Should we be hating on green hydrogen?

It’s clear that for us to really see the benefits of a hydrogen economy, we’re going to need to be using renewable sources of energy to create the hydrogen.

However, one of the things I’ve been grappling with is the idea that we should be hating on “blue” hydrogen (i.e. hydrogen created from fossil fuels). There’s definitely a case to be made that blue hydrogen will just prolong us putting hydrocarbons into the atmosphere and promises of the carbon capture promises are probably overblown.

Personally, I like following Justin Mikulka because I think he does a great job regularly making this case.

However, if I had to make the case for advocating for the continued production of green hydrogen, it’s be because of these two factors:

  • Increase Demand. A hydrogen economy is going to need incredibly investments on both the supply and demand side of the equations. If we can get the price of hydrogen down, even if that means some of it is created from more polluting resources, then we’re way more likely to see interesting products developed, such as commercial trucks, airplanes, cars, etc.
  • Global Persuasion. The oil companies have incredible power in our global politics, so it’d be best to have them promoting a hydrogen economy rather than fighting it. There’s a case to be made, for example, that the substantial climate initiatives that came from the Inflation Reduction Act were only possible by getting at least some of the coal and oil execs on board with the short-term benefits.

Or put another way,

“It’d be better to have the Big Energy in the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.”

It reminds me of the idea of how McDonald’s reinterred how chickens are treated when they moved towards a goal of only buying cage-free eggs. It’s one thing when individual consumers try to do the right thing, but it came make a real impact with the major players in an industry decide to join the conversation.

In other words, what if the long-term strategy is to build up our hydrogen infrastructure using both green and blue hydrogen in the short-run with the idea that we want to dramatically increase supply by proving relatively cheap energy that at least has the huge potential to be “green.” Then, once that industry is well established, we’ll be able to tighten the screws down the road to make sure more green hydrogen is produced.

Maybe I’m a bit jaded at this point, but I have a hard time seeing how we reengineer the our energy economy unless we bring big oil on board.

By the way, I’m not writing this argument because I’m convinced, but rather because I think it’s a really interesting question. If you’re game to make the case for saying “screw it” to all green hydrogen projects, I’ve love to hear it.

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