Last week, the Andrews government announced it was launching a "world-first" project to produce hydrogen in the Latrobe Valley.
|Australia's PM, Malcolm Turnbull.|
The project is being developed by a consortium of Japanese energy and infrastructure companies led by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, with the support of the Victorian, Commonwealth and Japanese governments. It aims to convert brown coal into hydrogen, which will then be transported to Japan for use in fuel cell electric vehicles and power generation.
On face value this attempt to turn our remaining coal resource into new export opportunities might seem like a good idea. But once you drill into the issue it becomes complex very quickly.
Firstly, there is the awkward fact that this project won’t be able to be commercialised unless carbon capture and storage (CCS) becomes viable at a commercial scale. Despite absorbing more than $1.3 billion of taxpayer funds since 2007, no one can say with certainty when, or if, this technology might be ready. So we’re potentially funding dead-end research. Despite the fact that industry reps keep promising it's "almost ready", after spending $1.3 billion of our money on this technology, with very little to show, when do we say enough is enough?
Read Cam Walker’s comment from today’s Age - “Carbon capture offers a false hope that we can sustain our use of coal.”