Forrest attacks Coalition fear mongering, “chicken littles” and fossil fuels

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Iron ore billionaire Andrew Forrest, who is staking his fortune on a massive switch to renewable energy and green industry, has lambasted the federal Coalition government over its “fear-mongering”, and its attachment to “clean” hydrogen and carbon capture and storage.

Forrest, fresh from a series of landmark investments in hydrogen and solar technologies, green manufacturing plants in Queensland, and the NSW green hydrogen plan, on Thursday compared claims of “clean hydrogen” made from fossil fuels to “cancer free tobacco”.

“That’s like clean coal … it’s like cancer free tobacco, it’s a good one liner, but it’s not true. Clean hydrogen is only green hydrogen,” Forrest told ABC’s Radio National Breakfast program.

“We have 1000s of times more sources of renewable energy than we do coal, or oil or gas, and that renewable energy will never run out.

“Clean hydrogen (made from coal or gas and with CCS) is a real furphy. If the minister (Angus Taylor) really does the academic study, he’ll work out that if we turn oil, coal or gas into hydrogen it will create more carbon than if we just burnt the oil, coal or gas. So I’m really worried that.”

Forrest said he had spoken to Taylor since Forrest made his claim last week that 19 out of 20 CCS projects had failed, and agreed to now only say the technology had failed just 9 out of 10 times.

“I wouldn’t be banking our kids future on something which is a proven failure,” Forrest said. Taylor has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to supporting CCS, and given it access to billions more by changing the rules on carbon credits.

Forrest described hydrogen as a “miracle molecule”, which could be used for transport, for clean electricity, to make green steel, and fertiliser. “It’s a miracle molecule, which the fossil fuel sector would probably like us not to really discover, but the secret is out, and we should be using it everywhere because it has zero pollution.”

Forrest also said he had talked to Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and deputy leader Bridget McKenzie over their “fear mongering” about the switch to renewables and green hydrogen, and the impact on regions. At the National Press Club later he lambasted the Nationals for being “chicken littles” over renewables.

“I’m quite sure that they are capable of hearing the facts. I know Mr Joyce absolutely was, Bridget was a bit impatient, and wanted to get off the line.

“We need to stop scaring Australians, we need to stop fear mongering. You might crack a few more votes in the coming election, but after this coming election, you will be seen for what you are, just a fear monger to try and save your political job, not the jobs of every regional Australian who, when coal, oil and gas deposits, does subside.”

Later, at the National Press Club later he lambasted the Nationals for being “chicken littles” over renewables.

“To the increasingly rare, thankfully, historical politicians fear mongering against choice, pretending to represent us, I just want to remind you – it’s taken 50 years for fossil fuel to get the power bills down, and, mate, they’re still going up,” he said.

“The fact that they’re still selling fear and not selling the huge and now obvious economic opportunity that carbon neutrality presents to our country, mate, get out of the road, is my message.”

He also urged prime minister Scott Morrison to go to the Glasgow climate summit to help him sell the investment opportunities for Australia in the green energy transition. He also urged the government to significantly lift its short term emissions reduction targets.

“I think anywhere between 40 and 50 (per cent cuts) is possible for Australia, and it is absolutely necessary for Australia.

“(Scott Morrison) will be very very high profile if he doesn’t go to Glasgow. I would like him to be high profile, to be out there, shoulder to shoulder with me, selling Australia’s fantastic future, to the people of the world as a green hydrogen centre, so that Australians do not have to import the oil and gas from people they will never meet and never know, that they can produce all the energy they want right in their own backyard and take control of their own economic and their own energy sovereignty.”

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