By Dana Drugmand
When President Joe Biden visited Philadelphia in mid-October to announce a $7 billion federal investment in seven regional ‘clean’ hydrogen hubs proposed across the country, he touted the promise of “tens of thousands of jobs” and the potential for sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to “taking 5.5 million gas-powered vehicles off the road.”
But for many climate and environmental advocates, the announcement was no cause for celebration. Though proponents of hydrogen pitch it as a clean alternative to fossil fuels, nearly all hydrogen production globally currently stems from these planet-warming fuels, and environmental advocates worry that a massive hydrogen buildout risks extending the fossil fuel era at a time when climate science demands an urgent transition away from coal, oil, and gas.
The hydrogen hubs “amount to another corporate scam”, Marion Gee, co-executive director at the Climate Justice Alliance, said at the time of Biden’s announcement, while Food and Water Watch Policy Director Jim Walsh called the project “greenwashed dirty energy [that] will undermine efforts to address the climate crisis.”
Now, some activist coalitions are challenging the government narrative and organizing efforts to block some hub buildouts. They cite a lack of transparency and the potential for negative environmental impacts among a laundry list of concerns.
“It’s really a misappropriation of funds, of our taxpayer funds, to go down this hydrogen path,” said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, a regional environmental group focused on protecting the quality of the Delaware River watershed. “We’re going to be fighting it, and I think the public as a whole is going to be fighting these hydrogen hubs across the nation.”
The group is coordinating a sign-on letter to the US Department of Energy (DOE) expressing “grave concern” with a proposed hydrogen hub for the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The letter asserts that the government hub project amount to a “little known federal initiative that will have indelible impacts on our communities and the environment.”