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Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

The Green New Deal: From Below or from Above?

California’s Oil Country Hopes Carbon Management Will Provide Jobs. It May Be Disappointed

By Emma Foehringer Merchant and Joshua Yeager - Inside Climate News, February 21, 2024

On a recent Tuesday evening, several oil workers in Kern County, California, spoke out in support of a project that they hope will create much-needed jobs.

“What I’m hoping to get out of this is hope for my grandson’s generation,” said Allen Miller, a third-generation oilman who came to work in the petroleum-rich region in 1984. “That they can provide for their family the way my grandpa did and the way I did.”

The audience applauded Miller’s comments during a crowded public meeting in Taft, a city of about 8,500, in the heart of the state’s oil country. 

The proposed project, known as Carbon TerraVault 1, would store millions of tons of planet-warming carbon a mile beneath the nearby Elk Hills Oil Field. Oil production in that field and others nearby has sustained the county’s economy for over a century. 

“This is our oil field,” said Manny Campos, a longtime Taft resident and businessman. “I’m glad to see we are being intentional about keeping it that way and keeping the benefits local.”

Some environmental advocates are skeptical of the carbon removal industry — and its ability to create a significant number of jobs — but California policymakers view carbon removal and storage as a necessary tool to manage greenhouse gas emissions. 

The fledgling technology is a key part of the state’s plan to fight climate change, which also includes phasing out oil drilling by 2045. The county and California Resources Corporation (CRC), the oil company hoping to build the TerraVault, see carbon management as a vital new revenue stream. Kern County stands to lose thousands of jobs and millions in tax dollars as drilling declines 

But carbon storage facilities themselves are not currently projected to generate large numbers of jobs, according to a report prepared for the county. Kern’s own analysis shows the initial phase of the TerraVault project will only produce five permanent positions.

Pennsylvania Senate Hydrogen Hub Testimony Illuminates Cost, Viability Concerns; Risk of Wasted Taxpayer Dollars

By staff - Ohio River Valley Institute, December 4, 2023

Financial and regulatory support for the gas-based ARCH2 Appalachian Hydrogen Hub risks reduced economic growth, fewer jobs, and higher utility bills, taxes, and prices for Pennsylvanians, according to testimony delivered today at the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Policy Committee’s hearing on hydrogen infrastructure by Ohio River Valley Institute Senior Researcher Sean O’Leary.

Hydrogen and companion carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology are exorbitantly expensive and relatively ineffective means of decarbonization, research shows, and undue state support for their development may result in stranded assets, wasted public funds, and minimal economic and job growth.

“For these reasons, the greatest risk facing you as Pennsylvania policymakers isn’t that you may provide too little support for the state’s hydrogen hubs but rather that you may provide too much,” O’Leary explained to the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Policy Committee. “That is why we at the Ohio River Valley Institute hope members of this committee will help temper financial and regulatory support for the hubs to reflect their actual value and costs. We hope that members will work to ensure that state assistance is limited to the small number of projects and specific applications in which hydrogen is either the most cost-effective or only means of decarbonization. And we hope that, when hydrogen is used, it will be hydrogen made from water and not natural gas, which is both polluting and economically counterproductive.”

The Clean Energy Pathway for Southwestern Pennsylvania describes how concerted investment in energy efficiency and distributed renewable generation in the ten counties surrounding Pittsburgh would cut power sector carbon emissions by 92% by 2035, all at a total cost 13% less than decarbonization models reliant on natural gas and carbon capture. The Clean Energy Pathway would additionally support the creation of 12,416 jobs and yield annual environmental and health benefits of more than $2.5 billion by 2035 via efficiency expenditures and residential bill savings.

Download Testimony Here.

Will Federal Infrastructure Programs Promote or Undermine Climate Justice?

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, November 30, 2023

At a November Department of Energy panel on “Community Voices from the Ground” grassroots environmental justice advocates asked the Department to stop promoting large-scale polluting project in marginalized communities of color. John Beard, founder and director of the Port Arthur Community Action Network, said,

“DOE says it is committed to promoting environmental justice in all its activities. And yet, the agency continues to grant export authorizations to methane gas export terminals and explosive carbon bombs in low-income communities and communities of color.” 

