Green hydrogen provides Australia a chance to slash its emissions and if gotten right, the outcome of this could be nothing short of nation-building. This was the argument of business leader Andrew Forrest in the first of his ABC Boyer Lectures Pod cast ” Confessions of a carbon emitter“.
While the Boyer lectures are traditionally lectures, with a speaker lecturing Australia about what it should do. Mr Forrest chose a different path.
Rather than lecturing, he decided to speak on what he is doing to fight climate change, under the premise that actions speak louder than words.
However, he did have a confession he had to first make. The iron ore company which he created 18 years ago, Fortescue, generates a little over 2 million tonnes of greenhouse gas every year. 2 million tonnes rank more than the entire emission of Bhutan. It also accounts for 0.004 percent of the greenhouse gases that enter the atmosphere every year — around 50 billion tonnes. The answer to reducing emissions isn’t to stop mining iron ore, which is integral to the creation of steel and of course to humanity, the answer is green iron ore and steel, created using green, zero-emissions energy.
If we were to imagine the world’s renewable energy resource as a power station, then the plant would be equivalent to millions of gigawatts in size. Placed into perspective, Australia produces every bit of its required electricity from just 70 gigawatts.
There’s sufficient and pollution-free renewable energy in the world to power humanity for the entire Anthropocene, which is the age of humans.
However, the markers of this era won’t be asteroid craters or Tyrannosaurus teeth. They will instead be massive landfills filled with single swig, plastic water bottles, which were effectively fossils the moment they were created.
It is unclear how long the Anthropocene will last, however, if we as humans do not stop warming our planet, it is sure to be the shortest era in geological history.
Hydrogen does offer us a massive opportunity.
Hydrogen is the most prevalent element in existence. In fact, the universe is 75% hydrogen by mass, meaning we will never run out of it.
It is also the simplest to make. All that has to be done is to run electricity through water. This is green hydrogen, the purest source of energy found in the world and one that could be substituted for up to ¾ of our emissions if the technology can be improved and scaled up.
At this moment, however, hydrogen is not used for energy. It is simply an ingredient to be used in the industrial process. Green hydrogen which is the good stuff is virtually ignored by the economic world.
Australia and many countries in the world is missing a colossal opportunity. However, the complicated aspect is transporting it. the green hydrogen market has the potential to generate revenues of at least $12 trillion by 2050, larger than any industry that is currently in existence. And Australia, with characteristic luck, actually sits on everything it requires to be a world leader, however, only if it can act fast.
The move to replace fossil fuels using green energy has moved at a snail’s pace for decades, however, it has been steadily moving.
In just the last year, South Korea, Japan and China have together pledged to place about 8 million hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on the road. Even Australia, which declined to commit to a zero emissions target, is investing $300 million in hydrogen. Europe has allocated a trillion Euros to reach zero emissions by 2050 — while the US has pledged $US2 trillion.
As reported by ABC News