Biden is giving $7 billion to “clean hydrogen” centers across the country to help replace fossil fuels

The Biden administration has selected clean energy projects in seven states from Pennsylvania to California for a $7 billion program to jump-start the development and production of hydrogen fuel, a key component of President Joe Biden’s agenda to slow climate change.

Its goal is to create seven regional “hydrogen hubs” to help replace fossil fuels such as coal and oil with clean hydrogen as a power source for vehicles, manufacturing and electricity generation.

Biden is expected to make the official announcement during an economic visit to Philadelphia on Friday.

The White House describes clean hydrogen as “essential to achieving the President’s vision of a strong clean energy economy” and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero in the United States by 2050.

“As a clean fuel, hydrogen complements the role played by other clean energy sources, such as wind and solar, to help the United States reduce emissions in energy-intensive sectors of the economy: steel and cement production, heavy transportation, and shipping,” the White House said in a statement.

The White House said the seven centers selected by the administration will spur more than $40 billion in private investment and create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, including many high-paying union jobs.

There were 23 finalists for the hydrogen fuel program. The selected projects are located in California, Washington, Minnesota, Texas, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Illinois.

The infrastructure bill Biden signed in 2021 includes billions of dollars to develop so-called clean hydrogen, a technology that industry and clean energy advocates have long pushed as a way to reduce emissions of global-warming greenhouse gases produced by fossil fuels.

Some environmentalists describe hydrogen as a false solution because it often relies on natural gas or other fossil fuels as feedstock.

Energy companies say fossil fuels could be used as feedstock if projects capture the carbon dioxide produced and keep it out of the atmosphere, a technology that has not yet been produced on a commercial scale.

States and companies are competing for federal dollars in the new Energy Department program, which will create regional networks of hydrogen producers and consumers and infrastructure. The intention is to speed up the process of saving and using the colorless and odorless gas that is already used in operating some vehicles and trains.

Among those selected were the Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Center, based in West Virginia, and the Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Center, based in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania, a state of utmost importance to the Democratic president in next year’s elections, is expected to benefit from both projects.

Biden has made Philadelphia a regular stop for both official events and campaigning, and partners in the proposed Philadelphia-area center have labor unions that are major backers of Biden. The West Virginia-based center houses major Pittsburgh natural gas companies active in the region’s prolific Marcellus Shale reservoir, including the parent company of the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline operator in West Virginia and Virginia.

The $6.6 billion project to transport natural gas through Appalachia has the support of Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, who was a key vote for sweeping legislation passed last year that included major investments in climate programs. Opponents say the pipeline would emit as much climate pollution as 23 coal-fired power plants and would erode forestland along its 303-mile path.

The center also includes a $1.6 billion facility under construction in northern Pennsylvania that will produce near-zero hydrogen emissions from natural gas.

“This is a very big deal for … Appalachia in particular, because these facilities are all located in areas where coal used to be king,” said Perry Babb, president of KeyState, the owner and developer of the Pennsylvania site.

Partners at the Appalachian center say they can produce hydrogen from methane using heat, steam and pressure while capturing the carbon dioxide it would generate.

The Mid-Atlantic Center is supported by the states of Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Officials say the goal is to be as climate-friendly as possible by producing hydrogen through electrolysis, splitting water molecules using renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, as well as nuclear power.

Other projects selected include the California Clean and Renewable Hydrogen Energy Systems Alliance, which will produce hydrogen from renewable energy and biomass. The project aims to provide a blueprint for decarbonizing public transportation, heavy trucking and port operations – the state’s major emissions drivers and major sources of air pollution.

The Gulf Coast hydrogen hub will be based in Houston, the energy capital of the United States for a long time. The center plans to produce hydrogen on a large scale from natural gas and renewable energy sources.

The Heartland Center, based in Minnesota, seeks to decarbonize fertilizers used in agriculture and promote the use of clean hydrogen for electricity generation and space heating in cold climates. It also plans to offer equity ownership to tribal communities and local farmers.

The Midwest hub in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan will use hydrogen in steel and glass production, power generation, heavy transportation and sustainable aviation fuel. The center plans to use renewable energy, natural gas and nuclear energy.

The Pacific Northwest Center, based in eastern Washington, will use hydropower and other renewable resources to produce clean hydrogen.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called the center “great news for the Pacific Northwest,” adding that it will create thousands of jobs and “ensure that Washington plays a leading role in growing the green hydrogen economy.”

Nearly every state has joined at least one proposed center, and many are working together, hoping to reap the economic development and thousands of jobs they would bring. Major fossil fuel companies, renewable energy developers, and researchers at universities and government laboratories are also participating.

Environmental groups dispute this, arguing that although hydrogen is a clean-burning energy source, it requires a significant amount of energy to produce. When electricity is made from coal or natural gas, it has a larger carbon footprint than simply burning the source fuel.

“Hydrogen is another taste of an administration that continues to break its promises to aggressively address climate change and help communities make a just and equitable transition to renewable energy,” said Silas Grant, an activist with the environmental group Center for Biological Research. diversity.

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