 The environmental justice advocates asked DOE to stop investing in hydrogen hubs, carbon capture and sequestration technologies at refineries and utilities, and direct air carbon capture technology aimed at sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere, calling them all “dangerous distractions.” Beard said producing hydrogen requires large amounts of energy that will “worsen the effects of climate change while allowing big oil and gas to reap more profits while our children get sick, our air is polluted, and our safety is compromised.” 

 Simultaneously, at the White House Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said on a conference call with community groups and reporters that nearly 470 federal programs with billions of dollars in annual investment were being “reimagined and transformed to meet the Justice40 goal and maximize benefits to disadvantaged communities.”

La Via Campesina Boycotts COP28 in Solidarity with Palestine, Demanding Ceasefire Now! No Climate Justice without Human Rights!

By staff - La Via Campesina, November 20, 2023

HALT THE GENOCIDE! CEASEFIRE NOW!

(Bagnolet, November 20, 2023) In response to the unprecedented and genocidal war being waged on the people of Palestine, the international peasant movement that is La Via Campesina joins the growing call to boycott COP28. In solidarity with the peasants, fisherfolk and working families of Occupied Palestine, we stand united in our global demand that all people and governments act now to end Israel’s genocidal war on Palestinians, both in Gaza and the West Bank. A ceasefire is urgent – now!

While the Israeli government continues its war crimes in Gaza – bombing homes, hospitals, mosques and churches, massacring innocent civilians (including over 4,000 children) and leaving tens of thousands maimed, injured and traumatized – armed settlers backed by Occupation forces are waging their own war across the West Bank. As a Movement that struggles for the full realization of all rights for all peoples, we of La Vía Campesina cannot in good conscience participate in the UNFCCC climate negotiations while a textbook case of genocide is being waged on members of our community, their rights and sovereignty completely denied. There is no climate justice without human rights!

As we bear witness to this violence, we are especially concerned about the greenwashing of colonization and apartheid at this year’s COP28 in Dubai. Israel’s participation obscures the ongoing genocide and redirects global attention from the crimes it commits. The hypocrisy and abuse of many imperialist and polluting governments at COP28 is further revealed by the host government for the climate talks, the UAE, a major oil producer and human rights violator, and the COP Presidency – a billionaire oil executive! The corruption of the UNFCCC must end!

Our decision to boycott COP28 is also our ratification of a deep commitment to and solidarity with a global climate justice movement rooted in popular struggles for human rights and restored relations with Mother Earth. Towards this year’s COP, we dedicate our collective voice to demand an inmediate cease fire now! Palestinian rights are human rights!

Ignoring Climate Scientists and Environmental Justice Advocates, DOE Awards Billions to Fossil Fuel Hydrogen

By Abbe Ramanan - Linked In, October 30, 2023

On October 13th, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the recipients of the Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs (“H2Hubs”) funding. H2Hubs will award up to $7 billion to seven regional hydrogen hubs around the country. Disappointingly, more than half of the money from this massive federal investment will go towards Hubs producing hydrogen from fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage (CCS), also known as blue hydrogen. This massive investment ignores major concerns cited by climate scientists, environmental justice advocates, and clean energy experts.

One major concern identified by climate scientists is especially worrying: hydrogen gas leaked into the atmosphere is an indirect greenhouse gas that extends the lifetime of methane in the atmosphere, which means hydrogen has 35 times the climate warming impacts of CO2. A massive buildout of hydrogen infrastructure at this scale, without further research into how to safely and securely transport and store hydrogen, will almost certainly lead to significant short-term warming.

Although DOE has stated that each Hub’s projected benefits played a large role in determining awards, the H2Hubs process has suffered from a lack of transparency. Prospective awardees were not required to publish their proposals publicly, so while many of the Hubs promise community benefits, how these community benefits will be generated – and how those benefits will outweigh the potential harms of each Hub – remain opaque. DOE is hosting a series of local engagement opportunities for each Hub, which will hopefully provide opportunities to cut through the hype and learn more about what these projects will mean for the communities impacted.

