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Dr Andrew Forrest AO speaks at Queensland Media Club

Speech 25 February 2022
Untitled 1 copy

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

Firstly, I want to say thank you to the Queensland Media Club for hosting myself and the Deputy Premier today at such short notice.

This morning, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Ukraine.

We woke to horrifying pictures of a full-scale invasion – and a frightening new world.

The road Russia is taking is one where Vladimir Putin places himself as the great invader, the new Russian Peter the Great.

If he can conquer a neighbouring country, what will he stop at? Once you as a leader have lost the wisdom of humility, there is nothing to restrain your ego.

Putin’s plan, ladies and gentlemen, is to destroy Ukrainian human freedoms and the dignity we all take for granted.

And what powers his weapons, his missiles that rain down on innocent citizens, people just like us, is no different to what brings you and I together today.

It’s energy – the power of economic energy.

Europe is in the midst of a freezing winter. Russia’s actions are already driving the price of fuel up, affecting the ability of people all over Europe to warm their homes – and the ability of businesses to power industry.

This is why Australia must become fully energy independent.

Here in Australia, the Federal Government is telling us we can ride this out with adequate supplies of oil and gas.

And maybe we will this time, but what if we don’t.

Are you willing to gamble your future on the whims of people like Putin?

We cannot – we must not – keep relying on foreign fossil fuel imports to keep our country running – our hospitals, our schools, our homes and our industries.

We must create our own energy from the wind and the sun, and build a new ecosystem of green industries around it that is fed purely by 100% renewable electricity.

Green hydrogen and green ammonia can fully replace every form of fossil fuel and the employment demand will be greater than what we have, so those worried about their jobs need not.

I remember when we fully automated Fortescue, we had 12,000 people working for us, and the automation was super successful. We now have 17,000 people working for us and we are a much larger, more efficient, growing strongly and supporting strong local communities.

Let’s go further afield, Inverness in Scotland, where workers use to service the offshore oil and gas platforms, which are now all out of service. Those very same electricians, fitters and turners, our general and invaluable workers who build our nation, now have long term futures in the green energy industry both onshore and offshore.

So, let’s really drive our economy, and our employment and our energy independence right here at home.

We must become the Russia not of gas that is paralysing Europe, but of green hydrogen, right here in Australia.

We must become the Saudi Arabia, but not of oil, but of green ammonia – but right here in Australia.

We must become the China and Japan of green iron and steel – but made right here in Australia and with green hydrogen and green ammonia made also – right here…

We can do it!

And we must export not only our energy, but our philosophy of freedom, our commitment to a free press and our democracy with it.

We are at a pivotal moment. A moment in history – there has been no other time like this.

If we don’t take it, we will lose it.

As The Australian wrote today, “The green revolution is here. Australia needs to get on board and seize the opportunity”.

The reason I am here, today, in Queensland is because you are already a leader in the green industrial revolution, and a State that is taking advantage of the massive opportunity that sits in front of us all.

On Sunday, I will share with the people of Queensland and Australia an announcement that will enable us to accelerate towards energy independence – and will demonstrate through action, the deep conviction that I speak of here.

The economics, ladies and gentlemen, are finally on our side – and that is why we are acting with tenacity, speed and at serious scale.

This week, Australia’s largest coal-fired power plant announced it was shutting down in 2025 – seven years ahead of schedule.

The CEO of Origin Energy, which owns the plant, said – and I quote word for word: “The reality is the economics of coal-fired power stations are being put under increasing, unsustainable pressure by cleaner and lower cost generation, including solar, wind, and batteries”.

Despite the flak Frank Calabria then got from Minister Angus Taylor, he had the guts to tell the truth. This is the same flak, that the responsible directors of AGL received when they announced they were shutting down coal-fired power stations as well.

When the coal sector itself says that – you know the end has well and truly come.

And that’s my point about Minister Taylor and his very strong rear-vision glasses.

In studiously supporting fossil fuels, he is standing in the road of both the market, never a wise decision and the concluded science of climate change.

What bothers me most is that this rear-vision loyalty is standing in the road of Australia’s real and proper destiny of becoming a pollution-free nation, exporting pollution-free products and fuels. All on a scale to dwarf the current iron ore industry.

Minister Taylor seeks to not only stand in front of the market and admonish coal companies as they face their own certainty, but also to accelerate the death of the natural ecosystems we know through not taking responsibility to combat climate change.

I don’t play politics, but I will call out policy that is not supported by science. We must call it out.

Minister Taylor pays lip service to green energy – but takes action for fossil fuels.

Why else would we go through the macabre pretence of turning fossil fuels into so-called “clean” hydrogen, when the result creates more emissions than simply burning the fossil fuel in the first place. And then take national advertisements out, proclaiming your green credentials by championing fossil fuel made hydrogen, to try and fool us all.

It makes me ask the question: what’s the difference between Angus Taylor and God?

And I answer it: God doesn’t think he’s Angus Taylor.

But take this seriously, ladies and gentlemen.

The biggest threat emanating from Russia starts with P… but it isn’t Putin – that’s bad enough.

We will ultimately fix Russia with sanctions, financial isolation, expulsion from the SWIFT monetary system – and, if necessary, military might – but the only way we will stop Russia’s Permafrost invading us all, is to stop using fossil fuels.

Let me explain the Russian permafrost. It’s a belt of frozen organic matter and dangerous greenhouse gases that is approximately two and half times the size of Australia.

And can I be really clear, this is the biggest threat facing our planet – and I am sure very few of you in this room have ever heard of it.

The permafrost wraps around the Arctic like a murderous necklace, releasing slowly at first, then quickly, greenhouse gases – and worse, methane.

