Great Barrier Reef threatened by giant oil project

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Great Barrier Reef threatened by giant oil project

Great Barrier Reef threatened by giant oil project

By Francesca Davis

On October 29, Greenpeace activists entered the Stuart shale oil production plant in Queensland, immobilised key areas of the site, erected banners and locked themselves to equipment. Their protest lasted two days, drawing media attention to the oil plant under construction next to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

The plant will access 30 billion barrels of oil locked in shale — 15 times as much as Australia's existing oil resources. It has the potential to create more greenhouse gas pollution than any existing Australian development.

Production and consumption of the oil will release 60% more carbon dioxide than Australia presently emits.

Accessing the oil may also mean drilling in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Greenpeace has called on the federal government to remove all subsidies to the shale oil industry. It wants legislation requiring an assessment of major greenhouse pollution sources to guarantee greenhouse target emission limits are met.

Greenpeace climate campaigner Erwin Jackson says the Howard government is funding a giant new source of greenhouse pollution with about $200 million of taxpayers' money.

Jackson notes that the second phase of the project will cost Suncor, Southern Pacific Petroleum and Central Pacific Minerals $600 million — almost enough to build a 500 megawatt solar power station. According to a study coordinated by British Petroleum, this level of investment would make solar energy competitive with conventional fossil fuels.

Already existing fossil fuel reserves vastly exceed what the planet can absorb in greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmentalists fear for the reef because the government has not ruled out mining in the area. The companies developing the project cannot rule out the possibility of oil spills on the reef.

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