The budget reveals that various assorted clean coal or carbon capture and storage programs continue to drag on many years after they were supposed to have completed demonstration projects.
Thankfully, the Coalition is acting to end the charade. It has now moved to claw back $609 million from Kevin Rudd’s ill thought-out Clean Coal Flagships program relative to last year’s budget. Continuing a long-running history of such grant tendering programs being fantastic at promising big and delivering little, last year the program was budgeted to spend $102 million but ended up spending $32 million.
What is perhaps surprising is they continue to believe the program will spend a further $150 million over the forward estimates. One of the selected flagship projects in Collie, Western Australia looks incredibly unlikely to proceed. The other, which is a plan for a CO2 capture infrastructure hub in Victoria's La Trobe Valley also is unlikely to go anywhere given that power generators now face no price or penalty for their CO2 emissions. Indeed under the Emissions Reduction Fund white paper they won’t even have an emissions baseline restraint.
Amazingly, the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund, unveiled back in 2004, is still sitting on the budget’s books. In further surprising news it actually spent its full $20 million funding allocation for the 2013-14 year. But don’t get your hopes up too much that the clean coal mythical spending is about to become real. The $40 million it was slated to spend in 2014-15 under last year’s budget has now been deferred entirely to 2015-16.
The one program that seems able to shovel money out the door has been the National Low Emissions Coal Initiative, which is slated to be closed. It actually spent $11 million more last year than was outlined in the 2013-14 budget and has a $9 million more to spend this financial year relative to what last year’s budget had scheduled.