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Disaster would leave Australia with three weeks of fuel: NRMA report

Author: Daniel StantonDate: 28 February 2013

Australia could come to a standstill within three weeks if there was a major disruption to the country's liquid fuel supply, according to a new report commissioned by NRMA Motoring & Services.

The report, Australia's Liquid Fuel Security, was prepared by Air Vice-Marshal John Blackburn (Retired). It highlights the nation's dependence on foreign oil and fuel.

Australia's Liquid Fuel Security calls on the Australian Government to develop an effective fuel security plan to deal with extraordinary disruptions to supply outside normal daily supply and distribution such as war, economic turmoil or natural disasters.

The report also revealed that if Australia's oil supply was cut:

  • dry goods could run out within nine days;
  • chilled and frozen goods could run out within seven days;
  • retail pharmacy supplies could run out within seven days;
  • hospital pharmacy supplies could run out within three days; and
  • fuel available to the public could run out within three days.

NRMA Motoring & Services Director Graham Blight said 85 per cent of Australia's transport fuel comes from overseas crude oil or imported fuel.

"Almost 95 percent of our road transport network relies on oil - it would be crippled within weeks if Australia's liquid fuel supply was disrupted," Mr Blight said.

"We have about three weeks' worth of fuel at our disposal before the country would come to a standstill. This fact alone should cause concern within the Australian Government and we want them to bring the planned 2014 assessment of Australia's liquid fuel vulnerability forward to address this problem."

"Australia simply could not function without liquid transport fuels. The Australian Government must undertake a thorough analysis to identify and understand the risks that could affect our liquid fuel security. Only then can we make proper decisions to ensure an acceptable level of national resilience.

The NRMA believes that Australia needs a Fuel Security Plan to:

  • reduce our dependence on overseas fuel supplies by sourcing local supplies and safeguarding our refining capabilities; and
  • develop and use non-oil based alternative fuels or other resources available in Australia such as LPG and electric vehicles.

Air Vice-Marshal John Blackburn (Retired) said that Australia had gone from a net exporter to a net importer of oil over the past 30 years. As each year passed, the nation had become more vulnerable to supply disruptions.

"We are the world's ninth-largest energy producer and there are many renewable and non-renewable energy resources in our country," Air Vice-Marshal Blackburn said.

"It's time we started tapping into these energy sources and educating the public that home-grown options are available, should be used and are perfectly good alternatives to oil.

"Creating a home-grown alternative fuels industry would not only strengthen Australia's fuel security, they will create jobs and boost regional industries."

The NRMA-commissioned Jamison Group of transport and energy experts has developed two comprehensive plans to end our dependence on imported oil and secure our own transport energy future.

"It's time that these plans are implemented," Mr Blight said.

"The Australia's Liquid Fuel Security report is another wake-up call for governments to get serious about developing an alternative fuels industry."

In Sydney today the NRMA will hold a roundtable discussion involving leaders from industry, academia, community and the trade union movement to discuss the issue of fuel security.

The NRMA's Australia's Liquid Fuel Security report can be downloaded here.

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