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Oct 30, 2011

Bligh: $108 million pissed against the wall, saving of $8 mil.

Image: Courier Mail photo ofEducation Minister Cameron Dick describing the 'savings'.

For some years the federal and state governments have been touting the benefits of clean coal technology under which power station emissions are gathered and pumped into the ground. The attraction for governments was that it was unproven technology which existed only in theory which allowed them to claim they were taking the lead at the cutting edge of tomorrows advances.

There were also the side benefits of the ‘green’ mantle, and that it was to cost billions, allowing them to talk about huge ‘investments’ in the future of green technology, for a brighter more sustainable and a few other buzzwords, cleaner, greener lifestyle for future generations. Something like that anyway.

With this in mind the Queensland government raced ahead with massive spending in this area despite the Weller review of government assets in April 2009 described ZeroGen as “speculative” and the Government was told it was considered “very high risk” in 2006. The company has been placed in liquidation after chewing through well over a hundred million from the state, $43 million from the commonwealth, and $50 million from the coal industry.

Apparently though, according to the Bligh government there has been a net saving of eight million dollars on the deal. This is claimed to be on the basis that they were expected to blow $116 million and managed to only spend $108 million. The Education Minister Cameron Dick yesterday trumpeted the saving as he defended Labor's decision to "cut its losses" by shutting down the project two weeks ago:
ZeroGen was set up to be owned by the Government to develop carbon capture technology. Its key project was to be a $4.3 billion clean coal power plant in central Queensland, running by 2015, with the power to capture 90 per cent of coal emissions.

The confirmation of the financial losses come as photos have emerged showing former ZeroGen chiefs living it up in Japan and Singapore as they tried to secure backing of business giant Mitsubishi Corp. Former ZeroGen chief Tony Tarr and the company's corporate affairs manager Heather Brodie were snapped partying in kimonos and horseplaying in Singapore.

After scrapping the key "world-first" $4 billion central Queensland plant, the Bligh Government claimed ZeroGen would be given to the Australian Coal Association to ensure the knowledge it gained lived on.
It appears though that the Coal Association has not been informed of this ‘windfall’ and someone is telling porkies:
Ms Bligh, who had insisted the money was not wasted, had said it would become "an independent entity, owned and run by industry and dedicated to the accelerated development and deployment of carbon capture storage."

But ACA chairman John Pegler yesterday said the group knew nothing of its supposed involvement. "We have never, ever, ever been in negotiations to take over ZeroGen," he said.

Contradiction also emerged in the office of Treasurer Andrew Fraser yesterday, who insisted the intellectual property still belonged to the state and would be used in future. "The Federal Government was an equity partner in the venture and has been actively involved in the wind-up process," he said. The wind-up began in June.

But federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said the Commonwealth became aware only "in early October that the board may voluntarily liquidate the company."
Queenslanders are hoping that the government will put an end to these savings before they send us broke.

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