Advocates tout “clean energy” from the hydrogen hub, but environmental groups call it “malarkey.”

President Joe Biden’s administration sees a series of hydrogen centers across the country as building blocks in the country’s transition to clean energy.

West Virginia Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito believe that the hydrogen hub coming to Appalachia will provide jobs that will utilize the region’s natural gas wealth while reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Gov. Jim Justice is excited about the project but added a caveat that this doesn’t mean West Virginia is turning its back on fossil fuels.

Environmentalists warn that the natural gas that would be burned to produce hydrogen would still result in significant emissions and that carbon capture technology intended to store byproduct emissions underground is largely untested on that kind of scale.

That’s the case for a major $925 million federal grant announced to start a hydrogen hub project in West Virginia and parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The project in Appalachia, which will extend to several West Virginia communities, aims to take advantage of the region’s vast supplies of natural gas. Natural gas will be used as a raw material in hydrogen production. The project will rely on carbon capture and sequestration to produce clean hydrogen.

May honey

However, it is not particularly accurate to describe such a project as “clean,” said Honey May, a Sierra Club campaign representative in West Virginia.

“The concerns are that this is a hydrogen hub based on gas, which is still a fossil fuel, and that you have all the risks and problems associated with relying on fossil fuels — the emissions, the methane leaks, the health impacts; people will continue to suffer from asthma and lung damage and the things we see with emissions.” Fossil fuels, this is not getting us where we need to be.”

The focus on natural gas is specific to the Appalachian Center. Others around the country are organized differently. For example, a California-based project will produce hydrogen exclusively from renewable energy and biomass and aims to decarbonize public transportation, heavy trucking and port operations.

The center proposed by a coalition of Midwestern nations would be powered in part by nuclear power to provide hydrogen for uses including steel and glass production.

The Appalachian Center will have underground carbon dioxide storage as a key component of dealing with emissions.

Earlier this year, several West Virginia-based groups expressed deep concern about the state’s efforts to gain more authority over regulation governing the use of injection wells that would be key to underground carbon dioxide storage, “a critical element.” In the state’s plans to rely on fossil fuels hydrogen center.”

“This has not been proven, and it is expensive,” May said. “It is not a solution that prioritizes the communities it serves.”

Some national environmental organizations have expressed similar concerns. The National Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis has described the risk of worsening global warming by encouraging the construction of projects that would release millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere for decades.

“The pursuit of this technology wastes valuable time and diverts attention from investing in more effective measures to combat global warming such as wind, solar, battery storage and energy efficiency resources,” said David Schlissel, director of resource planning analysis at the institute.

Joe Manchin

Senate Energy Chairman Joe Manchin, R-West Virginia, expressed excitement about the Appalachian hub, saying it is a bridge to cleaner energy.

“I’ll tell you how I think it’s going to be used first is to help reduce emissions because it’s a powerful fuel,” Manchin said on MetroNews’ “Talkline.” “It’s a powerful fuel. It will help burn so clean that it eliminates emissions (compared to) relying solely on coal or natural gas. There are many uses for this, and now that they know they have a steady stream of production, they can be blended into the power package.”

“So I say we have to be in technology: you can innovate your way to a cleaner environment, but you can’t get rid of it. You can’t say no more coal, no more oil, no more gas, you can’t do that. No This can be done and run this country.So we supplement through innovation and technology.

Shelley Moore Capito

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, D-West Virginia, also described the project as a path to cleaner fuels.

“Well, you know, there’s a lot of talk about using hydrogen as a bridge to a cleaner, greener one, as a bridge to the future kind of fuel — and you can make it from natural gas, you can make it from water and all kinds of it,” said Capito, the ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “It’s other things, but it’s not fully developed.”

“We’ll be using natural gas, so we can use our own energy sources, but it’s really taking us to the energies of the future. That’s what’s exciting about this.”

Capito acknowledged that environmental groups will oppose the way natural gas is processed and stored.

“There are always environmental objections,” Capito said, saying that accompanying regulations and permits will be important to ensure hydrogen projects go ahead.

“But they would object to using natural gas. But gosh, I think what we know and what we see globally, if we don’t use natural gas and coal to get us to the next bridge and use it to make our next bridge, we’ll never be able to get it there with the windmills and solar panels.”

Jim Justice

Republican Gov. Jim Justice said he was excited about the hydrogen project, but made explicit pledges that West Virginia would not turn its back on fossil fuels.

We’ve been an energy state forever. “We want to embrace all different forms of energy, all different alternatives,” Justice said at a news conference. “But at the same time, we will never forget our coal miners or our gas workers, and we will be really proud of our fossil fuels.”

President Joe Biden (

President Biden, who appeared in Philadelphia’s announcement of hydrogen hub projects, described his vision for dramatically reducing emissions. But although Biden said wind and solar could help, he stressed that heavy manufacturing still requires traditional fuel sources.

“Clean hydrogen will help us achieve this goal. When it comes to charging our cars or powering our homes, all we need is clean electricity from solar and wind. That’s a good thing, and we’re doing that,” said Biden, a Democrat.

“But when it comes to manufacturing things like steel, aluminum and other materials, factories need to process materials at temperatures over 1,000 degrees F. You need to burn fuel to get that done.

“You can’t do this with wind and solar,” Biden continued. You can’t generate that much power. This is where hydrogen comes into play. Hydrogen could power industries such as steel and aluminum production, and will eventually change our transportation system, such as trucks, rail and trains.

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