It’s all about the colors of hydrogen … again

I could be wrong, of course. But I feel like more and more members of the hydrogen community have had enough of people constantly talking about their favorite colors. During the past several months, we’ve seen debate after debate about the pros and cons of green, blue and turquoise hydrogen. First in Germany, now in Brussels.

Other variants don’t get nearly as much attention. That shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, there’s still disagreement about whether nuclear-sourced hydrogen is red or pink. Orange, on the other hand, indicates production from biogenic sources, gray from steam-reformed natural gas. White is the color for hydrogen seeping naturally from the ground. For the moment, however, none of them is generating as much press, or controversy, as the blue variant.

Don’t get me wrong. I may be annoyed by what’s going on at the moment. But I strongly believe we should examine and thoroughly discuss every production pathway we have at our disposal. In fact, I would welcome a closer look at biogenic hydrogen, for example.

What vexes me, though, is the eagerness of some to turn the debate about the blue variant into an ideological tussle. Representatives for natural gas companies in particular have begun to use many of the online events to ask all kinds of supposed experts, from industry stakeholders to the Norwegian ambassador, about their thoughts on blue hydrogen. And then watch them extol its virtues and praise the alleged safety of carbon capture and storage technology.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from decades of interacting with – or, should I say, having to deal with – large interest groups, it’s that industry-backed information events and studies won’t give you the whole picture. We know now that it wasn’t just tobacco firms and automakers, or nuclear and coal lobbyists, that started expensive PR campaigns – and sometimes presented false evidence – to whitewash their sectors’ image and prevent social change. Oil corporations and electricity providers did that too.

Maybe it’s unfair to point to these bad experiences and paint another group of companies with the same broad and ugly brush. But it doesn’t look to me as if the gas industry is encouraging an open and honest debate.

The simple fact is that the German government has made its choice of color abundantly clear. Green hydrogen is the only variant, aside from orange maybe, that will receive public funding. If companies want to use blue or turquoise hydrogen, no one will be standing in their way. They just won’t be getting money from the government for when they do. It’s a stance that leaves little room for interpretation.

And yet, gas associations are launching essentially one weeks-long information campaign after another, each focused on blue hydrogen. Are companies in the industry really so cash-strapped that they need ordinary citizens to fund their ventures? Are we seriously considering dumping the tax revenues from small businesses and retirees in Germany into the construction of natural gas caverns in Scandinavia?

… Read more in the latest H2-International e-Journal, Aug 2021

Leave a Reply