US Energy Secretary Visit to Australia Sparks Gas Talks

The prospect of sales of Australian liquefied natural gas to the United States is high on the agenda for this week's visit to Australia by one of the most senior members of the Bush cabinet.

United States Secretary of Energy, Spencer Abraham, was this morning officially welcomed to Australia by Federal Industry Minister, Ian Macfarlane. They will co-chair a series of industry round table discussions over the next two days in Sydney and Melbourne.

Other issues to be discussed include trade and investment opportunities in Australia's energy sector, energy security, technological developments, bilateral cooperation, renewable energy and hydrogen.

While the roundtables will gather industry leaders from the Australian energy sector as well as national research bodies, Secretary Abraham will hold separate discussions with Mr. Macfarlane and Environment and Heritage Minister Dr. David Kemp.

"Secretary Abraham's visit is timely reinforcement of the growing energy relationship between our two countries. There's much potential for that to be strengthened in areas of gas, clean fuel technologies, renewable energies and future energy sources like hydrogen," said Mr. Macfarlane.

"Last month I led a gas industry delegation to Washington to promote the potential for Australian LNG to supply America and to have the Secretary repay that visit so soon after is a very positive indicator."

"While the local LNG industry will continue to press its credentials as a future supplier to the mighty American market, this week is also an opportunity to canvass wider energy issues and areas for bilateral cooperation."

"The visit is the first to Australia by the US Energy Secretary since a new bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on energy sector cooperation was signed between Australia and the US in November last year," he said.

Secretary Abraham is the first US Secretary for Energy to visit Australia for a decade. He leads a cabinet department, the US Department of Energy, which has a budget of more than $20 billion.