Dozens of climate groups are urging leaders in Congress to avoid funding hydrogen-based technologies in the infrastructure and budget reconciliation packages.
In a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday, the groups warned that the vast majority of hydrogen produced today is created from natural gas and coal, citing a recent Cornell and Stanford University study that found ‘blue’ hydrogen may harm the climate more than burning fossil fuel.
“Leading national and international scientists are clearly calling for the rapid phase out of fossil fuels and this should include phasing out fossil hydrogen before it is expanded,” the groups wrote. “None of these varying technologies has been thoroughly evaluated, and there is strong reason to believe a massive hydrogen buildout will worsen the climate crisis and cause harm to Black, brown and Indigenous communities.”
The bipartisan infrastructure bill includes $9.5 billion for clean hydrogen research, while the budget reconciliation package includes a new hydrogen fuel production tax credit. The U.S. Dept. of Energy launched its “Hydrogen Shot” summit in July to “accelerate breakthroughs of more abundant, affordable, and reliable clean energy solutions within the decade.”
Environmental groups see hydrogen as a distraction by fossil fuel corporations away from carbon reductions and renewable energy technologies.
But MIT researchers say renewables still need a backup for when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. The gap is currently filled by burning fossil fuels, which could be cost-competitively replaced by hydrogen.
The researchers found that there is a “promising role for hydrogen to play in the energy transition,” even with high costs for production, transmission, and storage.
“As we move to more and more renewable penetration, this intermittency will make a greater impact on the electric power system,” says Emre Gençer, a research scientist at the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI). “If we’re to achieve zero-carbon electricity, we must replace all greenhouse gas-emitting sources.”