President Joe Biden’s administration has announced it is spending $52.5 million to fund 31 projects to advance next-generation hydrogen fuel-cell technologies.
The money is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) recently announced Hydrogen Energy Earthshot initiative to reduce the cost and accelerate breakthroughs in hydrogen technology.
According to the DOE “green” hydrogen fuel cells is renewable energy based technology, and, if only made cheaper and easier to produce, could have a major role in supporting President Biden’s commitment to tackling the climate crisis.
Transportation and Electricity
A good portion of the $52.5M hydrogen research pie is going to develop “green” hydrogen fuel cell technologies, using electrolysis to produce hydrogen fuel from water rather than natural gas, and making it less expensive.
The goal is to use fuel cell technologies in cars to replace traditional internal combustion engine technologies, and to generate electric power.
Green hydrogen works by teasing bubbles of hydrogen gas out of water, avoiding the greenhouse gases emitted by fossil fuels such as natural gas when they are used as fuel in hydrogen fuel cells.
The electrolysis process itself, however, requires a great deal of electricity and water, which, if it becomes widespread, as the Biden administration hopes, will place increasing demand on the electric power grid. This could become problematic as the electric power grid moves to ever more intermittent sources of power from wind and solar industrial facilities.
Avoid Lobbyist-Driven Political Science.
All this cheap patter about green carbon is like what you’d hear from a carny barker on the midway, says John Droz, Jr., a physicist and the founder of the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions.
“The hype over hydrogen follows a well-trod history of other marketing claims made by well-paid lobbyists,” said Droz. “Their strategy, similar to the one that has worked to gain huge amounts of support for the wind and solar industries: to overstate the advantages, and dismiss the liabilities as either inconsequential or easily overcome.
“Politicians start with a goal, in this case sharply reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 or some other such arbitrary future date, which desired by a key political constituency,” Droz said. “Since there is no practical way of achieving their arbitrary goal through current technology, they hang their hat on some pie-in-the-sky solution, that is supposed to make everybody happy.”
Similar commitments of cheap renewable energy failed to materialize for wind and solar power, Droz notes.
“Their schemes did not work out for wind, solar, bio fuels, etc., but that’s all ancient history, so let’s move on, say the politicians,” said Droz. “When the push for green hydrogen doesn’t pan out, taxpayers, not the politicians will suffer, but because they’ll be retired sailing in the Caribbean, they won’t care.
“The bottom line to solving our energy issues is to go down the path of science and avoid at all costs the lobbyists-driven political science avenues, like hydrogen,” Droz said.
Kenneth Artz (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Dallas, Texas.
John Constable, “Hydrogen: the Once and Future Fuel,” Global Warming Policy Foundation, June 19, 2020; https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/hydrogen-the-once-and-future-fuel