A clean future or merely greenwashing? Critics claim Coalition’s hydrogen plans are a ‘fig leaf’ for fossil fuels

Plans by the federal government to develop a “clean” hydrogen industry in Australia have been branded greenwashing by critics who say taxpayer money is being used to subsidize fossil fuel activities.

The government has announced plans for a series of hydrogen hubs around the country as part of efforts to kickstart production of fuel and decarbonise the economy.

About $ 500 million has been earmarked for hydrogen hubs for industrial centers in places including Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and Tasmania.

But the spending has drawn fire amid claims much of the money would be invested in so-called blue hydrogen, which is made using natural gas rather than renewable energy.

The Australia Institute, a left-leaning think-tank, argued the funding defeated the purpose of building a hydrogen industry.

The institute’s climate and energy program director, Richie Merzian, said clean hydrogen could “be one of two things”.

“You can make it using renewable energy, which is a zero-emissions process,” Mr Merzian said.

row after row of solar panels in the outback.
Renewable energy advocates insist sources such as solar power must be used to make hydrogen.(ABC Rural: Landline)

‘Might as well use the fossil fuels’

Climate Energy Finance director Tim Buckley backed the concept behind hydrogen hubs, which were aimed at putting producers of fuel alongside big users such as industrial customers.

But Mr Buckley described as greenwashing the possible support for blue hydrogen, which he said was a “fig leaf” to hide the continuation of the natural gas industry.

The former investment banker said producing hydrogen from gas instead of renewable energy made no sense.