Andrew Forrest on renewable energy sources, clean hydrogen, climate

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To fight uncontrollable global warming, politicians must look beyond slogans such as “clean hydrogen” and understand the research behind renewable energy sources before making decisions, the president of Fortescue told CNBC , Andrew Forrest.

“I ask them to do the academic analysis and research. Don’t fall, as we are in Australia and around the world, for fast sound bites like ‘clean hydrogen’,” Forrest said Thursday on “Squawk Box Asia. “from CNBC. “

“It’s like clean coal or tobacco without cancer,” he said, adding that policymakers need to ask questions about emissions from unintentional or accidental leaks, the impact of methane in the atmosphere and carbon over the next two decades.

What is clean hydrogen?

Hydrogen is a “versatile energy carrier” that can help address different energy challenges, according to the International Energy Agency. It has a wide range of applications and can be deployed to help reduce carbon emissions in sectors such as long haul transportation, chemicals, iron and steel.

Hydrogen can be produced in several ways and from almost any energy resource – one is through electrolysis, with an electric current splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen. If the electricity comes from a renewable source like wind or solar, some describe it as “green” or “clean” hydrogen.

Solar panels in the Indian state of Karnataka.

Jonas Gratzer | LightRocket | Getty Images

While the demand for hydrogen has more than tripled since 1975 and continues to increase, the IEA says almost all of it comes from burning fossil fuels. As such, hydrogen production is responsible for emissions of around 830 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, equivalent to the emissions of the UK and Indonesia combined, according to the IEA. .

“If you really want to stop global warming when it’s going to be most dangerous, the next 20 years, then we have to encourage green hydrogen immediately,” Forrest said.

The fossil fuel industry is also pushing for carbon sequestration – the process of capturing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as a way to fight global warming, according to Forrest. But most of those attempts tend to fail, he said.

We must remember that the Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones, we must remember that [renewable energy] is a better source of fuel.

Andrew Forrest

President of Fortescue

This year, the world’s leading climatologists issued their toughest warning yet about the worsening climate crisis. The much-anticipated report by the UN’s climate panel said limiting global warming to nearly 1.5 ° C or even 2 ° C above pre-industrial levels “will be out of reach” over the years. the next two decades without immediate, rapid and large-scale reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The 1.5 ° C threshold is crucial because beyond this level there could be an irreversible change in the climate system, locking in a new global warming.

Power crisis

Learn more about clean energy from CNBC Pro

“While there are power shortages, don’t be fooled into thinking this is renewable energy,” he said. “Without this renewable energy that powers the grid and all sources of consumption, yes, we would have real problems.”

The world needs leadership to deploy capital and resources in developing renewable electricity and moving away from fossil fuels, Forrest said.

“We have to remember that the Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones, we have to remember that it is a better source of fuel. It is completely carbon free. It is endless. . Let’s go, ”he added.

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