The Infrastructure Bill’s Hydrogen Funding Is a Big Win for the Oil and Gas Industry

Lambert here: Well, the bill was bipartisan….

By Justin Mikulka, a research fellow at New Consensus. Originally published at DeSmog.

The infrastructure bill signed into law by President Biden in November includes $9.5 billion dollars to support the creation of a clean hydrogen industry — but much of the money is going to support the U.S. fracked gas industry under the guise of “clean” blue hydrogen. While being presented as a clean hydrogen plan for decarbonizing the energy system, the main focus of the hydrogen section of the bill is to continue and expand the use of natural gas (that is, methane) in the U.S. economy via what’s known as blue hydrogen. 

Blue hydrogen is the name for a fuel product that currently cannot be produced on a commercial scale. Hydrogen gets labeled different colors based on how it’s produced. There’s gray, made from fossil fuels, and green, made using renewable energy. 

And then there’s blue. The theoretical idea is to make hydrogen from methane while using carbon capture technology to eliminate more than 90 percent of CO2 emissions released during the production process, thus making the hydrogen “low carbon.” 

Most of the world’s current hydrogen is “gray,” produced from methane without carbon capture, which is an inexpensive but dirty process. Hydrogen production currently contributes to 2 percent of global CO2 emissions, in addition to all of the globe-warming methane released during natural gas production. 

The gas industry is promising that carbon capture can eliminate most of the CO2 emissions associated with hydrogen production, but there is increasing evidence that carbon capture technology can’t deliver as promised and even if it could, it is very expensive. 

Bloomberg recently reported that U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) played a powerful role in shaping the components of the infrastructure bill that support the use of fracked shale gas as a feedstock for hydrogen production. However, even Manchin has recently admitted that carbon capture — which is essential to blue hydrogen’s supposed climate credentials — isn’t a realistic solution. 

“I’d love to have carbon capture, but we don’t have the technology because we really haven’t gotten to that point,” Manchin explained to E&E. “And it’s so darn expensive that it makes it almost impossible.” 

More recently the CEO of Italian energy company Enel acknowledged the same truth about carbon capture, stating: “The fact is, it doesn’t work.” 

This reality about carbon capture’s failure, however, did not prevent the inclusion of $3.5 billion in subsidies to support carbon capture development for the fossil fuel industry in the infrastructure bill, in addition to the money earmarked for developing blue hydrogen. The Build Back Better bill, Biden’s signature climate and social policy legislation, also is full of more handouts to the fossil fuel industry to support carbon capture. 

While the oil and gas industry’s public relations efforts attempt to sell the world on the false promise of blue hydrogen, actual clean hydrogen technology has made rapid technological and economical advancements that render blue hydrogen obsolete as a “clean” or low-cost solution. 

Green hydrogen — made from water using renewable electricity — is where private money is focused, and the green hydrogen industry is experiencing rapid growth. The infrastructure bill does include funding for one clean hydrogen hub that utilizes renewable energy and one that uses nuclear energy, along with research money to improve these technologies. These are two viable pathways to make carbon-free hydrogen. 

The oil and gas industry has hired the same public relations firms it used to push climate denial to now sell the world on blue hydrogen. Those efforts have initially paid off, with blue hydrogen funding in the infrastructure bill. However, the investing community and climate community both agree with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s (D-NY) recent conclusion on blue hydrogen: “Blue is bad.”

Blue Hydrogen as Gas Industry Lifeline

The appeal of blue hydrogen is easy to understand as it is sold as a way to use natural gas to produce energy that does not produce carbon emissions. However, like the industry promise that natural gas was a clean “bridge fuel” that would power the clean energy transition, this is another false promise

The natural gas industry is in trouble and knows it. At an industry conference this year, a slide from a presentation posed the question asking, “whether carbon capture and blue hydrogen would save the natural gas industry.” The answer to this question appears to be: No. 

The new report “12 Insights on Hydrogen” released in November by the European think tank Agora Energiewende predicts that since hydrogen is unlikely to replace methane as a home heating fuel, the gas distribution industry should prepare for a “disruptive end to their business model.” Blue hydrogen is the gas industry’s rescue plan to avoid this fate, and the U.S. infrastructure bill reads like it was written for that purpose. 

