Environmental groups advise caution on 'hydrogen hub' initiative
Thursday, October 19, 2023
Wisconsin is going to be a part of two new "hydrogen hubs" backers say will generate clean fuel but some environmental groups say it is a mixed bag.
The federal government just announced $7 billion in funding to produce hydrogen, which is used in hard-to-decarbonize sectors like aviation fuel, steel and glass production, power generation, refining, and heavy-duty transportation.
Patrick Drupp, director of climate policy for the Sierra Club, warned the devil is in the details.
"If it's done correctly, maybe we can create some truly clean hydrogen to decarbonize," Drupp acknowledged. "And if it's done wrong, we have a chance to actually further fuel the climate crisis. So, we're really at a critical point right now."
Wisconsin will be involved with the Heartland Hydrogen Hub and the Midwestern Hydrogen Hub.
Conservation groups are pressing for so-called "green hydrogen," meaning hydrogen produced by electrolysis of water molecules, using renewable power built especially for the hub. They do not want plants to rely on existing renewable power because once it is used, utilities could turn to other sources, such as coal and natural gas, to backfill demand.
Some groups say so-called "blue hydrogen" is more acceptable because although it uses methane, a potent greenhouse gas, it captures any carbon emissions and sequesters them. Drupp noted the Sierra Club opposes blue hydrogen. He thinks society needs to reduce reliance on methane if the nation is to meet its climate goals.
"It still carries all of the same problems of using methane," Drupp pointed out. "It carries the same problems of fracking, potential methane leaks as you distribute the gas around the country."
Next, the Treasury Department needs to issue its guidance on the hydrogen tax credit created in the Inflation Reduction Act. Its guidance will greatly influence how green hydrogen is produced, and how the accounting for total emissions from hydrogen production is done.
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