A potent coalition of over 180 conservation, Indigenous, faith, labor, and social justice entities have sounded a clarion call, urging the Biden administration to reconsider its rapid expansion plans for hydrogen investment.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s fervor for hydrogen as a climate solution faces scrutiny due to its heavy reliance on fossil fuels during production. As the hydrogen hype reaches fever pitch, concerns about its genuine sustainability are taking center stage.
The coalition’s stance on hydrogen is unequivocal – they view it as a smokescreen to bolster the oil and gas industry. Silas Grant, a campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, voices their collective sentiment, calling hydrogen’s “clean energy” label a scam. The coalition contends that the administration’s plans to expand hydrogen energy would inadvertently bolster oil and gas extraction, contrary to the imperative of combatting the climate emergency. They argue for a pivot towards community-supported, renewable sources like wind and solar energy.
In their communication to the Department of Energy, the coalition vehemently opposes the large-scale proliferation of hydrogen infrastructure. Their rationale rests on the emission of greenhouse gases and the amplification of pollution in frontline communities. Their concern is not unfounded – the majority of today’s hydrogen production relies on fossil fuels, releasing even more nitrogen oxide and smog-causing emissions than methane, thus posing a significant threat to public health.
Jim Walsh, policy director with Food & Water Watch, asserts that the push for massive hydrogen hubs diverges from genuine climate action. He argues that such a push will lead to more pollution, heightened water resource strain, and increased extraction of fossil fuels – the antithesis of sustainable progress. This stance questions the Biden administration’s commitment to climate leadership in light of its apparent embrace of hydrogen, which is perceived as perpetuating fossil fuel production and infrastructure.
The concerns extend to hydrogen transportation, particularly among frontline communities and pipeline safety advocates. Hydrogen’s combustibility and corrosiveness pose risks to pipelines, raising fears of potential explosions even from minor ruptures. Furthermore, all forms of hydrogen production demand substantial water usage, making it an unsustainable energy source, especially in regions grappling with drought.
The Biden administration’s allocation of $7 billion to establish 10 regional hydrogen clusters under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act has triggered this showdown. The coalition’s concerns regarding the administration’s embrace of hydrogen’s potential are mirrored by a resounding call for genuine commitment to sustainable alternatives.
Maya Pontón Aronoff, policy fellow with the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, emphasizes the need to break the cycle of corporate interests dominating policy. She underscores the urgent necessity of advocating for future generations, urging a shift away from hydrogen’s allure and towards solutions that prioritize both people and the planet.