June 12, 2024

A climate communications group has asked the Australian consumer watchdog to investigate claims made about “renewable gas” by one of the sponsors of Network Ten’s MasterChef.

Comms Declare said it had filed a complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission about the Australian Gas Networks’ partnership with the hit cooking show and its promotion of two developing products – “renewable” hydrogen and biomethane.

The complaint asks the watchdog to investigate the “renewable gas” campaign for alleged greenwashing.

“We believe that hundreds of thousands of MasterChef fans are being deceived into thinking that the gas used in the program is good for the planet,” said Comms Declare’s founder, Belinda Noble.

“The biomethane and grey hydrogen used in the MasterChef kitchen is not renewable, not low emissions, not commercially viable and not available in ordinary Australian homes.”

The complaint says the AGN campaign seeks to promote products that “are not practically or environmentally viable to consumers and in doing so, encourage the continued use of fossil fuels”.

It references one claim made in the current season of MasterChef that the program “is going greener with renewable gas”.

Noble reiterated earlier calls by climate and environment groups for the program to drop the sponsor “and move to induction cooking, like their counterparts around the world”.

Gas industry representatives and Paramount, Network Ten’s owner, revealed at the season launch that contestants would use open-flame cooktops that run on biomethane in general competition and compete in a barbecue challenge on grills that use hydrogen. The biomethane is supplied by Jemena, which owns gas pipelines and distribution networks, and AGN.

Biomethane is created from organic waste such as human or animal waste or food scraps. It otherwise has the same properties as fossil gas but proponents argue it is more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels because it is releasing carbon that is already in the biological cycle and has not been extracted from the ground.

The hydrogen used on MasterChef is “grey hydrogen” made using gas through a process known as steam methane reforming, and also leads to emissions into the atmosphere. A “renewable gas” website said the emissions would be offset by buying carbon credits, while renewable hydrogen, which has zero emissions, was “intended for use in future seasons”.

Environment Victoria’s climate campaign manager, Joy Toose, said: “Pretending we can use hydrogen or biomethane in our gas network is an impractical fantasy.”

She added: “Switching to efficient electric heating, cooking and hot water systems is not only better for our health and for the climate, they’re also more affordable to run.”

A spokesperson for AGN said: “Australian Gas Networks is providing biomethane and hydrogen to MasterChef Australia to practically demonstrate that customers can cook with a low carbon solution that can be delivered by existing gas networks to support Australia’s transition to net zero.

“Throughout the MasterChef Australia sponsorship, we have been clear about the nature of the sponsorship and the gas used on set.”

AGN had taken care to ensure it “accurately described the gas we were supplying”, the spokesperson said.

Comment has been sought from Network Ten.

An ACCC spokesperson said the watchdog did not comment on potential investigations or individual businesses.

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