MasterChef Australia viewers spot controversial item dumped by other countries

A decision by MasterChef Australia to help promote the gas industry has resulted in accusations of 'greenwashing'.

As the 16th season of Masterchef Australia begins, the popular reality cooking show has been accused of “greenwashing” following a contentious sponsorship decision. As part of the arrangement the show continues to feature a type of kitchen appliance that's been dumped by MasterChef syndications overseas.

At the centre of the controversy is a deal with a major gas organisation and the use of gas top cookers — the installation of which has been banned in newly built homes across Victoria where the series is filmed. The decision was made to reduce the state's reliance on fossil fuels and help residents save on utility bills.

Eagle-eyed viewers were quick to spot the Renewable Gas logo in the end credits, featured underneath two other high profile but unrelated sponsors, supermarket giant Coles and retailer Harvey Norman. Renewable Gas is a brand associated with the Australian Gas Network (AGN), which is a subsidiary of Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG), which in turn is owned by China-based multinational Cheung Kong Group.

The MasterChef end credits featuring Coles, Harvey Norman and then Renewable Gas.
Some viewers have criticised MasterChef's controversial decision to agree to a gas industry sponsorship. Source: Network 10/Paramount

Related: Timing of minister's controversial gas 'celebration' sparks uproar

The deal will promote what AGN says are “clean energy” gases that it argues are transitional fuels that will help Australia get to net zero emissions. They are:

  1. Renewable hydrogen — created by separating hydrogen from water

  2. Biomethane — gas captured from decomposing waste.

AGN told Yahoo "Australia needs more, not fewer, renewable energy options" and that biomethane and hydrogen are a "low carbon solution" that can be delivered using existing gas networks.

"This means Australian customers from households to large industry can retain the choice of an energy fuel that suits their needs with fewer emissions than natural gas," it said in a statement.

Network 10, which airs the series, confirmed the MasterChef kitchen was using biomethane.

MasterChef sponsor accused of peddling a 'false solution' to gas

But non-profit Environment Victoria has accused AGN of peddling a "false impression" that biomethane and hydrogen are viable alternatives to fossil fuels in gas lines. While there are start-up projects in South Australia and NSW that can deliver small amounts of these gasses, methane is still the dominant fuel burned in gas lines.

One of these projects is Jemena's biomethane "demonstration" plant in Sydney's south that scrapes gas from wastewater. Another is AGIG's plant in South Australia which is blending 10 per cent hydrogen with the greenhouse gas methane.

Jamie Oliver and Po talking to a MasterChef contestant.
While many viewers were focused on guest judge Jamie Oliver, it was MasterChef's sponsorship deal with a gas company that's been seized upon by conservationists. Source: Network 10/Paramount

Environment Victoria has accused AGN of trying to distract from the need to remove gas altogether from Australian homes in order to reduce emissions. And it’s written to MasterChef Australia asking it to follow the lead of MasterChef in the UK, Italy, Singapore, Denmark and Spain and convert its kitchens to include induction cooktops.

“The bottom line is that burning gas in our homes is unhealthy, polluting and expensive. These false solutions are only a distraction from the reality that we need to remove gas from our homes altogether,” Environment Victoria’s campaign manager Joy Toose said.

Doctors warn gas increases risk of childhood asthma

Doctors for the Environment Australia also weighed in on the use of the fossil fuel, with Dr Ben Ewald warning a gas stove increases the risk of child asthma by 42 per cent.

“Burning methane gas, no matter where it comes from, produces a whole range of air pollutants, including benzene, a carcinogen, carbon monoxide (CO), formaldehyde, and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a respiratory irritant responsible for the asthma link,” he said.

“A child living with gas cooking in the home has a comparable risk of asthma to a child living with household cigarette smoke.”

Love Australia's weird and wonderful environment? Get our new newsletter showcasing the week’s best stories.