Canberra Report - Hydrogen Technology is Real and Ready - Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Canberra Report - Hydrogen Technology is Real and Ready - Wednesday, 24 February 2021 Main Image

By Joel Fitzgibbon

24 February 2021

Earlier this week I had a drive of a hydrogen-powered car.  The technology is real and ready.  We just need now to build the infrastructure needed to support it, including fuelling stations. To do that, we need to get plenty of them on the road.

The best way to do that is to incentivise the embrace of new technologies.  At the moment we’re doing the opposite.  For example, hydrogen-powered and electric vehicles attract the luxury car tax.  That’s nuts, and it’s having the opposite effect.

But the arrival of the hydrogen-powered car is a reminder of two things.  First, at 18 per cent of our total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), we won’t meet our emissions reduction aspiration without addressing the transport sector.  There is too much focus on electricity generation and too little attention paid to the economy-wide nature of the challenge.

At around 17 per cent of emissions, agriculture is another area we give too little focus to.  Of course, the good news is agriculture can play a vital role in the “net” part of “Net Zero Emissions” by absorbing more carbon out of the atmosphere.  And farmers will be paid to do so, which is a great result.   

The second reminder is that we’ve been quite successful in our attempts to reduce GHG emissions.  If you only listen to the more zealous proponents of climate change action, those who scream “climate emergency”, you’d think we’ve done next to nothing.  Not true. That’s the biggest problem with the climate change debate, some people are never satisfied and lack balance in their commentary.

Since 2007 – the peak of our emissions output – we have reduced GHG emissions by 19 per cent.  In the last thirty years we’ve reduced the carbon intensity of our economy by 64 per cent and our per capita emissions by 46 per cent.  They are impressive numbers and there is more to do.  However, it’s hard to do more while people refuse to acknowledge the gains and spend all their time weaponising the issue.  One thing is certain, we can continue to achieve without destroying existing jobs, including those is the coal mining and coal-fired generation industry.  Sure, when our coal generators come to the end of their physical and economic lives they will retire.  But we don’t need government policy which accelerates that process.  Indeed, we will need our base-load generators to facilitate more renewable energy into the grid.

We have been successfully reducing emissions not because of government policy but despite it.  Business is no longer waiting for governments to dither and to play politics with the issue, they are just getting on with the job.  The hydrogen-powered car is but one example.

Elsewhere Australians have taken to roof-top solar like ducks to water.  Windfarms are popping up all over regional Australia.  Industry has upgraded plants to improve efficiency and productivity.  This also reduces emissions.  Anti-pollution devices on our heavy vehicles have come along in leaps and bounds.  It’s happening. We don’t need a carbon tax or anything like that to achieve our ambitions.

Yes, there is more to do, and emerging technologies will allow us to do more.  But let’s spend more time talking up our achievements and less time screaming “the sky is falling”!