For some time now, people within Queensland’s sugarcane industry, me included, have been talking about an industry evolution.
We’ve been highlighting value-adding opportunities that will not only boost growers’ bottom lines but will bring employment and economic benefits to our regional communities.
These opportunities are varied and plentiful – from biodiesel and diary-protein substitutes to biodegradable plastics and sustainable electricity generation.
But by far the biggest boost the industry, and perhaps Queensland, will receive from the burgeoning bioeconomy will come through the production of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs).
A new report, commissioned on behalf on Qantas and Airbus, has found that SAFs ‘will be the backbone of aviation decarbonisation,’ saying the technology is:
‘Safe, technically viable and can be dropped-in for use with existing aircraft and infrastructure. IATA estimates that SAF will contribute 65% of the decarbonisation required for the aviation sector to achieve net zero by 2050.’
Not only can SAFs help the aviation industry decarbonise, they can also assist Australia in reaching its 2030 emissions reductions targets.
However, making Queensland a “sustainable aviation hub” as Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced she would like to do earlier this year, will take significant investment in the sugarcane industry.
In fact, preliminary estimates suggest an additional 12 million tonnes of raw sugar would be required every year. That is equivalent to a 300% increase in sugar production and would require a major expansion of the industry.
Of course, that kind of expansion might be difficult to achieve any time soon, but it shows the potential that is open to the industry and it is a goal we can build towards.
But, while this dramatic expansion does not need to be accomplished tomorrow, it does require that we begin the journey.
That means all stakeholders, from the growers and millers to the local community and state and federal governments, getting on board.
Having the correct policy settings is vital if we are to attract the right investment and take advantage of this opportunity.
The State Government has already announced its desire to create a SAF industry in Queensland. The industry and airlines are also on board. And now the figures have shown us that the opportunity is enormous.
What we need now is solid action. It is time for all stakeholders to put their money where their mouth is and get on with making this bio-evolution a reality.