For Many, Hydrogen Is the Fuel of the Future. New Research Raises Doubts.
In Washington, the latest bipartisan infrastructure package devotes $ 8 billion to the creation of regional hydrogen hubs, a provision initially introduced as part of a separate bill by Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from Virginia. Western, a major natural gas producing region. Among the companies that lobbied to invest in hydrogen was NextEra Energy, which proposed a pilot solar-powered hydrogen plant in Florida.
Some other Democrats, such as Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, opposed the idea, calling it an “empty promise.” Environmental groups have also criticized the spending. “This is not climate action,” said Jim Walsh, senior energy policy analyst at Food & Water Watch, a Washington-based nonprofit group. “It’s a subsidy on fossil fuels, with Congress acting like it’s doing something about the climate, while supporting the next chapter in the fossil fuel industry.”
Jack Brouwer, director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California at Irvine, said hydrogen would ultimately have to be made using renewable energy to produce what the industry calls green hydrogen, which uses renewable energy to divide water into its constituent. parts, hydrogen and oxygen. That, he said, would eliminate the fossil and the methane leaks.
Hydrogen made from fossil fuels could still serve as a bridging fuel, but would ultimately be “a small contributor to the overall sustainable hydrogen economy,” he said. “We use blue first, then we make it all green,” he said.
Today, very little hydrogen is green, because the process involved – the electrolysis of water to separate the hydrogen atoms from the oxygen – is extremely energy intensive. In most places, there is simply not enough renewable energy to produce large amounts of green hydrogen. (Although if the world starts producing excess renewable energy, converting it to hydrogen would be one way to store it.)
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