Story at a glance:

  • Blue hydrogen is a marketing term pushed by the fossil fuel industry to suit the qualifications of being called clean hydrogen in the Senate bill.
  • The process that creates blue hydrogen incidentally releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas used to split the gases, as well as carbon dioxide.
  • $8 billion of the total $1 trillion infrastructure package is going into blue hydrogen, which is said to create 20 percent more greenhouse gas than coal and be 60 percent more polluting than burning diesel.

Despite President Biden’s effort to bring key multibillion-dollar legislation to handle the climate crisis, he is promoting the development of “clean hydrogen” that a new study indicates may be worse than coal.

Blue hydrogen is a marketing term pushed by the fossil fuel industry to suit the qualifications of being called clean hydrogen in the Senate bill.


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Its development uses $8 billion of the total $1 trillion infrastructure package, which received bipartisan support on Tuesday, The Guardian reported.

The White House would like people to believe that it is a low-emissions alternative to fuel shipping, trucking, aviation and even home heating. It is “blue” because of a process that separates the gas into two parts, hydrogen and carbon dioxide. 

The carbon dioxide is captured and stored away to prevent the heating of the planet, but some of it escapes anyway and the process includes incidental releasing of methane, a potent greenhouse gas used to split the gases. The technique also requires a lot of energy.

In its production, blue hydrogen creates 20 percent more greenhouse gases than coal, The Guardian reported. When being burned for heat, blue hydrogen is 60 percent more polluting than burning diesel, according to the new paper, published in the Energy Science & Engineering journal.

“It’s pretty striking, I was surprised at the results,” Robert Howarth, a scientist at Cornell University who authored the paper alongside Mark Jacobson, a Stanford University researcher, told The Guardian. “Blue hydrogen is a nice marketing term that the oil and gas industry is keen to push but it’s far from carbon free. I don’t think we should be spending our funds this way, on these sort of false solutions.”

Oil companies such as BP, Total and Shell, among other main competitors, have formed the Hydrogen Council, and the group says that hydrogen has a “key role to play in the global energy transition” by replacing more polluting fuels. It is even predicting it will account for 18 percent of total energy demand by 2050.

Already, dozens of gas companies have started their production of hydrogen to comply with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, and need to rapidly move to net-zero emissions.

The latest IPCC report, which warned of “irreversible” impacts if emissions aren’t drastically cut, identified methane as a big contributor to the current global heating, produced from oil and gas drilling and animal agriculture, according to the BBC.

Progressive Democrats hope that methane will be dealt with in an upcoming $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that will include far stronger climate measures than the bipartisan infrastructure package.

“This budget resolution will be a generational investment in the future of our people and our planet,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who helped craft the Green New Deal alongside Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) that bluntly addresses “cow farts,” which contain methane.


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Published on Aug 13, 2021