Climate Groups Tell Democrats: Don’t Fuel Hydrogen Hype

New letter urges Pelosi and Schumer not to fund energy industry’s hydrogen schemes

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Climate and Energy

Leading national climate, community and environmental groups released a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer today urging them to not to include funds in the infrastructure packages that would expand hydrogen-based technologies that are being touted as climate solutions by the fossil fuel industry.

The letter points out that while the world must quickly transition away from dirty energy, the vast majority of hydrogen is created from fossil fuels (gas and coal). Corporate interests are using hydrogen to greenwash fossil fuels and bolster support for ineffective technologies like carbon capture, which will lock us into decades of more fossil fuel dependency.

“Congress is considering unprecedented infrastructure spending that can lay the foundation for a new sustainable energy system, but not if they chose to buy into the fossil fuel industry’s hydrogen hype. The wrong choices now will bring us more of the same dirty energy that is poisoning the air and water of environmental justice communities and destroying our climate,” said Mitch Jones, Policy Director of Food & Water Watch. “Congress must end subsidies for fossil fuels, not hand out more money for the next round of fossil fuel industry scams.”

New research from scientists at Cornell and Stanford demonstrates that fossil fuel-based “blue” hydrogen, even when coupled with carbon capture and storage, creates more greenhouse gas emissions than coal — totally undermining claims that it is a ‘low-carbon’ fuel source.  

The letter states that we must “exhibit caution when hydrogen is being proposed as a panacea to climate woes and fossil fuel reliance, and urge more evaluation and study of hydrogen before we support a large-scale build out.”

The letter was led by Food & Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth U.S., Indigenous Environmental Network, Oil Change International, the Center for International Environmental Law, Institute for Policy Studies Climate Policy Program, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, and Zero Hour.

Encouraging an expansion of hydrogen will have other negative impacts as well. Industrial agriculture corporations are looking to cash in on hydrogen hype by promoting the use of factory farm biogas as a fuel source, which will exacerbate the problems associated with this heavily polluting agricultural model. Fossil fuel interests are also proposing schemes to capture carbon from hydrogen production and to even use it as a feedstock for the creation of more plastics. 

While there is an available technology called “green hydrogen” — extracted from water that uses solar and wind energy — there is a risk that it will be used as a cover for the development of fossil fuel-based hydrogen infrastructure. 

The letter argues that direct electrification is a better solution in most cases than any form of hydrogen, and therefore urges Congress to reject proposed hydrogen subsidies in any upcoming infrastructure spending proposals.  

“It was hip hop legends Public Enemy who told us, ‘Remember there’s a need to get alarmed’ in their classic tune Don’t Believe the Hype. They may have just as well been speaking about hydrogen combustion. The last two weeks have profoundly elucidated the extent of the climate crisis and the disproportionate impacts felt by Indigenous, Black, Brown, and poor white folk. So Democratic leadership needs to ask themselves why they would fund our own destruction by dedicating one dime to technologies like hydrogen that extend the fossil fuel lifeline with more pernicious pipelines,” said Anthony Rogers-Wright, Director of Environmental Justice, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “We need climate justice leadership, not climate justice lip service. It’s time for Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer to put OUR money where their mouths are; we want regenerative economies fueled by 100% renewable energy. We have the technology to do it, what we’re lacking are lawmakers with political will and political valor.”