By David Iaconangelo and Arianna Skibell
Politico , December 20 ,2022
Hydrogen has stolen the heart of many a clean energy wonk. But with big investments on the horizon, its climate credentials are coming under deepening scrutiny.
Depending on how it’s made, transported and consumed, hydrogen can be a zero-carbon renewable dream — or a carbon-intensive, business-as-usual dirty fuel. The Energy Department is betting that with enough government support, it can be more of the former.
The department is preparing to dole out up to $7 billion to help build an industry for lower-carbon hydrogen. The hope is that a cleanly made hydrogen could replace fossil fuels in some of the hardest sectors to electrify, and wouldn’t release carbon when it’s burned in power plants.
The money will be given to so-called hubs where the fuel is produced, stored and consumed in a single geographic cluster, to keep down costs and maximize efficiencies. Governors, state officials, U.S. senators and private-sector coalitions from at least 39 states, plus the Navajo Nation, have expressed interest in bringing home some of that money.
Today, the U.S. largely produces hydrogen made from natural gas in a carbon-intensive process. The Energy Department will steer clear of funding such “grey” hydrogen, instead focusing on hydrogen made in cleaner ways, which might involve capturing carbon or using renewable or nuclear electricity and water as energy sources.
The Biden administration hopes that by 2030, the U.S. can produce about as much lower-carbon hydrogen as it does of the “grey” kind today.
Even if companies miss out on the $7 billion in grants — funded through last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law — they might be able to take advantage of the Inflation Reduction Act’s tax credits for low-carbon hydrogen production.
But is it really clean? With all that federal support in the offing, battles are raging over how exactly to define clean hydrogen.
“Green” hydrogen — as industry groups call it — can be made using any electricity from the grid, instead of dedicated wind and solar facilities. Environmentalists and grid modelers say that could lead to significant greenhouse gas emissions.
“Blue” hydrogen has come under even more criticism. It is made using natural gas, paired with carbon capture systems — a process environmentalists dismiss as a false solution.
And if burned directly in a power plant turbine, even the cleanest types of hydrogen can release nitrogen oxide, which contributes to environmental ills such as acid rain.
To claim federal funds, hydrogen projects will have to abide by limits on carbon emissions, as laid out in the Inflation Reduction Act and the infrastructure law. But the precise way to calculate the carbon is still unclear until the Treasury and Energy departments finish crafting guidance documents.
Electric New York
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) is now empowered to enact a suit of climate policies, after the state’s Climate Action Council approved a climate plan Monday, writes POLITICO’s Marie J. French.
The plan paves the way for New York to enact a “cap and invest” program that requires polluters to purchase emission allowances and calls for electrifying everything from buildings to vehicles.
Sixty years ago, U.S. military scientists extracted a milelong slender cylinder of ancient ice from the heart of the Greenland ice sheet, writes Chelsea Harvey.
For decades, much of the sample sit half-forgotten in storage. But today, it’s helping scientists reconstruct the Earth’s climate history — and potentially peer into its future.
A last-ditch push by House Democrats to pass a sweeping environmental justice bill appears to have ground to a halt, writes Emma Dumain.
Democrats attempted to get the bill to the floor to honor Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), who died last month.
Countries on Monday struck a new deal to address biodiversity loss, with governments now on the hook to put land and seas under greater protection, writes Louise Guillot.
But countries who made the last such agreement in 2010 failed to reach its targets, adding a sense of urgency to this year’s deal.
Electric future: PepsiCo Inc. plans to roll out 100 heavy-duty Tesla Semis in 2023, when it will start using the electric trucks to make deliveries to customers like Walmart Inc. and Kroger Co.
The first climate change candidate: Inside Al Gore’s oddly prescient 1988 presidential run.
That’s it for today, folks! Thanks for reading.