In an attempt to present the £9 billion Lower Thames Crossing project as hydrogen-fueled and environmentally friendly, National Highways has faced accusations of greenwashing. The Thames Crossing Action Group (TCAG), which opposes the scheme, dismisses the claims as propaganda, raising concerns about the project’s true environmental impact and cost.
National Highways recently issued a tender notice seeking a hydrogen supplier for the project, claiming that replacing diesel with hydrogen to power heavy construction machinery would make the construction phase carbon-neutral. However, upon closer inspection, it is revealed that even if a supplier is found, only one-third of the diesel used during construction will be replaced. A staggering 40 million liters of diesel will still be required, casting doubt on the project’s green credentials.
TCAG questions whether the awarded contracts for the project have considered the provision and costings for using hydrogen, a fuel that is significantly more expensive than traditional fossil fuels. The estimated £50 million cost of procuring hydrogen, coupled with the higher costs of hydrogen-powered machinery, raises concerns about who would bear the financial burden.
Moreover, TCAG highlights that hydrogen is not always as clean, green, and efficient as anticipated, and its supply is limited. Large amounts of electricity are needed to produce hydrogen, which poses challenges considering the current electricity shortages in the country.
Laura Blake, chair of TCAG, emphasizes that the proposed Lower Thames Crossing is far from green, as it would cause significant destruction and harm while failing to meet scheme objectives. The group supports the Climate Change Committee’s call for a comprehensive review of current and future road building projects, which could lead to the abandonment of the proposed LTC.
National Highways, however, maintains its stance, claiming that the Lower Thames Crossing will be the greenest road ever built in the UK. Project director Matt Palmer asserts that by utilizing clean low-carbon hydrogen power on a large scale for construction machinery, the project can significantly reduce carbon emissions, accelerate the shift away from diesel, and catalyze the development of a hydrogen ecosystem in the Thames Estuary.
As the controversy unfolds, the true environmental impact and cost-effectiveness of the Lower Thames Crossing project remain subject to scrutiny. The accusations of greenwashing highlight the importance of transparency and genuine sustainability in major infrastructure developments.