Monday, September 20, 2021

$464 million in grants to kickstart hydrogen industry

This is pretty silly. It is true that burning hydrogen produces no pollution but obtaining the hydrogen does. Whether it is extracted from natural gas or produced by electrolysis, it is an industrial process that uses a lot of energy.

And once you have the hydrogen you need a heavy and expensive pressure vessel to transport it -- and that uses up energy too. And the vessels do explode sometimes, dangerously

The state’s first test-run Hydrogen refuelling station opened in Redlands today with one of the state’s first hydrogen cars getting a tank of fuel made from Queensland sunshine.

Queensland’s burgeoning hydrogen industry will get a cash injection in a bid to get manufacturing plants running and create a global export hub.

Gladstone has been singled out as one of seven regions to be prioritised for $464 million in grants to help build pilot projects, set up joint ventures, secure supply chains and get production up and running.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will today announce the cash, saying it will help establish new export industries and set up Australia to supply energy to the growing market in southeast Asia.

The scheme is in addition to the announcement last week for a large-scale renewable hydrogen plant to be built near Gladstone by electricity generator Stanwell, as well as federal, state and other corporate backers.

It’s location near a port, water and high-capacity electricity generation has put the central Queensland city in prime position to take part in a hydrogen boom.

The Clean Hydrogen Industrial Hubs grants will open next Tuesday, September 28, and will include grants of up to $3 million for research and development projects, and a second stream of up to $70 million to rollout hydrogen hubs.

Industry applicants will have to stump up at least half the cash for the proposal, with the grants only to cover 50 per cent of the cost.

Mr Morrison said the funding was about fast-tracking the development of the emerging technology.

“Our plan to invest and develop low emissions industries will mean more jobs for Australian workers, particularly in our regions, cheaper energy for businesses and lower emissions,” he said.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the hydrogen industry was expected to create 8000 jobs and generate $11 billion a year by 2050.

“A thriving hydrogen sector will help Australia to achieve its emission-reduction goals while continuing to grow our economy and support existing industries,” Mr Taylor said.

There are a range of hydrogen projects already starting in Queensland, including the Stanwell project, Dyno Nobel’s study producing renewable hydrogen at Moranbah and QUT research into renewable energy hybrid systems to generate hydrogen.


Greenie lawfare rife in Australia

After the United States, Australia has the highest number of climate change litigation cases in the world.

In May 2020, in an Australian legal first, a youth environment group called Youth Verdict challenged a proposed mega-coal mine in Queensland on the grounds that it infringed on their human rights because of its contribution to climate change. Youth Verdict argues the mine will contribute to catastrophic climate change and increase the risk of bushfires, drought, floods, heatwaves and cyclones.

They are basing their argument on new protections provided under the state’s Human Rights Act, which came into effect in January 2020, the first time a human rights argument has been used in a climate change case in Australia. A hearing date for the case has been set for February 2022.

In a world-first legal case filed in July 2020, a university student in Melbourne accused the Australian government of misleading investors in sovereign bonds by failing to disclose the financial risk caused by the climate crisis. If successful, the claim could compel the government to disclose how climate change might affect the nation’s economic growth or the value of the Australian dollar. The case is awaiting judgment.

In a landmark decision in May, the Federal Court of Australia found that Environment Minister Sussan Ley had a “duty of care” to protect children living in Australia from personal injury or death resulting from climate change. If not overturned, legal experts say the judgment could “constrain the ability of both government and private entities to undertake projects that contribute to net carbon emissions”.

The Environment Minister is appealing the decision, with the appeal to be heard on October 18.

In another major ruling in August, a NSW court ordered the state’s Environmental Protection Authority take steps to safeguard against climate change, requiring the authority to “develop environmental quality objectives, guidelines and policies to ensure environment protection from climate change”.

The case was brought by the Environmental Defenders Office, a non-governmental legal service organisation, on behalf of survivors of the devastating 2019-20 bushfires. The state’s environment minister says he won’t appeal the ruling.

