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To: Secretary Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Department of Energy
Don’t Erase Real Climate Action with Hydrogen Hype
Hydrogen is not a climate solution. In fact, it will make the climate crisis worse. It is one of the false climate solutions being promoted by the fossil fuel dirty energy industry so it can keep doing business as usual. The investment of billions of taxpayer dollars and the creation of more tax subsidies for polluters are diverting resources away from the proven, scalable, available renewable energy solutions that must be deployed to address the climate crisis. STOP developing hydrogen hubs. Go back to the drawing board and pick real clean energy solutions instead.
Why is this important?
The Infrastructure Improvement and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act have allocated billions of taxpayer dollars and created tax credits to support the creation of a hydrogen economy. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm first announced plans to bring down the price of hydrogen in 2021. Since then, her agency has led a process to create hydrogen hubs across the country.
The idea is to use public funds to create a hydrogen industry by establishing regional hubs, or constellations of business ventures dedicated to hydrogen production, transportation, storage, and consumption. The DOE received at least 79 applications for hubs. In October, President Biden announced the seven hubs selected to receive a combined $7 billion. The hubs were selected, in part, based on the kind of hydrogen they would produce.
Today, more than 95% of hydrogen is produced from methane gas using a process called steam methane reforming. It’s referred to as gray hydrogen. Because hydrogen can be produced by various methods from different feedstocks, scientists have begun assigning colors to differentiate its many forms. Black and brown are made from coal. They are all considered to be dirty forms of hydrogen. The DOE’s hubs would support forms of hydrogen the agency has put in the clean column, including pink made from nuclear energy, green made from renewable energy, and blue made from methane. Blue hydrogen is gray hydrogen with carbon capture and storage (CCS) added to the process.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as clean hydrogen. No matter the color of the rainbow it has been assigned, hydrogen has profound impacts on health and the environment and exacerbates climate change. Blue hydrogen, for instance, relies on unproven, some say disproven, CCS technology to address the CO2 emissions and locks in powerful methane emissions that come from creating the feedstock and powering the CCS process. Even green hydrogen considered to be the cleanest of the clean is anything but.
Whether it’s green, pink, blue, orange, yellow, turquoise, white or any other color on the H2 rainbow, it is, after all, still hydrogen.
- Hydrogen is the smallest molecule, which makes it prone to leaking.
- Hydrogen is a highly flammable gas.
- Hydrogen’s NOx emissions when combusted can be six times higher than methane’s.
- Hydrogen is an indirect greenhouse gas whose Global Warming Potential, or GWP, is roughly 12 times that of CO2.
Still other problems make hydrogen an impractical solution to the climate crisis. Producing hydrogen is extremely costly and energy-intensive. Producing green hydrogen is still prohibitively expensive and its renewable energy feedstock is still relatively scarce. Using renewable energy directly to electrify is far more efficient.
Hydrogen is just one of the false climate solutions the fossil fuel industry has been promoting so it can continue to do business as usual. The resources going into creating a hydrogen economy should be going to pay for deployment of real, available, and scalable renewable energy solutions.
Hydrogen is a distraction that is robbing us of time we don’t have to take real steps to address the climate crisis.
Since June of 2021 when Secretary Granholm first announced the initiative to bring down the price of hydrogen, the public has been given little information about this tectonic economic shift and no voice in deciding if it is the right way forward. That is unacceptable. Tell the Department of Energy that our new economy must be built on truly clean and renewable energy solutions and that hydrogen has no place in it.