While we don’t know much about these Hubs, what we do know suggests that most of these projects will do more harm than good:

Biden Funding for Hydrogen Hubs Threatens Communities, Exacerbates Climate Crisis

By Patrick Sullivan, Center for Biological Diversity; Karen Feridun, Better Path Coalition; Peter Hart, Food and Water Watch; Maya van Rossum, Delaware Riverkeeper Network - Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Facts, October 13, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Biden administration announced today that it will fund seven hydrogen hubs with $7 billion in taxpayer dollars to rapidly expand the production, transport, and use of hydrogen across the nation – sacrificing communities, worsening localized pollution and water crises, doubling down on national sacrifice zones, and perpetuating our reliance on fossil fuels. 

“Throwing billions at hydrogen hubs deepens our dependence on fossil fuels and worsens the climate emergency,” said Maggie Coulter, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “President Biden should be urgently investing in proven and increasingly affordable solar and wind energy. It’s wasteful and misguided to fund false solutions like hydrogen that only further burden frontline communities.”

The Department of Energy’s announcement to fund regional hydrogen hubs in the Mid-Atlantic, Appalachia, the Gulf Coast, California, the Midwest, the Dakotas/Minnesota, and the Pacific Northwest flies in the face of the numerous adverse impacts such hubs will have on communities. Billions of dollars in funding for the planned hydrogen buildout subjects already disproportionately adversely affected communities to more pollution and dangerous infrastructure.

“Today’s announcement is a pledge of allegiance to dirty energy by the Biden administration. It is at once a betrayal of environmental justice communities that have been suffering at the hands of the same polluting industries that will now benefit from this misappropriation of taxpayer dollars and of future generations who will suffer the climate chaos hydrogen hub development guarantees,” said Karen Feridun, Co-founder of the Better Path Coalition in Pennsylvania.

Earlier this year, over 180 regional and national climate, community and environmental groups urged the Department of Energy to reject the “hydrogen hype” and ditch funding to expand hydrogen-based technologies touted as climate solutions by the fossil fuel industry. In fact, the vast majority of hydrogen is generated from fossil fuels, and it itself is an indirect greenhouse gas. 

“The build out of massive hydrogen infrastructure is little more than an industry ploy to rebrand fracked gas. The Biden Administration has clearly fallen for this scam hook, line and sinker. This multi-billion dollar bet on greenwashed dirty energy will undermine efforts to address the climate crisis, while increasing pollution of our air and water, and milk taxpayers for billions in new fossil fuel subsidies,” said Jim Walsh, Policy Director of Food & Water Watch. 

“The avalanche of funding from the Infrastructure Law to create Hydrogen Hubs threatens to doom our national commitment to keep the earth from global climate catastrophe. Efforts to replace greenhouse gas emitting energy sources with renewable and truly clean energy will be undone by these subsidies to support methane and other polluting fuels that will make matters worse. Our government must stop investing in dirty energy and instead launch a full-on campaign for non-polluting renewables,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, leader of Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

Hydrogen production requires massive amounts of water; takes more energy to produce than it generates; is more likely to explode and burns hotter than conventional fossil fuels; and is more corrosive to pipelines – increasing threats in already overburdened communities, and extending our nation’s reliance on fossil fuels. 

“We need an ambitious transition away from dirty energy, not another taxpayer subsidy that enables Big Oil to repackage fossil fuels as so-called clean energy,” said Sarah Lutz, Climate Campaigner at Friends of the Earth US. “The Biden Administration should not be funding hydrogen infrastructure that will lock in decades more of dirty energy production in frontline communities already overburdened with pollution.”

Blue Hydrogen Webinar

Blue hydrogen: Not Clean, Not Low Carbon, Not a Solution

By David Schlissel and Anika Juhn - Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, September 12, 2023

Blue hydrogen hype has spread across the U.S., spurred by the billions of dollars of government funding and incentives included in the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The fossil fuel industry promises that blue hydrogen, produced from methane or coal, can be manufactured cleanly and contribute to climate change mitigation measures. As we demonstrate in this report, the reality is that blue hydrogen is neither clean nor low-carbon. In addition, pursuing it will waste substantial time that is in short supply and money that could be more wisely spent on other, more effective investments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the immediate future.

