A project to fuel diesel power generators with a slurry of brown coal and water -- recently described as a potential "clean energy bonanza" by federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt -- is based on technology trialled unsuccessfully for three decades by controversial company White Energy, its forerunners and affiliates, which have seen hundreds of millions of dollars in public and private funds wasted.

A $10 million stage-one trial of the so-called Direct Injection Carbon Engine (or DICE) project, backed by 15 organisations including the CSIRO, aims to revolutionise brown coal use in Victoria's Latrobe Valley and in November was tipped by the Herald Sun to be one of the first likely winners from Hunt's proposed Emissions Reduction Fund, the key plank in the government's Direct Action plan to tackle climate change.