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Hydrogen to follow gas expansion as Morrison bids for net zero emissions

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“I’m interested in doing the things that make that happen,” he told the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday. “I believe that can be achieved but what I’m more focused on is the doing.

“We are committed to investing in the technology which reduces emissions in this country. And I think those sort of things are achievable with the right investments in the right technology.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese restated his commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 and accused the Prime Minister of doing too little to tackle climate change.

“The government says that they are going to have a road map, but to a destination that they don’t have. Well, a road map without a destination is a road to nowhere,” he said.

Mr Morrison outlined plans last week to open up five new gas fields, support new gas pipelines and build a new gas-fired power station to help replace AGL’s ageing Liddell coal-fired plant in NSW.

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The policy sparked an outcry from the environment movement. Greens leader Adam Bandt said the Liberals were pouring “fuel on the flames” when the world was on fire.

While many interpreted the policy as a plan to build a gas-fired plant with up to 1000 megawatts in capacity, Mr Morrison said on Sunday that the new power station might only need to be 250 megawatts if energy companies went ahead with all their plans to build new gas and renewable power generation.

The government will follow the gas plan with a technology road map due within days to offer a path to lower emissions using renewable energy, battery storage, electric vehicles and other developments.

The new statement will not set climate targets but will outline a potential transition from gas to hydrogen as an energy source, which could in theory be processed and shipped in a similar way to liquefied natural gas.

It will endorse hydrogen produced from gas and using carbon capture to reduce emissions, an energy source dubbed “blue hydrogen” and criticised by the Greens because it uses fossil fuels.

It will also back the alternative, known as “green hydrogen”, which is produced when renewable electricity is used to split hydrogen from water, a process free of carbon emissions.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor, who will outline the government plans in a speech to the National Press Club on Tuesday, committed $70 million to hydrogen projects last week, on top of more than $400 million in earlier spending.

Labor’s assistant climate change spokesman Pat Conroy said Australia should develop green hydrogen to have a shot at the global market.

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“You can invest in a hydrogen industry in Australia without going anywhere near gas or coal. And in fact we’ll need to if we want to have a successful industry,” he said.

Labor’s resources spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon has been an enthusiastic supporter of gas development, while Mark Butler, who holds the environment portfolio, is more cautious.

But Mr Fitzgibbon insisted on Sunday there was not much difference between them on policy, rather a division in terms of rhetorical emphasis.

“Someone might say ‘well, we’re not opposed to gas’, where I say we very much support gas,” he said.

The Hunter MP instead reserved his ire for the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, which has teamed up with Labor’s Environmental Action Network to back climate action and low carbon jobs.

“LEAN … wants to rip out our ovens and our heaters in our homes, smash our hotplates and replace them with electric, would you believe, appliances,” he said.

“What is the once-proud … manufacturing workers union doing forming an alliance with a group which I say is ideologically driven, is unrealistic in its expectations, particularly given the time frame of some of the newer technologies, and who are determined, it seems, to cost Labor yet another election?”

Mr Conroy, from the neighbouring electorate of Shortland, defended the union’s actions as consistent with Labor’s agenda, an argument also put by caucus colleagues Andrew Giles, Kate Thwaites, Tim Ayres and Josh Wilson.

“What they’re proposing is in the interests of the manufacturing industry and manufacturing workers and unfortunately Joel’s got his facts wrong,” Mr Conroy said.

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