In late August, the Environmental Defenders Office lodged a new lawsuit against the oil and gas giant Santos, on behalf of the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), alleging that Santos breached consumer and corporate laws by claiming to produce clean energy and have a pathway to net zero emissions.

The ACCR says the oil and gas company engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct by telling shareholders in its 2020 annual report that it produced “clean fuel” and provided “clean energy”.

On September 2, news emerged that a Commonwealth Bank investor was suing the lender, demanding to see internal documents on its decisions to finance fossil fuel projects to ensure it has complied with its own environmental framework.

And just this past week, there were two more significant climate litigation developments. In NSW, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision to refuse a coal mine in the Bylong valley, north-west of Sydney. The state’s Independent Planning Commission had dismissed the plan for the 6.5 million tonne-a-year mine two years ago, and a previous court appeal was also rejected in part because of the climate change impacts of digging up the fossil fuel.

Meanwhile in Melbourne, a High Court legal challenge was launched against the state of Victoria, arguing it lacks the constitutional power to tax electric car drivers with a road user charge.

Federal and state governments, regulatory bodies and corporate actors have been put on notice. If they don’t take steps to mitigate climate change, they too could end up in Australia’s courts.


Retailers want vaccine passport certainty before opening

The nation’s leading retailers, from fashion and sporting goods to auto parts and furniture, have called on governments to provide a legal framework for shoppers to declare their vaccine status when walking into stores, as the chains seek more certainty about how to handle the prickly issue as shops reopen.

Companies such as furniture retailer Nick Scali and Super Retail Group, whose retail banners include Rebel Sport, Supercheap Auto and Boating Camping Fishing, have also increased their pool of available casual staff to build a “reserve bench” of employees in case a store is declared a Covid-19 exposure site, forcing staff to isolate themselves for weeks.

These are two of the many minefields retailers are now preparing to cross as they prepare for an easing of restrictions in NSW, Victoria and the ACT, allowing them to open their bricks and mortar stores to customers for the first time in months.

Top of the list of their concerns is how retail front line workers will determine whether shoppers have received both Covid-19 vaccinations, how to prove their vaccine status and the legalities around even asking for proof in the first place.

“Customer abuse is not a new phenomenon but we have absolutely seen increases of instances and I can see a request like that (vaccine status) being very frustrating for customers,” Super Retail chief executive Anthony Heraghty told The Australian.

“I think being really clear about expectations and process would be helpful – if that’s what the government wants.

“Could a check-in app cover any kind of vaccine requirement?

“It is just being very clear about expectations. We can execute against that but we just need to know the rules.

“We have got training available for our team members for any number of customer interactions.

“You would argue that potentially this would be a high-stakes engagement, interaction with the customer, and we want to make sure our team members are well supported in understanding what are the rules of the game.

“Having incredibly crystal clear rules as early as possible would be a great help.

“I think it is unreasonable to expect individual businesses to make their own determination. It has to be a policy setting like masks or checking in.”

Mosaic Brands chief executive Scott Evans, whose chains include Noni B, Katies and Millers, has been busy refreshing stock for summer and preparing staff and is also looking for vaccination guidelines from government.

“If somebody comes back and isn’t vaccinated, what’s going to be the rule around that?” he asked.

“(It’s) more serious for us because we play in the mature space – we are a 55-age plus business and we generally have mature ladies inside the stores.

“We have to make sure that we are absolutely putting everybody’s safety first.

“The second thing we are keen to understand from the government is if you are double-vaccinated and you work inside the store and get Covid-19, you’ll have some time off like the flu, that will be normal – but if you are in close contact, what will be the rule?

“If I am store manager and happen to get Covid-19 and I have a second in charge and a part-timer who has been with me that day, do they have to self-isolate for a period or is it business as usual provided they are fully vaccinated?

“There are too many questions at the moment and not enough answers with regards to what are the rules going to be. They are obviously in Canberra trying to thrash it out and make sense of it all but you can’t close the store every time you have a close contact.”

