There has been a lot of noise around hydrogen recently. President Biden recently announced that the Department of Energy is awarding $7 billion to 7 regional “hydrogen hubs”, intended to spur the development of hydrogen infrastructure in the U.S. – California alone will be receiving up to $1.2 billion for hydrogen projects. It’s a big deal for hydrogen advocates, and if done right, a big deal for clean energy. But, as with anything involving hydrogen energy, there is both promise and peril.
The promise of hydrogen is actually very simple. If we can find a way to produce hydrogen from 100% renewable energy like wind and solar, we can make important strides in our emission reductions in sectors that are hard to decarbonize, like shipping and aviation. That’s good news for the climate and good news for communities. The perils of hydrogen are much more complicated, but most derive from the fact that currently, 95% of hydrogen relies on fossil fuels for production and oil and gas companies will stop at nothing to keep it that way.
With a growing emphasis on hydrogen, oil and gas executives and their lobbyists are working to ensure today’s hydrogen benefits them and remains fossil fuel hydrogen. They’ve spent millions of dollars lobbying to get consumers to pay for the expansion of fossil fuel hydrogen — an unproven and expensive technology that will lock in costs for decades. They’ve spent big dollars promoting hydrogen in advertising and trying to confuse the issue and mislead Californians by claiming it’s clean energy. The industry’s attempts to conflate their version of hydrogen with hydrogen derived from renewables – also known as green hydrogen – is an attempt to boost profits and block California’s responsible transition to clean energy. It will be the responsibility of California’s elected officials to ensure that the money for California’s hydrogen hub will be used exclusively for green hydrogen, derived from clean energy, and not more fossil fuel hydrogen.
Oil and gas companies thrive off of creating confusion in the hydrogen debate. So we wanted to give you some straight facts about what green hydrogen is, what it is not, and what oil and gas companies are doing to ensure tomorrow’s hydrogen is fossil-fuel dependent.
Here’s what some other groups are saying about California’s hydrogen future:
California Environmental Justice Organizations: “Equity Principles for Hydrogen”
- “We adamantly oppose all non-green hydrogen proposals and projects. We insist that new projects protect communities first and do not perpetuate the injustices that polluting infrastructures impose on fence-line communities today.”
Earthjustice: “Reclaiming Hydrogen for a Clean Energy Future”
- “When used as a marketing tool by the fossil fuel industry, hydrogen can be used to hinder necessary climate action. But when reclaimed and deployed as a solution to decarbonize sectors we cannot otherwise electrify, green hydrogen can play an important role in a zero-emission future”
The Climate Center: Statement on the Hydrogen Hub announcement
- “Without proper guardrails, hydrogen production could both increase greenhouse gas emissions and further disadvantage communities that are already on the frontlines of fossil fuel pollution.”
The Climate Center: Hydrogen Policy Brief
- “Hydrogen, and only green hydrogen, should only be considered in cases where electrification is not an option. Hydrogen should never be deployed to extend the life of fossil fuel infrastructure, nor should it replace or delay direct electrification.”
Fossil Fuel Hydrogen Is Polluting And Expensive.
- Hydrogen’s usefulness as a climate solution depends on how it’s made and can range from very dirty to clean. Today, 95% of the hydrogen produced in the United States is made from fossil fuel gas.
- A 2021 study found that making hydrogen from fossil fuels causes significant climate pollution. Globally, hydrogen production is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire country of Germany.
- Producing hydrogen from fossil fuels also releases methane, a super-polluter that contributes to climate change. Creating hydrogen from fossil fuels produces more methane than burning natural gas — even when paired with carbon capture technology.
- The oil and gas industry wants to use the state’s gas infrastructure to pipe fossil fuel hydrogen into buildings and homes, a prospect that raises serious concerns. Altering already-leaky gas pipes for hydrogen would be costly to consumers, raise energy bills for everyday Californians, and increase the risk of indoor pollution and explosions.
The Oil And Gas Industry Is Trying To Squeeze Public Money For Their Schemes.
- Today, the industry is pressuring regulators and lawmakers for access to funding that is supposed to be for clean energy. They’re trying to convince policymakers to use fossil fuel hydrogen to keep demand for their product and justify the building of polluting pipelines.
- Right now, the IRS is determining what actually counts as clean hydrogen, and there are over $1 billion in subsidies on the line. Money that could be going toward real climate solutions like building out renewable energy, including wind and solar. Oil companies are urging leaders to make the standards as relaxed as possible so they can squeeze out profits.
California’s Leading Climate Obstructionist Shouldn’t Get To Set Energy Policy In The State.
- SoCalGas, an investor-owned utility, is leading pro-fossil fuel hydrogen efforts while opposing key climate policies that would bring clean energy into more facets of our lives and economy.
- SoCalGas has been caught funding front groups to oppose or delay climate policies, creating an astroturf group that misused ratepayer money to further SoCalGas’ agenda of opposing clean energy, and opposing commonsense and lifesaving policies — all to protect their own profits.
- SoCalGas only sells gas to its customers, unlike some other utilities or companies that also supply electricity. This explains its desperation to slow California’s transition to renewable energy and push expensive and polluting options (like fossil fuel hydrogen) onto consumers.