The language in the bill requires the identification of “economic opportunities for the production, processing, transport, storage, and use of clean hydrogen that exist in the major shale natural gas-producing regions.” The bill also requires “identifying opportunities using existing infrastructure, including all components of the natural gas infrastructure system … for clean hydrogen deployment.”

These are excellent ideas if the goal is to save the gas industry from a disruptive end but not if the goal is to reduce emissions of both carbon dioxide and methane.  

The main problem with this approach is that even if carbon capture worked on a technical level and was cost-effective financially and producing blue hydrogen was possible, blue hydrogen is still not a clean fuel at the end of the day. As a result, blue hydrogen cannot be part of a clean hydrogen strategy whose true purpose is helping stave off catastrophic global heating. 

A recent analysis by Robert Howarth, a biogeochemist at Cornell University, and Mark Jacobson, an environmental engineering professor at Stanford University, found that the methane emissions associated with blue hydrogen might make it dirtier than simply burning methane directly. And a new analysis by the business intelligence firm Fitch Solutions, acknowledges this reality and predicts the emissions associated with blue hydrogen will “constrain investment” in blue hydrogen — which is exactly what is happening. 

Green Hydrogen Is the Clean Hydrogen Solution

According to Agora Energiewende’s new report, “Analysts agree, but not all lobbyists: the role of hydrogen for climate neutrality is crucial but secondary to direct electrification.” 

Despite this, lobbyists for the gas industry continue to argue for a future where homes are heated with hydrogen, natural gas power plants are repurposed to burn hydrogen, and hydrogen plays a large role in light vehicle transportation. 

Electrification and batteries are likely the best decarbonization solution for light vehicle transportation, building heating and cooling, and many other applications. The main argument for electrification instead of hydrogen for these applications is that it is a cheaper and more efficient solution. 

While hydrogen will be necessary to completely decarbonize the U.S. and global economy, only green hydrogen, not blue, can deliver those results. 

Emissions-free hydrogen is critical to decarbonization efforts. For instance, green hydrogen is also the only current viable path to decarbonize the steel industry — which accounts for 8 percent of global CO2 emissions. While the use of hydrogen to make green steel is still in its early stages, the technology is mature, and earlier this month plans were announced to build a new green steel facility on the Iberian Peninsula (either Spain or Portugal).

As has happened with renewable power generation and battery technology, the economics of green hydrogen are rapidly improving, and much faster than many expected. This trend has resulted in investors signaling that green hydrogen is the winning solution, and as a result, the industry is rapidly expanding, even before the promise of government incentives. This investment in expanding the green hydrogen economy is expected to lead to large decreases in the cost to produce green hydrogen in the next five years. 

Green hydrogen has another advantage over hydrogen made from methane in that it isn’t dependent on the market price of a fossil fuel. The recent spike in methane prices in Europe has reportedly already made green hydrogen cheaper than methane-based hydrogen without carbon capture. 

The new analysis of hydrogen markets done by Fitch highlights how green hydrogen is beating blue by a large margin, noting that in the global market there are currently 174 green hydrogen projects compared to just 15 for blue hydrogen. The new paper Clean hydrogen? – Comparing the emissions and costs of fossil fuel versus renewable electricity based hydrogen in the journal Applied Energy, concludes that for hydrogen production “electrolysis with renewable energy [green hydrogen] could become cheaper than fossil fuel with CCS options [blue hydrogen], possibly in the near-term future.”

Green hydrogen is currently technically possible and there is a wave of private investment around the globe that will rapidly expand the industry, driving large cost reductions. The only argument against green hydrogen is that right now, it is more expensive than methane-based hydrogen. However, 75 percent of the cost of green hydrogen production is the cost of the renewable electricity and 25 percent is the cost of the electrolyzers, which is expected to fall by 80 percent as the industry achieves scale. The rapidly falling cost of renewables is expected to make green hydrogen cheaper than gray hydrogen in many areas of the world by 2030. 

The only valid argument for blue hydrogen has been that it was a cheaper alternative to clean green hydrogen. That argument is no longer valid, especially with the evidence showing that blue hydrogen is not “clean” by any standard and carbon capture technology is currently unable to change that. 

