U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on October 31, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

'Climate Scam': 180+ Groups Tell Biden to Drop Support for Hydrogen

"Calling hydrogen clean energy is a scam to prop up the oil and gas industry," said one campaigner.

More than 95% of hydrogen produced in the United States is made using fossil fuels, but that hasn't stopped its backers—including industry groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—from touting the energy source as critical to the fight against climate change.

A diverse coalition of advocacy organizations on Tuesday implored the Biden administration to stop buying into the hype.

In a letter to officials at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), more than 180 groups called on the administration to abandon plans to invest in hydrogen projects, warning that "a large-scale buildout of hydrogen infrastructure will further exacerbate the climate crisis and disproportionately harm people of color, low-income communities, and Indigenous peoples."

Two recently enacted pieces of legislation—the Inflation Reduction Act and a bipartisan infrastructure measure championed by oil industry ally Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—include benefits for the hydrogen industry.

The latter bill authorized the Department of Energy to spend roughly $8 billion on developing Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs (H2Hubs), drawing outrage from community organizers in Colorado, New Mexico, and other states behind the Western Interstate Hydrogen Hub, a project aimed at expanding U.S. hydrogen production.

"We recognize that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act directs DOE to fund these hubs, but we ask DOE to find a different path and reject this false solution. It's time for DOE to do the right thing," the groups wrote in their letter on Tuesday.

The groups behind the letter—including the Center for Biological Diversity and Food & Water Watch—note that hydrogen production generates significant planet-warming emissions.

"Hydrogen lifecycle emissions which use carbon capture and storage are 20% greater than directly burning natural gas or coal, and 60% greater than burning diesel oil, because of the increased fossil fuels required to power it," the letter states. "The process of producing gray and blue hydrogen is a major source of fugitive methane emissions from flaring, transportation, and other upstream processes—releasing even more potent greenhouse gases and exacerbating atmospheric warming over the next two decades."

"President Biden can't claim to be a climate leader while his administration continues to embrace the hydrogen climate scam and other policies that continue to perpetuate fossil fuel production and infrastructure."

As Natureexplained in an editorial warning against "overhyping" hydrogen, "Most hydrogen is currently made by processes—such as steam reformation of natural gas (methane)—that produce large amounts of CO2 as a by-product."

"Although 'green' hydrogen can be made by using electricity from renewable sources to split water molecules," the outlet added, "this process is costly compared with more conventional production methods."

Silas Grant, a campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity, said Tuesday that "calling hydrogen clean energy is a scam to prop up the oil and gas industry."

"The Biden administration's plans to expand this dirty energy will only increase oil and gas extraction at a time when the climate emergency demands the opposite," said Grant. "We need investment in affordable, reliable, community-supported renewable energy like wind and solar."

The coalition's letter comes two months after New Mexico-based advocacy organizations urged the Biden administration to reject funding for the Western Interstate Hydrogen Hub, arguing the initiative would "devastate public health, clean air, Indigenous sacred places, and the climate."

"The climate crisis poses a grave threat to all life on Earth," the groups wrote in a letter to the U.S. Energy Department. "DOE has the power to help lead a transformation to a more sustainable future. To do so, you must help phase out fossil fuels and reject false solutions like hydrogen."

But the Biden White House has yet to waver in its support for hydrogen, claiming in a brief last month that "clean hydrogen has the potential to play an important role in decarbonizing the U.S. economy."

Jim Walsh, policy director at Food & Water Watch, countered Tuesday that investments in hydrogen are "a distraction from real climate action that will cause more pollution, more strain on water resources, and more extraction of climate warming fossil fuels."

"President Biden can't claim to be a climate leader while his administration continues to embrace the hydrogen climate scam and other policies that continue to perpetuate fossil fuel production and infrastructure," Walsh added.

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