Merkley, Warren and Markey sound alarm over 'dirty' hydrogen provision in climate deal

Merkley, Warren and Markey sound alarm over 'dirty' hydrogen provision in climate deal
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A trio of Democratic senators are sounding an alarm over what they say is an effort to add language to the budget reconciliation bill that would create new incentives for hydrogen produced from fossil fuels, which they fear would undercut the broader goals of climate legislation. 

“As policymakers, we must be attentive to the reality that not all hydrogen is clean and reject efforts to further subsidize dirty hydrogen in the Build Back Better Act,” Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyLawmakers call on Olympic committee to press China on human rights abuses Senate Democrats call on Biden to push for COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers at WTO The Hill's Morning Report - Ins and outs: Powell renominated at Fed, Parnell drops Senate bid MORE (D-Ore.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenPoll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Biden eyes new path for Fed despite Powell pick Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Storms a growing danger for East Coast MORE (D-Mass.) and Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Pledged money not going to Indigenous causes Senate Democrats call on Biden to push for COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers at WTO The Hill's Morning Report - Ins and outs: Powell renominated at Fed, Parnell drops Senate bid MORE (D-Mass.) wrote in a letter to Democratic leaders released Wednesday afternoon.

They argued that while hydrogen has been touted as a “zero-emission” alternative energy source, “recent peer reviewed science has found that fossil fuel-based hydrogen might have greater greenhouse gas impacts than traditional fossil fuels.”

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The lawmakers acknowledged that hydrogen might someday be an important source of clean energy but asserted the technology isn’t ready yet.

“There’s just one problem: Current hydrogen production is not at all ‘clean.’ In fact, 94 percent of hydrogen produced in the [United States] comes from fossil fuels,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFive reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season Bipartisan success in the Senate signals room for more compromise The GOP's post-1/6 playbook is clear — and it's dangerous MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer mourns death of 'amazing' father Feehery: The honest contrarian Biden administration to release oil from strategic reserve: reports MORE (D-N.Y.). 

A group of House progressives also signed the letter, including Reps. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinTrump allies leaning on his executive privilege claims Oversight panel eyes excessive bail, jail overcrowding in New York City Jan. 6 panel may see leverage from Bannon prosecution MORE (D-Md.), Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezGOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips Greene: McCarthy 'doesn't have the full support to be Speaker' Omar calls out Boebert over anti-Muslim remarks, denies Capitol incident took place MORE (D-N.Y.), Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyModerate Democrats press for score before vote on Biden package Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Democrats prepare to grill oil execs Merkley, Warren and Markey sound alarm over 'dirty' hydrogen provision in climate deal MORE (D-Ill.), Mondaire JonesMondaire JonesMcCarthy delays swift passage of spending plan with record-breaking floor speech House Democrats brush off Manchin Buffalo race becomes early test for a divided Democratic Party MORE (D-N.Y.) and Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerUnrequited rage: The demand for mob justice in the Rittenhouse trial Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Democrats prepare to grill oil execs Merkley, Warren and Markey sound alarm over 'dirty' hydrogen provision in climate deal MORE (D-N.Y.). 

They noted that so-called green hydrogen, which is made by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules and is therefore considered 100 percent renewable, accounts for less than 0.02 percent of global hydrogen production.

They warned that blue hydrogen, which is produced from splitting natural gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide, pollutes the atmosphere as much as or more than traditional fossil fuels.

“Blue hydrogen production may result in higher methane emissions than natural gas, diesel, oil, and coal,” they wrote. “This is an extremely important finding because ‘we cannot achieve the Paris Agreement targets without immediately reducing methane,’ according to a United Nations report published this year.”

The lawmakers also warned that hydrogen harvested from a process known as steam methane reformation emits nitrogen oxides, particulates and carbon monoxide, which have all been linked to negative health effects. 

“The expansion of fossil-fuel based hydrogen would inevitably harm disproportionately low-income communities and communities of color because these are the same communities which have carried the weight of fossil fuel pollution for generations,” they wrote.

A group of environmental organizations, including Food & Water Watch, 350.org, Alliance for Affordable Energy, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth, Ocean Conservancy and the Sierra Club, also endorsed the letter.

Food & Water Watch took the lead in circulating a letter to Pelosi last month in which a coalition of environmental groups warned that new research from scientists at Cornell and Stanford shows how hydrogen produced from fossil fuels could have larger greenhouse gas emissions than coal.

Updated 10/28 1:29 p.m.