The infrastructure bill’s focus on shale gas and blue hydrogen delays the efforts to decarbonize the fossil fuel-based economy and seeks to expand the use of natural gas in the U.S. The good news is that the markets have spoken and investors realize that despite efforts by the oil and gas industry and the politicians who do their bidding, the only path forward is green hydrogen.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Guest Post on by .

About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Mikel

    Green hydrogen is produced using water. They want to ramp up production.
    Batteries use water.
    Semi-conductors need water for production.
    Well, many many manufacturing processes use water, like the manufacture of cars.

    And we need water to drink to survive – non-negotiable and priceless.

    I hate to rain on the parade, but actually that.may be needed. Going to need LOTS of rain in the future.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Lots of rain? No problem … you just need to be at the right place at the right time. Atmospheric rivers deliver plenty of rain.

    2. Skip Intro

      In theory, wastewater and seawater can be split into green hydrogen, and when the hydrogen is burned/oxidized, pure water is recovered. In California there are Toyota and Honda fuel cell cars and a series of H2 filling stations incorporated into local gas stations. They claim to use a mix of green and blue H2. Apparently the technology and supply chains still have some teething pains, so filling up can be hit or miss, and there may be lines of Insights and Mirais at a single pump.

  2. Herb

    Michael Liebreich the prominent European energy analyst has a different take on blue hydrogen:

    “to meet the International Energy Agency’s hydrogen demand forecasts (in its 2050 net-zero scenario) purely with green H2 would require all the wind and solar power predicted by BNEF to be installed globally.

    “Try to meet future demand with green hydrogen and you risk absorbing all future wind and solar too, even though [existing] uses [such as fertiliser production and oil refining] should start to decline at some point,” he wrote in a LinkedIn post.

    “What this means is that if you’re proposing any increase in the use of hydrogen, irrespective of whether it’s… steel and long-duration storage… aviation and shipping… or heating or transportation — and you are a green hydrogen fundamentalist, you need to explain where the supply is going to come from.”

    He added: “Let me be absolutely clear. I’m not promoting blue hydrogen. Of course green hydrogen has the potential to be better from a climate perspective. All I’m doing here is pointing out the sheer scale of renewable power needed to meet the demand for hydrogen in a decarbonizing global economy.

    “This is why I have made my peace with blue hydrogen. I simply cannot see sufficient quantities of green hydrogen being produced fast enough and with low enough environmental impacts to meet demand.”

    Liebreich explains that his peace with blue hydrogen is, however, conditional. “I have already been very clear that for blue hydrogen to be compatible with net zero, it must achieve very high CO2 capture rates — well above 90% — and very low fugitive [methane] emissions rates, in the low fractions of a percent.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      The problem with this sort of argument is that investing in ‘better than nothing’ type infrastructure locks you into 20 to 30 year investment cycles. Once the physical plant is in place, its very expensive to replace. This is why the whole argument over natural gas as a ‘transition fuel’ which was so popular 20-30 years ago was so very misguided. It created a vast infrastructure and apparatus that keeps coming up with further justifications for its existence.

      If we lock ourselves into another cycle of ‘fossil fuel, but with storage’, we are screwed, because these are hugely expensive and will displace the type of investment needed to drive down the cost of the alternatives. We need to stop all investments in anything that facilitates fossil fuel use, and we need to do it now. And we need massive investment in the alternatives, which are now economically viable, and have proven to be so. There is, quite literally, no alternative that makes any sense.

      1. Keith McClary

        Three days ago:
        WTO members to target fossil fuel subsidies, plastic

        “The European Union and Britain, but none of the other principal global polluters, were among 45 signatories to a WTO ministerial statement pledging to ‘seek the rationalisation and phase out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies’.

        US climate envoy John Kerry said last month that trillions of dollars had been spent on subsidising fossil fuels in recent years, labelling the practice ‘the definition of insanity’.

        The WTO statement said ending the subsidies — which can be tax breaks or payments for companies, or measures that cut fuel prices for consumers — would ‘effectively contribute’ to efforts to keep increases in the global temperature below two degrees Celsius.”

