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MasterChef Australia accused of gassing up renewable claims

This year brought a new sponsor along with new faces to the hit cooking show.

This year brought a new sponsor along with new faces to the hit cooking show. Photo: Network Ten

Deflated soufflés and super-spicy sauces may not be the only disasters in the MasterChef Australia kitchen, amid calls for Australia’s consumer watchdog to investigate the show’s renewable gas claims.

This year, Australian Gas Networks became a sponsor of MasterChef Australia, announcing it would supply carbon-neutral biomethane for the kitchen and carbon-neutral hydrogen gas for one of the show’s challenges.

But critics say viewers are being tricked into thinking the gas used for the TV show is renewable and accessible.

Climate communications group Comms Declare has asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to investigate AGN’s claims as part of its MasterChef  sponsorship.

Specific claims in the complaint include host Andy Allen saying in episode four of the latest season: “And I’m excited to say this year, MasterChef is going greener with renewable gas.”

masterchef gas sponsor

The MasterChef Australia kitchen had a subtle change this year. Photo: 10Play

Comms Declare founder Belinda Noble said the group believed “hundreds of thousands” of MasterChef fans were being falsely led to believe the gas used on the show is good for the planet.

“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,” she said.

“We call on MasterChef producers to drop this polluting sponsor and move to induction cooking, like their counterparts around the world.”

The controversial sponsorship had been slammed for alleged greenwashing when it was announced earlier this year.

AGN claiming to lead by example

An AGN spokesperson told The New Daily the company was providing biomethane and hydrogen gas 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,” the spokesperson said.

“We have taken care to ensure we accurately described the gas we were supplying.”

But critics say renewable gases are not viable options for Australia’s future.

Environment Victoria climate campaign manager Joy Toose labelled the idea “an impractical fantasy”.

She said Australia wouldn’t be able to produce enough biomethane to meet demand, and hydrogen would be too expensive for households.

“It would require a complete overhaul of the gas network and the replacement of every single gas appliance,” she said.

“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.

“It’s no coincidence that – as the Victorian government looks to give more households access to electric appliances and phase out gas – the gas network owners are paying MasterChef big bucks to create confusion about the need to electrify.”

What are the renewable gases?

Biomethane is a renewable gas that can be produced by fermenting organic matter such as food or agricultural waste.

But it is not yet widely used in Australia; in a national first, Jemena’s Malabar Biomethane Injection Plant became operational last year, injecting biomethane produced from Sydney’s wastewater into NSW’s gas network.

The AGN website says the company is still working with “potential” biomethane producers to supply biomethane in Australia.

Renewable hydrogen is created by separating water into hydrogen and oxygen, and billions have been poured into hydrogen projects around Australia.

Hydrogen gas is already being mixed with natural gas to supply thousands of homes, with AGN active in the transition, but hydrogen gas is still far from prevalent nationwide.

Paramount Australia did not respond to a request for comment, and an ACCC spokesperson told TND the organisation does not comment on potential investigations or individual businesses.

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