Federal Labor MP Julie Owens declares coal can be phased out

A left-wing federal Labor MP representing one of Australia's most influential electorates has declared coal has 'no future' and will be replaced with hydrogen power, adding further fuel to climate change ideological battles within the party

Julie Owens, the member for booming Parramatta in Sydney's west, may have been born in the coal-mining city of Rockhampton, in central Queensland, but she's declared coal will need to be phased out to tackle climate change.

'I can't imagine that at this point in time, we will manage to stabilise the environment without phasing out of a whole range of fossil fuels,' Ms Owens told Daily Mail Australia. 

'I'm not putting a decade on it and now you've really got me talking into stuff that I'm not supposed to talk about.'

Her comments show just how tangled the Labor Party's energy debate has become as it tries to win back middle-class and working Australians who are not obsessed with global warming. 

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Owens's sensational comments were made after Joel Fitzgibbon's decision to quit the frontbench in protest at Labor's coal mining policies - even telling Daily Mail Australia he would challenge Anthony Albanese for the leadership if he didn't change direction on climate change.   

Then this week, Queensland Labor senator Murray Watt - from the same left-wing faction of the party as Owens - argued coal would continue to be part of Australia's energy mix, even as renewables became more prevalent.

A federal Labor MP has declared coal has no future and can be replaced with a little-known new form of energy. Julie Owens, the member for Parramatta in Sydney's west, was born in the coal-mining city of Rockhampton in central Queensland

A federal Labor MP has declared coal has no future and can be replaced with a little-known new form of energy. Julie Owens, the member for Parramatta in Sydney's west, was born in the coal-mining city of Rockhampton in central Queensland

Owens, a 62-year-old former music industry executive and shadow assistant minister, said hydrogen energy had the potential to replace thermal coal, which is used for cheap, base-load electricity generation.

What is hydrogen energy?

Hydrogen is a common chemical and makes up 90 per cent of atoms, the smallest building blocks of a chemical element

Hydrogen is made up of one proton and one electron

Electricity can be produced by combining hydrogen with oxygen

The hydrogen energy can be stored as a gas and even delivered through existing natural gas pipelines and can complement renewable energy

It can also be converted to a liquid and transported on trucks and in ships

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Water is the main by-product and hydrogen energy produces zero emissions

University of New South Wales engineer professor Veena Sahajwalla said hydrogen energy could be more widely used to make steel 

Coalition government has pledged $1.9billion over 12 years to research lower-emission technology, including hydrogen energy 

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'Coal is the easy way to do it. They will find other ways to do it. They will find hydrogen over time,' she said. 

'At the moment, it appears that hydrogen is a possibility.

'We've relied on fossil fuels since the beginning of the industrial age but what we do know is we can't keep doing what we're currently doing, we can't keep increasing emissions in the atmosphere. 

'We have to stabilise emissions.'

Assistant minister Michelle Landry, the Nationals member for the Rockhampton-based seat of Capricornia, said Ms Owens would be poorly received in the city she was born in.

'What I would say to her is perhaps the Labor Party should come up and tell the coal miners of central Queensland,' she told Daily Mail Australia.

'There's tens of thousands of people who have jobs in the coal-mining sector up here in central Queensland and the Australian economy is very reliant on it.'

Ms Landry's central Queensland electorate last year dealt Labor a 14 per cent primary vote swing against it, even though its candidate was a coal miner. 

'They'd be very angry about it and that's why they voted against them last federal election,' she said.

'Renewables is great, but it doesn't provide many jobs.' 

Australia's mining industry employs 188,500 people with 65,500 them in Queensland. 

Landry and fellow federal Queensland Nationals MPs George Christensen, Ken O'Dowd and Senator Matt Canavan this year succeeded in securing a $3.3million feasibility study into building a coal-fired power station at Collinsville in north Queensland. 

After iron ore and liquefied natural gas, coal was last year Australia's third biggest export to China, with thermal coal shipments worth $7billion. 

Despite her personal connection with a mining community, the Labor backbencher said coal would need to be phased out to tackle climate change. Pictured is a coal loader in Newcastle

Despite her personal connection with a mining community, the Labor backbencher said coal would need to be phased out to tackle climate change. Pictured is a coal loader in Newcastle

Coal exports to South Korea last month increased by

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