        So, does subsidizing blue FF technology count as a FF subsidy?

    2. LowellHighlander

      Regarding this statement:

      “I simply cannot see sufficient quantities of green hydrogen being produced fast enough and with low enough environmental impacts to meet demand.”

      Economics is supposed to be a social science – a systematic study of how people relate to one another [regarding who gets what, and how]. With respect to meeting demand, we can start talking demand management [i.e. conservation]. Remember the marginal cost curve? What if every consumer felt that curve in their consumption [i.e. their electric bills]? Surely we could, from using census data and other statistics, figure out how many people live in each household. Then, we could build a realistic marginal cost [i.e. pricing] curve for that household: the more they use, the more they would have to pay per unit of electricity.

      Such a scheme could be mitigated by borrowing from the old pricing patterns that the long-distance phone companies used to use: your phone rates for long-distance calls went down after 5:00 PM, and then again [i.e. even further] after 11:00 PM. Surely, washing machines and dryers could be programmed to kick in when aggregate demand, and thus the price per unit, was lowest.

      For once, neo-classical economics might have something interesting to say. Are any such economists saying it?

  3. Arizona Slim

    From my superficial understanding of chemistry, I know that hydrogen is an emotionally needy element. It forms strong bonds with anything it combines with. Severing those bonds takes a lot of energy.

    Sorry, but I see a net negative energy gain here.

    1. Steven

      Like gasoline, hydrogen is an energy carrier not an energy source. If electricity could be used directly to, for example, produce steel, I would have no problem with your argument. Here in the great sunshine state of Arizona we get enough solar energy we could afford a little inefficiency – if only we could get the state’s either stupid or corrupt politicians out of the way.

          1. Arizona Slim

            My aunt saw the Hindenburg a few minutes before it met its fiery end. The father of one of her classmates worked for the company that was handling the landing in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

            My aunt and her classmates went outside to watch it fly by their school. They didn’t hear the rest of the story until they got home from school.

          2. Michael McK

            My understanding is that the Hindenburg fire was caused by the aluminumized fabric skin of the craft which burned, igniting the hydrogen as it escaped.
            Fun blimp fact of the day- One of the biggest movers and shakers in the modern blimp industry (it’s making a comeback) is Bruce Dickinson, lead singer for heavy metal super-group Iron Maiden. He owns a small airport and founded Cardiff Aviation which is building the world’s largest blimp. He flies the band around on tour in their 747.

  4. Pate

    “the European think tank Agora Energiewende predicts that since hydrogen is unlikely to replace methane as a home heating fuel, the gas distribution industry should prepare for a “disruptive end to their business model.””

    Should that read “likely”?

    1. Zamfir

      No, they really mean “unlikely”.

      There are plans floating around to replace methane by hydrogen, almost one-on-one. In this vision, blue or green hydrogen would be mixed into the natural gas supply in ever larger quantities, and eventually the same gas grid would run just like today, except on hydrogen instead of methane. Technically, this has some challenges but it is possible.

      As you can imagine, this looks promising for gas distributors (who would stay in business), and even for nat gas sellers who would bet on the “blue hydrogen” version. The latter would be centralised CCS, effectively. One big plant could turn methane into hydrogen and store the resulting co2, them the hydrogen could be burned on many places that could not do CCS on their own

      But as the Agora people point out, this would be very inefficient for low temperature heating, and it’s hard to conceive how it could compete with electricity-driven heat pumps. There are some areas where hydrogen makes sense, but household heating seems unlikely.

      So people selling this vision are either very optimistic about it, or they are cynically using the vision to extent the status quo.

  5. solarjay

    Let me see if I have this right.
    We cannot now or ever figure out how to remove carbon from air, so we should just give up? Even though there are working plants around the world? Iceland comes to mind first. Yes efficiency needs to improve and that is done with money and brains.
    Lets take LNG, they remove about 90% of the CO2 in the methane (NG) before they can compress and cool it. So they can do it.

    Now on to the hydrogen feed back loop. The fact that its the FF industry that is wanting this doesn’t make it bad, as we need hydrogen as one of the tools for energy storage. If you remove the CO2 from the methane and store or use it and then have hydrogen why is that bad? Its better than burning the methane like we do now.

