Department of Energy Advances Billions of Dollars for Hydrogen Projects While Questions Around Transparency, Pollution, Climate Efficacy Remain

Statement by Julie McNamara, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Oct 13, 2023

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Today the Department of Energy (DOE) announced the first round of awardees for the Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs (“H2Hubs”) program, a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar initiative passed as part of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, hydrogen can valuably contribute to the clean energy transition, but only if it is produced and used in ways that are truly climate-aligned. If not, hydrogen risks increasing environmental- and health-harming pollution, abetting corporate greenwashing, and stalling clean energy progress.

Below is a statement by Julie McNamara, the deputy policy director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Given the magnitude of investment, ambition, and geographic reach of the H2Hubs program, the federal government holds enormous sway over the future direction of the hydrogen industry—with serious implications for climate, health, and justice on the line.

“Concerningly, today’s H2Hubs announcement advances multiple projects premised on fossil fuel-based hydrogen production and risky hydrogen end uses. Billions of taxpayer dollars are at risk of perpetuating fossil fuel industry injustices and harms while subsidizing fossil fuel greenwashing. This is an untenable point of focus for funds intended to spur the buildout of our clean energy future.

“Today’s announcement also sets in stark relief the significance of upcoming administration decisions around implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act's hydrogen production tax credit, which could be a bulwark against heavily polluting hydrogen—or a backdoor subsidizing it.

“The Department of Energy and the Biden Administration now must set rigorous implementation, evaluation, and engagement criteria to ensure the development of a hydrogen industry that is unequivocally aligned with our climate objectives and that serves our collective goal to secure a safe, clean, just, and healthy future for all.

“As the H2Hubs program moves forward, the administration must correct for the persistent lack of transparency that has clouded the program to date, severely hindering public engagement and undermining project accountability. This must change.”