Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The Sydney Morning Herald thinks Australia’s Scott Morrison is making a big mistake, ignoring the imminent collapse in fossil fuel prices due to low cost green hydrogen.
Crunch time looming for Morrison on climate as the world looks to Australia to act
By Marian Wilkinson
July 12, 2021 — 8.02am
Since last December, Scott Morrison has crab-walked towards a net zero by 2050 target. But he is coming under serious pressure from Australia’s most important allies to put up a credible 2030 target in Glasgow. Morrison has been unwilling to do that.
Morrison’s determination to stick to Australia’s weak, increasingly implausible 2030 target was thrust into the international spotlight at Biden’s climate summit in April. The prime minister was one of 40 world leaders, including Xi Jinping, who attended the virtual gathering. It was designed to vault the United States into a leadership role in the global climate negotiations, and in his opening remarks Biden made it absolutely clear he wanted deep global emissions cuts by 2030. “This is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of a climate crisis,” Biden said. “We must try to keep the Earth’s temperature to an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
“It’s difficult to imagine the United States winning the long-term strategic competition with China if we cannot lead the renewable energy revolution,” Blinken told reporters. “Right now, we’re falling behind. China is the largest producer and exporter of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, electric vehicles. It holds nearly a third of the world’s renewable energy patents. If we don’t catch up, America will miss the chance to shape the world’s climate future in a way that reflects our interests and values, and we’ll lose out on countless jobs for the American people.”
Australia risks being overrun in this clean energy race. If green hydrogen becomes competitive with natural gas by the end of the decade, the oil and gas industry will react by slashing prices, and Australian liquefied natural gas prices will plummet. As Fortescue Metals’ chairman Twiggy Forrest put it colourfully in his Boyer lecture, the result will be “like a knife fight in a telephone box”.
For now, the Morrison government is making a strategic bet that the energy transformation won’t happen this fast. It does not believe that China, let alone India, will be able to radically shift course this decade. This will put the 1.5 Celsius plans out of reach and curb the enthusiasm in developed countries for ambitious targets to cut emissions.
…Read more: https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/crunch-time-looming-for-morrison-on-climate-as-the-world-looks-to-australia-to-act-20210706-p587dc.html
Natural gas – you poke a hole in the ground and capture the gas which gushes out.
Green hydrogen, you build expensive solar arrays, use uncompetitively expensive electricity to crack water, capture and compress the hydrogen. Or you use steam reforming, in which water mixed with coal or natural gas is heated and pressurised so much it burns, releasing vast quantities of CO2 which somehow have to be sequestered.
And then there is the difficulty of actually handling pure hydrogen – the cost of containing a gas with molecules so small, only high spec pipes can contain it, the risk of handling a gas which ignites easily over an extraordinary range of conditions, the danger of working with a gas whose flame burns so hot it is all but invisible.
I’m guessing we might have to wait a little longer than 2030, for green hydrogen to become price competitive.