    Uses for hydrogen. It can be mixed into NG pipelines at up to about 10% and to me every little bit helps.
    Lets talk class 8 hwy trucks ( but this also applies to all heavy equipment, farm equipment, etc). Hydrogen has about 8-14 times more energy than batteries per weight.

    These trucks are 80,000# gross weight in most states. To power one with batteries, lets use the new Rivian truck as example. It has a 105 kWh battery, and a range of about 300 miles empty. Someone just towed a trailer for combined weight of about 13,000# and the range dropped to about 100 miles. 80,000#/13,000#=6 times. 100 kwh battery weights about 1000# x 6 = 6000# for 100 miles. But truckers can’t stop every 100 miles, lets say its 400 miles, that is 6000# x 4= 24,000# of batteries. Vs about 2400# for hydrogen.
    Then you have the huge issue of how do you charge a 1.5-2 mWh battery? At 2 MW ( 2 million watts) that would still take about an hour. So you are going to have trucks at a fuel station taking an hour to fill up? Not to mention the pretty much impossible task of bringing in staggering amounts of electric grid to each station? Vs hydrogen which can fill about at the same rate as diesel, or say 10 minutes?

    Maybe someone will make a unbelievably energy dense, eco friendly, battery, but right now they don’t exist.

    So yes a giveaway to the FF industry but the hydrogen infrastructure can be used by all different types of hydrogen from Blue to Green.

    Hydrogen is just another energy storage medium that has specific advantages in specific but large applications over batteries.

    1. GF

      “Lets take LNG, they remove about 90% of the CO2 in the methane (NG) before they can compress and cool it. So they can do it.”

      Where does the CO2 go? It’s not being captured. LGN is one of the biggest most expensive scams currently coming from the FF industry.

    2. BlakeFelix

      Ya, but hydrogen is just about as bad as batteries for running trucks on. Biofuels are the truck/plane solution IMO, and they have little to do with blue or green hydrogen.

  6. Michael

    My rooftop solar system operates within a 20-30 year cycle. Going on 8 years old, it has been constantly under attack by California’s Public Utilities regulator, pushed by the 3 largest energy companies. The latest angle is to charge an outrageous monthly fee to new solar customers and decrease the rate paid for excess energy sold back to the system by 80% for all existing customers.

    Will solar systems become a liability for homeowners instead of an asset?

    “”Blue Hydrogen as Gas Industry Lifeline””
    This LifeLine should be expanded to include all users of Natgas.

    I could cap off my gas line at the street this morning. Go to Walmart and buy space heaters for every room. Go to Home Depot and buy an electric stove. Switch out my water heater for an “instant” on electric version.
    Live without AC to keep all my new electric energy use from driving my bill to the stratosphere due to time of use rules and tiered rates. Will this downgrade affect my property values?

    But all of the associated infrastructure req’s would be very costly not to mention the abandonment of my sunk costs in existing technology. Maybe a govt subsidy for the 80M homeowners in the US? At $10,000 per home that would be $800 B! Over 20 years with no inflation (hah!) its only $40 B per year.

    I mean anything under $1T these days is a bargain. Think of the jawbs!

  7. whiterab

    Reminds me a lot of the “greening” of gasoline by using Ethanol. Looks really good until you look at the full supply chain. Distilling alcohol took more energy than you recovered in your car.

    The second law of thermodynamics still rules. Making hydrogen from either solar or wind power is just a wasted step in the supply chain.

    By the way, if you spend the time to draw out the supply chain for yourself, don’t forget to look at the cost of transporting and storing hydrogen, It is really an interesting problem.

    1. Zamfir

      I’d sya there are two areas where hydrogen is not a wasted extra step. The first area are industrial processes that use or could use hydrogen as chemical input. Some of those already use hydrogen today and could switch to green hydrogen. Others, like steel and fertilizers, can use hydrogen as replacement for fossil fuels.

      The second area is long-term storage, needed at high amounts of intermittent renewable electricity. Winter at high lattitudes, or weeks with little wind, those are situations where the “wasted step” could actually be worth it.

