Green hydrogen and green ammonia, made in Australia using renewable wind and solar power, are the zero-carbon fuels that Australian farmers need to decarbonise, free themselves from dependency on foreign supply chains and unlock new economic opportunities.
Those were the words of mining and agriculture mogul Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest at last week's National Farmers' Federation conference but they are being said by agricultural industry trailblazers and leaders, and natural resource management experts, increasingly frequently and louder.
And the potential is certainly being recognised by the federal government, with millions allocated the way of green hydrogen in it's latest budget.
Made by electrolysis of water, green hydrogen is not only key to meeting the climate target of net zero by 2050 but it has the potential to be Australia's next major export industry. In January, Australia signed a big export deal with Japan and the talk is of major customers laying in wait in Europe, particularly Germany.
Green hydrogen - made minus fossil fuels - has been touted worldwide as a key pathway to net-zero emissions.
Mr Forrest announced plans just before Christmas to invest billions in green hydrogen and the budget's helpings of green hydrogen funds included $247.1 million to support increased private sector investment in low emissions technologies, the continued development of a hydrogen Guarantee of Origin scheme and $200 million to enhance Australia's supply chain security through new low emissions manufacturing facilities in the Pilbara region.
What and why
Heat and chemical reactions have traditionally been used to release hydrogen from fossil fuels, creating greenhouse gas emissions in the process.
However, a strong electrical current passed through a tank of water can split the water molecule into its two constituent elements. This is called electrolysis.
From electric cars and trucks to container ships powered by liquid ammonia made from hydrogen, green steel refineries burning hydrogen instead of coal and as a substitute for natural gas for cooking and heating in homes, the uses are extensive.
All of these have applications for agriculture but perhaps the most pertinent would be a solution to Australia's heavy reliance on imported petrol and diesel, researcher and policy advisor Scott Hamilton said.
Mr Hamilton has three decades of advising ministers and premiers in climate change, energy and natural resource management, including being the Victorian Government's executive director of renewable energy.
In a presentation at the recent Northern Territory Cattlemens' Association conference in Darwin, he said Australia only has between 18 and 21 days worth of petrol and diesel reserves at any given time.
"That's how long our food systems and transport systems would last if there was a major global crisis," he said.
"It's a real threat to national security."
Australia has a huge resource base to create both solar and wind electricity and to generate the manufacture of green hydrogen, he said.
"Clearly there are big benefits to be had in decarbonising the agricultural products that we export but the real advantage is in fuel security," Mr Hamilton said.
Green hydrogen has long been touted as the path to global net zero emissions but, so far, the investment and government willpower has been lacking.
The gamechangers in past five years, however, are both the seriousness with which countries are moving on climate change and the price of solar drastically dropping, Mr Hamilton said.
"The cost of producing the power to drive the electrolysis to produce green hydrogen has changed dramatically, and Australia has one of best solar resources in the world," he said.
There was huge opportunity for Australia to export green hydrogen to meet the needs of countries like Germany who have identified it as part of their energy solution.
"There is going to be major investment happening in green hydrogen around the world - the question is what role will Australia play," Mr Hamilton said.
Fork in the road
Mr Forrest agrees.
In an address to the National Farmers' Federation conference last week he said Australian agriculture was right now at a fork in the road and only green energy delivers true energy security.
"Instead of relying on notoriously unreliable countries for our liquid fuels, and our fertilisers, it is now possible to make all our fuel and fertiliser right here in regional Australia," Mr Forrest said.
"The difference with this fuel isn't just that we can make it here; it isn't just that it won't cause global warming; it isn't just that it won't directly and indirectly fund foreign nations and not our own; it isn't just that it will grow and keep all the jobs here.
"It is that it will drive regional Australia employment and investment, for everyone living outside the cities."
Mr Forrest said Germany had looked at our consistent sun and wind and declared Australia as its source of their green hydrogen.
Apart from wanting to reverse the hideous impacts of global warming, they also want to put Putin out of a job, he said.
"As farmers, we see from the frontline the perceptible effects of climate change - the shifting seasons, the declines in winter rains, the increased variability in the intensity and distribution of that rain," Mr Forrest said.
"I don't, any longer, want us to simply survive a climate ravaged future because we are tough.
"I want us to continue to play a leading hand in its rectification and lowering our own costs of doing business.
"Hostile countries can blockade our liquid fuel imports or use them as leverage - as Putin is now doing to Europe - but good luck turning off our sun or our wind," he said.
"Australia has 25,000 of accessible gigawatts of renewable energy potential, about four times the world's current installed electricity production capacity."
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