.

He wants the Federal Government to create a 2017 deadline for the change - a shift he likens to the leaded-to-unleaded forced conversion of the 1980s - and one that would cut vehicle emissions.

The Surat Basin, west of Toowoomba, falls mostly within Cr Brown's mayoralty - an area light in population but rich in minerals and gas.

A farmer himself, he said the by-products from CSG could fuel the tractor, be converted into fertiliser to grow the country's food then flow through the home as electricity.

Cr Brown said he expected opposition from the major petrol sellers, but they were not the only ones needing to be convinced.

Both the Australian Trucking Association peak body and the Greens dismissed the mayor's grand plans, although they had very different reasons.

Spokesman Bill McKinley said Cr Brown did not have the ATA's support because "gaseous fuels" were impractical for long haul transport.

Mr McKinley said forms of bio-diesel were a superior option although natural gas would work for shorter routes around cities.

"(Gas) will have an important role but it should not be mandated for all trucks because it's the wrong fuel for the job."

Meanwhile, Cr Brown's hopes for a lower-emission gas revolution was opposed by Queensland Greens Senator Larissa Waters as relying on the mining of CSG, a practice her party opposed.

Senator Waters said better fuel efficiency rules and emerging electric-car technology was a better vision.

"It boils down to us having cleaner options that do not have the adverse effects on the community," she said.

The question remaining was whether the Federal Government would support the idea.

That is so far unknown with Resources Minister Martin Ferguson unable to take questions yesterday as he was in transit.