How long could Australia thrive if our oil supplies were cut?

Australia's Liquid Fuel Security

FUEL FOR THOUGHT: we are heavily dependent on imports of refined petroleum products and crude oil to meet our liquid fuel demand but Australia continues to adopt a “she’ll be right” approach to fuel security.

Australia is the world’s ninth-largest energy producer and there are many renewable and non-renewable energy resources in our country. Despite this, we are heavily dependent on imports of refined petroleum products and crude oil to meet our liquid fuel demand.

With such a spread-out population, Australia relies heavily on road transportation to move goods and services around. Our transport system is more than 95 per cent dependent on oil.

Did you know that if the oil stopped coming, goods and services could dry up in just over a week?

According to research carried out for our report, 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.

Australia needs to develop an alternative fuels industry – and only then, could we ween ourselves off our world oil dependency.

It doesn’t help that Sydney will have no refining capacity after 2014. The Clyde refinery closed last year and Kurnell will follow soon. If our supplies are cut off due to disruption to our shipping lanes, we would find ourselves in a crisis situation very quickly.

Australia continues to adopt a “she’ll be right” approach to fuel security, relying on global oil and fuel markets.

These markets have proven to be volatile with fluctuations of up to 60 cents per litre for unleaded fuel prices at the pump seen in the space of just six months. The reason for dramatic fluctuations can include conflict in the Middle East and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

This report is another wake-up call for governments to get serious about developing an alternative fuels industry.

Are you concerned about Australia’s oil dependency? Would you like the Government to do more to develop our alternative fuel industry?

The NRMA’s Australia’s Liquid Fuel Security report can be downloaded at: http://www.mynrma.com.au/about/reports-and-submissions.htm.

Diesel – fuel for thought

In the third part of our Fuel series, we look at diesel.

diesel pump at petrol station

Are diesel cars more fuel-efficient?

As price-pressured motorists look to get more bang from their buck, sales of diesel light vehicles have increased rapidly over the last couple of years.  Due to lower fuel consumption rates than an equivalent petrol engine, diesel engines are the standard in heavy vehicles. So why not in light engines too?

Pros:

  • Modern diesel engines are as quiet, smooth and powerful as petrol engines and are more fuel-efficient.

Cons:

  • One disadvantage often mentioned by NRMA Members is that diesel handpieces at garages often have a film of diesel fuel over them, as any spillage does not evaporate as quickly as petrol.  And if the diesel gets on your hands or clothing, the smell is difficult to remove. Retailers are making efforts to avoid this but have not yet found a perfect system.

Consider:

  • Diesel fuel does not contain more energy than petrol. In fact, it contains marginally less.
  • Whereas the intake of a petrol engine has a throttle blade in it, which forms an obstruction and reduces efficiency, a diesel engine doesn’t. Therefore, it gets lower fuel consumption.
  • Diesel variants are often more expensive to purchase than the petrol ones, so if your interest is purely in lower running costs, make sure it is going to make sense for you by checking out the NRMA’s Car Operating Cost Calculator.
  • In many cases, the higher initial purchase cost outweighs the reduced fuel cost.  But you are also gambling on the price of diesel staying similar to petrol over several years.
  • If you have never driven a diesel-engined vehicle and are considering purchasing one, you should test drive a few to see how it feels.

If you drive a diesel car, do you feel you’ve you got your money back in reduced fuel/servicing costs?  And are you happy with the driving characteristics of diesel?