Iron-ore billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has launched a double-page broadside against energy green-washing, and in particular the sort currently being pedalled by the federal government, taking out advertisements in major Australian papers to make clear what is – and isn’t – clean hydrogen.
Fortescue Future Industries, the renewables-focused offshoot of Forrest’s resources empire, on Tuesday published the notices in The Daily Telegraph and the Australian Financial Review, reminding readers that only green hydrogen – made from renewable energy – can truly be called “clean.”
“All other types are made from fossil fuels such as coal and gas,” the notices say. “Blue hydrogen’s greenhouse gas footprint can be 20% larger than burning natural gas or coal for heat. IT IS NOT CLEAN.”
Looking for a headline to read with your morning coffee today? How about this one. ⬇️
— Fortescue Future Industries (@FortescueFuture) February 7, 2022
As you can see in the Tweet below, the FFI ad mimics a campaign being run by the federal Morrison government, which features a hand-drawn picture of a truck carrying hydrogen and declares “a clean hydrogen industry is part of our plan to reach net zero by 2050.”
But it has also, no doubt, been inspired by several recent instances of federal energy and emissions minister Angus Taylor spruiking and announcing government funding for hydrogen projects that are anything but clean.
Sick of Angus Taylor using taxpayer funds to mislead people about what is and isn’t “clean” hydrogen? Andrew Forrest is sick of him too. Full page ad in the @FinancialReview today. pic.twitter.com/m7Gp2Sndkb
— Ken McAlpine (@KenMcAlpine) February 7, 2022
Last week, it was a $3 billion urea production facility being developed by gas company Strike Energy, which Taylor praised for its use of “clean hydrogen,” saying the plant would produce urea – traditionally made using fossil gas and coal – with a much lower carbon footprint compared to overseas supplies.
But as RenewEconomy reported at the time, ASX disclosures show that Strike Energy expects the plant’s feedstock will consist of just 1.25 per cent hydrogen. The remainder, 98.75 per cent, will be met through Strike Energy’s own supplies of fossil gas.
Similarly, Taylor last month celebrated the milestone shipment of Australian “clean” hydrogen to Japan, even though it came from coal and gas, with some carbon capture and carbon offsets used to green it up.
In comments on ABC Radio, Taylor appeared to dismiss concerns about the true colour of the hydrogen his government was supporting, saying “we’re not going to get ideological about it – we want clean hydrogen.”
But as Hydrogen Australia senior advisor, Scott Hamilton, wrote on RenewEconomy on Friday, the colour – or source of hydrogen production – is all important in an increasingly climate constrained world.
“Hydrogen can be made from fossil fuels which contributes to global warming or it can be made from renewable energy and water using an electrolyser producing zero carbon emissions. It is critically important that we can tell the difference and prevent greenwashing,” Hamilton said.
And Forrest, whose FFI business is almost entirely dedicated to the driving Australian production, export and use of green hydrogen, also takes this view.
Last week, the iron ore magnate penned an op-ed that was also published in the AFR, congratulating the federal government for “indirectly demonstrating, through a $500 million pilot project in Victoria, that international trade in liquid hydrogen is technically feasible,” before making his feelings clear:
“But let’s not pretend we’re exporting “clean energy” to the world. … Peddling hydrogen made from brown coal – the dirtiest of all coals – as ‘clean’ is a cringe-inducing backwards shuffle into the dark ages.”
This week’s full-page advertisements presumably hope to reach a broader audience with this same message, particularly at a time when unofficial election campaigning by the major parties is well and truly underway.
“Make no mistake – hydrogen itself is indeed a zero-emissions fuel,” Forrest wrote last week. “Using it releases nothing but water as a byproduct. But we look like zero-IQ idiots if we make hydrogen out of the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet and hawk it as ‘clean’.”
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