A new report states that claims over hydrogen’s clean energy potential are over-hyped and this masks the fact that most hydrogen production today pollutes communities and drives climate breakdown.
The report, called Reclaiming Hydrogen for a Renewable Future and produced by Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign, aims to set straight the difference between ‘green hydrogen’ produced from renewables and hydrogen made via fossil fuels.
It states the fossil fuel industry is both the largest producer and consumer of hydrogen in the US, with roughly 60% of the country’s domestic supply deployed in crude oil refining.
And globally, the report claims that hydrogen production is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire country of Germany.
By contrast, less than 1% of hydrogen today is produced using renewable energy – the only established way to produce hydrogen without emitting climate or air pollution.
“Hydrogen isn’t the silver bullet it’s marketed to be. Worse, the deluge of hydrogen hype from fossil fuel companies threatens to delay the clean energy transition by siphoning resources away from solutions like electric appliances and vehicles,” said Sasan Saadat, co-author and Earthjustice senior research and policy analyst.
“In the future, green hydrogen may help us carry renewable energy into the toughest corners of the energy system, but it’s no substitute for rapidly electrifying the bulk of our economy today.”
He said that for hydrogen to have a role in a clean energy future, the first priority should be deploying green hydrogen to displace the millions of metric tonnes of hydrogen that the US already makes from fossil fuels each year.
The limited supply of green hydrogen may also help transition to renewable energy in specific sectors like shipping, aviation, high-heated industrial processes, and long-distance trucking.
The report suggests that hydrogen is a false solution for the energy sector because:
- Electric appliances would be more energy efficient, improve air quality, and avoid the risks of leaking hydrogen, which is a potent greenhouse gas.
- Injecting hydrogen in appreciable volumes would create safety hazards in our pipelines and household appliances.
- If a gas company used as much green hydrogen as optimistically possible, it would only reduce the climate impact of burning the company’s gas by about 7%.
“Contrary to industry marketing, it makes no sense to burn hydrogen in our homes,” said Sara Gersen, co-author and attorney on Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign.
“The gas distribution system can’t deliver significant volumes of hydrogen to homes and businesses without creating safety hazards in pipelines and household appliances. The solution for getting off fossil gas in our homes is to go all electric – that’s the modern upgrade families deserve,” .
Similarly, the report explains that because battery electric vehicles are significantly more energy efficient and cheaper than hydrogen vehicles, green hydrogen would be wasted in the vast majority of cars, buses, and trucks.
The report is available for download.