Methane is 80 to 90 times more dangerous as a global warming agent than its relatively pathetic little brother, we are all so stressed about, carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is like you getting a sun tan compared to methane – that’s like going into the incinerator.

And liquid natural gas, we are all so proud of is 95 per cent methane, which when you burn it, converts to carbon dioxide. It’s when it is released to the atmosphere, as fugitive emissions in the gas industry and worse, in the fossil fuel hydrogen industry, that it becomes so dangerous.

We are safe while it stays frozen in the ground. But, ladies and gentlemen, the permafrost is not staying frozen.

We wonder why the Arctic has heatwaves of 38 degrees, which of course has no precedent. If it had, you wouldn’t have an Arctic.

Does the proximity to the ring of Permafrost explain why the Arctic is warming 400 to 500 per cent faster than the rest of the world’s atmosphere? The Antarctic, our close neighbour isn’t yet – but it’s not surrounded by Permafrost.

Science is looking very hard at the Permafrost to try and explain this frightening phenomenon. Perhaps, we should look no further than asking the workers of Norilsk Nickel, the world’s largest nickel company, and it is based in the Permafrost. Many of these workers from Norilsk Nickel are no longer with us.

Why?

Last year, a large part of their plant collapsed into the permafrost. Initially, both the company and the Government agreed it was due to the permafrost becoming unstable as it melted.

Frozen matter, like Permafrost, has very high tensile strength, great for building but terrible if it melts – no one considered it would melt. No one considered the reality of global warming.

Then, the government quickly said, and I ask you to consider the current state of propaganda emerging from Russia, that it wasn’t the permafrost after all.

“Don’t look here world, there’s nothing to see.”

Instead, they blamed Norilsk Nickel for not obeying building codes that piling had to go down to bedrock.

The little problem with that airbrush is that, at the time it was built, there was no such code, and in places, the permafrost is over a kilometre deep.

Under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s A1B scenario, in which emissions peak in 2030 and then decline, the melting of the permafrost could increase the cost of climate change by an additional 43 trillion US dollars.

That number won’t just bankrupt Russia, it will come after us all.

We have no system to stop the lifeline of the Russian missiles, we only have our leadership to convert the world to non-fossil fuels, keep us safe and free from the grips of that other P – Putin – and the Permafrost.

We need to exit coal by 2030 to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the International Energy Agency.

We simply cannot act quickly enough to phase out coal and fossil fuels, ladies and gentlemen.

Electrolysers are the technology that split water into green hydrogen and oxygen, using renewable electricity. Demand for electrolysers is forecast to quadruple in 2022 alone.

By 2023, one year from now, we intend to be manufacturing affordable electrolysers at scale in Gladstone.

In fact, the first electrolysers that come off the production line in Gladstone are earmarked for our green ammonia project on Gibson Island in Brisbane, where we are converting Incitec Pivot’s fertiliser factory to run on green hydrogen – not fossil fuels.

Just this morning, I signed an agreement with Powerlink to progress transmission connections that will supply our Gibson island plant with renewable electricity.

Beyond green ammonia and green shipping fuels, we – and a diversity of other businesses – will be able to use the green hydrogen throughout industry, from trucking and aviation to fertiliser to green metals and chemicals.

A decade ago, none of this would have been achievable – but today, the economics are on our side.

By 2025, green hydrogen is projected to hit cost parity with fossil fuel-based hydrogen in many regions, triggering an explosion in uptake and applications.

Ladies and gentlemen, Queensland will be one of those regions.

It all comes down to making the right decisions, now.

The right decision is to invest in green energy and green hydrogen – real solutions that permanently stop global warming while creating economic choice.

The other option, which is to keep burning fossil fuels and pretend we can just bury the emissions underground using the failed technology carbon capture and storage, is like taking a Panadol or a placebo when you have a fatal disease. It does nothing to stop the disease and, at best, gives you a false sense of security.

A study published in 2020 found more than 80 per cent of carbon capture and storage projects in the US had either failed to launch or failed after launch.

But CCS is also excruciatingly expensive.

I ask you all to take a long hard look at CCS and ask yourself why – when the science and economics clearly say NO – why are we being asked to endorse such a technology and often have you, the taxpayer, pay for it.

We have been blowing this money up with successive new governments for more than 20 years and still, the oil and gas industry peddle it out as an environmental solution.

As I wrote recently in a letter to our Government, CCS was pioneered by Prime Minister Rudd and championed by Prime Minister Turnbull, but all experienced players without vested interests, like Messieurs Turnbull and Rudd, now acknowledge that it is not in any way a climate solution – and is quickly failing to be a political solution too.

Just as no one believes in cancer free tobacco, voters aren’t going to fall for “clean” coal or “clean” fossil fuels much longer, and certainly not “clean hydrogen” made from fossil fuels.

Whichever way you cut it, CCS is designed by the fossil fuel industry to suppress the economic and catalytic impact of the green energy industry’s growth.

That is why we must fight global warming and that is why it is not an overstatement to say that what we achieve in Queensland has implications not just for our economy but for the future of humanity.

To close, I want to briefly mention Peter Miles, one of Queensland’s finest – but most forgotten – poets.

His poetry inextricably links the wind to Queensland’s identity.

He wrote of being able to identify trees based on the way the wind sang, creaked, roared or rustled in them.

He wrote of being enveloped by the wind as he lay in the sun, “like a blind man in great folds of pure silk.”

For him, the wind and the sun were part of Australia’s identity and a power that would always shape it.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this is true, ladies and gentlemen.

The future is ours to shape.

Thank you.