      The two areas combine to some extent. If you store hydrogen in summer, you don’t have to turn all of it to electricity in winter. If industry runs from the hydrogen storage, this will already reduce the load on the grid in periods of low electricity production.

      WIth those areas as backbone of a hydrogen system, some other areas might piggyback on that. Some forms of long-distance transportation. Industrial high-temperature heat. Perhaps only in winter or at night, while running on electric heat when the PV panels are happy.

  8. Rod

    LowellHighlander says this(Dared to even write that which obviously should never be said outloud):

    With respect to meeting demand, we can start talking demand management [i.e. conservation].

    Our lifestyles reek of rampant overconsumption of everything in the vain effort of not changing anything Capitalism relies upon to Capitalise. Conservation requires the realization that this needs to end.

    In my simple opinion, this change is technically a lot easier than Blue Hydro, or massive Carbon capture machines–but not personally or politcally.

    grasping this makes a future possible

      1. Susan the other

        Thanks, that bbc link was very encouraging: Recycling can reduce carbon emissions by 2/3 while providing new jobs. Not the broad scale extraction/refining designed for the highest profits, but small scale recycling and reuse designed to recapture all sorts of stuff, conserve the use of energy, and provide many more jobs. As Forbes magazine famously said many decades ago, “There’s cash in all that trash.” If that cash can be successfully translated into profits we are all in business because the system itself recycles profits, or rather – it used to; now it just extracts at an ever-increasing pace. Because neoliberalism has demanded huge profits, which in turn demand ever bigger profits. But, really, when done rationally, what better example do we have of the benefits of recycling than an actual functioning economy?

  9. tegnost

    As the infra bill has been watered down to be primarily if not completely corporate giveaways and enforcement mechanisms for social control it would best for the dems, as well as the rest of us, to scrap it. If one were bored one could search through the bill for wetlands restoration. I can’t guarantee, but I’m pretty sure there’s zero dollars for that (can’t trample on private property rights after all…what if it led to restrictions on pollution by big ag, among many other things? Can’t have that…pop tarts have to be made out of really cheap ingredients after all). The millions for dams look to be mostly for upgrading hydro to benefit data centers, but I will be happy to be corrected on that, the bill is a morass. Just pass the child tax credit if that’s all there is, and toss the rest. No, I don’t actually think they will take that route. Let’s crash this thing seems to be the order of the day.

    1. Susan the other

      This makes it clear why Joe Manchin is so bent. If the profits aren’t there for coal, oil and natgas the old system cannot function. Tossing Joe some scraps to work on mixing gray hydrogen with blue hydrogen and eventually replacing it (if possible) with green hydrogen sounds like Joe’s lifeboat. Or yacht. So naturally he is going to deny the Child Tax Credit – like a desperate kidnapper – just to secure his own position for a while longer. The only reason we have to cajole him is that he does have a point that distribution thru the old pipelines is currently a functioning system and we could use it.

      1. JTMcPhee

        And we mopes are supposed to trust those old pipelines, with extensive experience of failures just transporting the current mix of nat gas and liquids/slurries, to somehow “safely” move hydrogen around without, you know, blowing up neighborhoods and such? Gonna add some kind of complex chemical odorants so us mopes have a prayer of sensing when the old pipes in our homes, hospitals and businesses are pissing H2, which has this nasty tendency because the molecules are so small they can seep through the minutest little cracks and joints and even welds?

        Of course those are just technical issues, easily addressed by our tech masters who don’t know shit about plumbing…

        Conservation ought to be up front, but I’m reading John le Carre’s “Absolute Friends,” notably pages 320 to 335. In which one of his characters, a grandiose working-class squillionaire, lays out in absolutely sharp detail just how screwed the human occupation and desecration of the planet is under the current corporate-consumptive management. All, of course, informed by le Carre’s long submersion in the realities behind the curtains, iron and rayon… don’t see much chance for mopes to waken in their caves and dispel the shadows and turn their mostly hardscrabble lives into some beatific Walden-life.