In short, fossil fuel-based “blue” hydrogen is a bad idea.

Blue hydrogen’s environmental benefits rest largely on the assumptions baked into a Department of Energy (DOE) model named GREET (Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy use in Transportation) that is the congressionally mandated evaluation tool for U.S. hydrogen projects. Due to a set of unrealistic and flawed assumptions, the model significantly understates the likely greenhouse gas intensity associated with blue hydrogen production.

Among the key shortcomings:

  • It assumes an upstream methane emission rate of just 1%. This is far less than recent peer-reviewed scientific analyses have found and what has been demonstrated by numerous airplane and satellite surveys.
  • It uses a 100-year Global Warming Potential (GWP). This significantly understates methane’s environmental impact in the short term, since its 20-year GWP is more than 80 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • It does not include any estimate (either over 20 or 100 years) for the global warming impact of hydrogen, which works to extend the lifetime of methane and increase its atmospheric abundance. Hydrogen also has a 20-year GWP more than 30 times that of CO2.
  • It does not include a full life cycle analysis (LCA) of all the emissions from the blue hydrogen production process. In particular, downstream emissions from the produced hydrogen and the generation of the electricity needed to compress, store and transport the hydrogen to the ultimate user(s) are excluded.
  • It includes overly optimistic assumptions about the effectiveness of carbon capture processes.

Using more realistic numbers shows blue hydrogen to be a dirty alternative. For example, if we change just two variables—using methane’s 20-year GWP and a more realistic 2.5% methane emission rate—the carbon intensity of blue hydrogen calculated by GREET jumps to between 10.5 and 11.4 kilograms of CO2e/kgH2 (kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents emitted per kilogram of hydrogen). This is between two and three times the 4.0 kg CO2e/kg hydrogen Clean Hydrogen Production Standard (CHPS) established by Congress and the DOE. Note that these already very high carbon intensity figures still reflect DOE’s overly optimistic assumption that hydrogen production facilities will capture at least 94.5% of the CO2 they produce. They also exclude the impact of downstream hydrogen emissions.

If more conservative assumptions are used, reflecting: 1) more realistic carbon capture rates; 2) downstream leakage of the hydrogen produced; and 3) downstream CO2e emissions from the production of the electricity needed to fully compress, store and transport the hydrogen to the site where it will be used, then blue hydrogen gets even dirtier, with a carbon intensity more than three times as much as the DOE’s clean hydrogen standard.

Given these results, IEEFA is extremely concerned that the current blue hydrogen hype is going to result in the funding of projects that exacerbate climate change and lock in our reliance on fossil fuels for decades. For this reason, we have undertaken a series of analyses into the emissions from blue hydrogen production based on current scientific knowledge of methane emissions and hydrogen leakage rates and the existing status of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies. This report focuses on the production of blue hydrogen from methane; a subsequent report will examine hydrogen from coal gasification.

Download a copy of this publication here (Link).

Green Jobs or Dangerous Greenwash?

By Tahir Latif, Claire James, Ellen Robottom, Don Naylor, and Katy Brown - Working People, July 7, 2023

Greenwash is not always easy to challenge: the claims to offer climate solutions; the PR offensive in local communities; and promises of 'green jobs' that in reality are neither as numerous or as environmentally friendly as promised.

But whether it’s a ‘zero carbon’ coal mine, heating homes with hydrogen, importing wood to burn in power stations, ‘sustainable aviation growth’ or offsetting, there are common themes that can give a reality check on greenwash claims and misleading jobs promises.

Speakers:

  • Claire James, Campaign against Climate Change
  • Ellen Robottom, Campaign against Climate Change trade union group
  • Don Naylor, HyNot (campaigning against HyNet greenwash and the Whitby hydrogen village)
  • Katy Brown, Biofuelwatch (using slides from Stuart Boothman, Stop Burning Trees Coalition who was unable to make it).

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