Other retail challenges include the need to secure staff to prepare for the opening of stores, potential short-term closures if there is a Covid-19 exposure and the flow of workers between stores within a retail chain.

Recently Woolworths revealed that more than 3000 of its staff had been forced into home isolation due to Covid-19 exposure, causing some shortages on the shelves.

Nick Scali chief executive Anthony Scali said: “We are getting ready to reopen and we think it will be quite strong, pent-up customer demand. We are going to have to over-employ because if stores get shut down because someone with Covid-19 walked in those people who worked in that store will have to isolate for 14 days.

“You will have to have a reserve bench almost ready to go in, and that is the sort of planning we are doing.”

Super Retail CEO Mr Heraghty said his retail chains had slightly higher casual staff levels in preparation for reopening, in case of disruptions and store closures triggered by fresh Covid-19 outbreaks.

At department store Myer, chief executive John King is hiring for the expected Christmas rush and opening up of stores.

“We feel strongly that we have planned well for Christmas in terms of marketing, merchandising, online, product and offer, in-store theatre, and we are recruiting a lot of people for Christmas.

“As soon as we are allowed into (our stores) they will be set up and we will be off and running.”


The French should have seen submarine decision coming, PM says

France should have been aware Australia was prepared to break a $90 billion deal to build conventionally powered attack submarines, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has suggested, despite Paris’ accusation that the Canberra-Washington move was treacherous and brutal.

As Defence Minister Peter Dutton said the broader arrangement under the trilateral relationship with Britain and the United States was aimed at ensuring enemies “think twice” about attacking Australia, the Prime Minister defended the decision to break the contract with France as in the national interest.

Paris has recalled its ambassadors to Australia and the United States over the decision by Canberra to abandon its deal with France’s Naval Group to build 12 submarines. Australia will instead buy at least eight nuclear-powered submarines, most likely from the United States, as part of the security partnership with Britain.

Mr Morrison, who held talks with French leader Emmanuel Macron about the submarines in June, said Australia’s concerns about the Naval Group boats were well known.

He said he could understand France’s disappointment, but added he had always been clear that Australia would act in its own strategic interests.

“I think they would have had every reason to know that we have deep and grave concerns that the capability being delivered by the attack class submarine was not going to meet our strategic interests and we had made very clear that we would be making a decision based on our strategic national interest,” Mr Morrison said.

“Ultimately this was a decision about whether the submarines that were being built at great cost to the Australian taxpayer were going to be able to do a job that we needed it to do when they went into service.

“Our strategic judgment based on the best possible of intelligence and defence advice was that it would not, and so therefore to go forward when we are able to secure a supreme submarine capability to support our defence operations, it would have been negligent for us not to.”

Mr Morrison said he had told Mr Macron of Australia’s decision on the evening before it was announced.

But France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, in a sign of the rupture between Paris and Canberra, used public television to label the decision as “duplicity, disdain and lies”.

The recalling of its ambassadors “signifies the force of the crisis today” between the French government and Washington and Canberra, he said in an interview on France 2 television.

Mr Le Drian denied reports there had been advance consultations with France ahead of the announcement, saying “this isn’t true”.

“(Allies) don’t treat each other with such brutality, such unpredictability, a major partner like France ... So there really is a crisis. There are reasons for us to question the strength of our alliance,” he said.

The French ambassador to Australia, Jean-Pierre Thebault, said before he left the country that he had been at the meeting between Mr Macron and Mr Morrison in June.

He said the Australian Prime Minister had mentioned “there were changes in the regional situation” but gave no indication it was about to abandon the French contract.

“Everything was supposed to be done in full transparency between the two partners,” he said.

A spokesman for Mr Morrison said later the ambassador was not at the meeting as it was dinner between the Prime Minister and Mr Macron.

Outside the submarines decision, the new Australia-UK-US agreement also provides for advanced technology such as long-range hypersonic missiles and undersea drones. More US Marine troop deployments in Australia are also likely.




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