        Of course there are little bands of mopes who are able, like amfortas, to live that other kind of life, and even do a little bit of surreptitious undermining of the Dominant Narrative of Consumption and Growth (which of course is the life drive of metastatic and aggressive cancers…)

        Gotta keep trying, though, don’t we? “For the children, if nothing else…”

  10. Dave in Austin

    We are very early in the Long March to eliminate CO-2 and replace carbon-based fuels with energy from recyclables (now wind, wave and solar, but who knows about the future). And we will probably need that energy converted into dense, portable fuels.

    We are roughly where we were when the first 1890s Mercedes Benzes hit the road using kerosene, one of the first liquids derived from fossil carbon. We simply don’t know the basic economics or physical characteristics of the coming energy revolution.

    Will solar voltaic go from 20% to 60% efficiencies in 40 years? Gas turbines did that and went from inefficient ground-based airplane engines with a 20% energy conversion rate to the present 60% combined cycle engines. Will the present low energy conversion rate for breaking water into O2 and H improve and suddenly allow Hydrogen to become a winner? Will the imperfect natural gas-to-H systems we have today allow us to test Hydrogen distribution and storage system to see if they are at all feasible and if it is possible to create workable Hydrogen infrastructure during a 30 year period, like we did with gasoline and coal?

    We just don’t know. But we do know that when we take the millions of monkeys at typewriters trying to write great literature and give them money to go to grad school and play around with test tubes, a few of the monkeys will turn up interesting results. I could give 50 interesting results from the last 150 years when Banzai charges by the scientific monkey divisions broke through “impossible” barriers and gave us everything from nitrogen fertilizer derived from air to little tweezers that can spell “IBM” using individual atoms.

    I haven’t read the Biden Hydrogen bill (has anybody?) but such apparently wasteful boondoggles have a habit of occasionally changing history.

  11. ChrisRUEcon

    Thanks as always for posts like these. I was on an unrelated goose chase when I came across this:

    Fossil Fuels Received $5.9 Trillion In Subsidies in 2020, Report Finds (via Yale School Of The Environment)

    Bundles together coal and natural gas, but interesting that trillions is the level of the subsidies. Man, these people can’t lose … ever.

    Interesting note from the final paragraph:

    “Some countries are reluctant to raise energy prices because they think it will harm the poor. But holding down fossil fuel prices is a highly inefficient way to help the poor, because most of the benefits accrue to wealthier households. It would be better to target resources towards helping poor and vulnerable people directly.”

    Sounds like he’s got a point at first glance, but almost same-same by my reckoning. Subsidize the cost or subsidize the end consumer so they can pay an unsubsidized cost. The “almost” is important if one asserts that not all end consumers will be subsidized in a direct-to-the-poor paradigm.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      The full metal Hansen Plan would also be a way to subsidize the poors until the Coal and Oil industries have been replaced by something else.

      It could work if America builds a Big Beautiful Wall of Watertight-Airtight Protectionism against our carbon-dumping trading enemies.

  12. Alice X

    H20 – we have lots of hydrogen, but getting to it? Try going to Jupiter for free hydrogen, scoop it up there. /s

  13. drumlin woodchuckles

    Well . . . Coaly Joe Manchin has announced he will vote against BBB ( Build Back Bitter). So this gives the DemProg Caucus in the House another chance to vote unanimously against TIB ( The Infrastructure Bill) and cancel Gas and Oil’s big win.

    They can keep voting down TIB in the House until the Senate passes BBB ( the original BBB 1.0 at 3.3 trillion dollars or whatever it was). And if the Senate won’t ever pass Original BBB, then the DemProgs can make sure that TIB never passes either . . . unless the Joemanchin Administration can get enough House Republicans to vote for it to make up for every member of the DemProg Caucus.

    This is their moment . . . to show what they stand for and what they are made of . . . one way or the other. Will they work against the System from within the System? We’ll find out.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Well, I may be misinformed. I gather TIB already got passed and signed, so the DemProgs did indeed miss the only chance they had to establish their credibility. They won’t ever get another of such powerful effect.

      Maybe they can spend the next year and a half voting against every bill Coaly Joe votes for just on general principles. Since Coaly Joe won’t ever vote for a Voting Rights Protection/Restoration Act, they won’t be putting themselves in any bad binds.

Comments are closed.