There’s no denying it. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s plans to “kick start the hydrogen fuel industry” is nothing short of a scheme to subsidize oil and gas companies and keep the state dangerously reliant on fossil fuels.
“Dirtier Than Coal”
In her proposed “Hydrogen Hub Act,” which was unveiled last month, the governor claims that producing hydrogen would represent a climate and clean energy “solution.” Unfortunately, the only thing hydrogen stands to fuel is the climate crisis.
For one, hydrogen is currently produced using methane gas. In other words, the “gas” in oil and gas. Converting methane to hydrogen not only promotes more oil and gas extraction (i.e., fracking), but in doing so creates carbon dioxide as methane molecules are split into carbon and hydrogen. To boot, converting methane to hydrogen requires enormous amounts of energy, energy that today mainly comes from the burning of fossil fuels.
It’s a filthy process that scientists have found is dirtier than coal. Worse, by promoting more fracking, this method of manufacturing hydrogen stands to perpetuate environmental injustice, air and water pollution, and damage to public lands and sacred landscapes in New Mexico.
It’s no wonder that opposition to the governor has been resounding.
In comments spearheaded by the Western Environmental Law Center and joined by WildEarth Guardians and dozens more health, Indigenous, climate, and community organizations, the message was clear: the governor’s “Hydrogen Hub Act” is “fatally flawed.”
In statements offered last week, Tribal, community, and climate groups condemned the governor’s push for hydrogen as an unjust scheme to prop up the oil and gas industry. The groups specifically highlighted that the state’s move to promote hydrogen threatens the sacred Greater Chaco landscape, a region the Biden administration has sworn to protect.
“The proposed hydrogen legislation is a way to crutch the fossil fuel economy when Indigenous Pueblos have advocated to end fossil fuel extraction in the Greater Chaco landscape. Hydrogen is a continuum of the fossil fuel economy that our communities don’t want.”
– Pueblo Action Alliance
“Green” in Name Only
Most importantly, the amount of energy required to convert water to hydrogen is astronomical, requiring far more energy to create than even fossil fuels. Adding injury to insult, energy today is still largely fossil fuel-derived, meaning the energy required to turn water into hydrogen would inevitably fuel massive amounts of coal, oil, and gas consumption, leading to more climate pollution.
Boosters of hydrogen, like Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, claim this energy problem can be solved in one of two ways: 1) hydrogen can be created using renewable energy and 2) carbon emissions from fossil fuel energy production can be captured and stored underground.
On the latter, carbon capture and sequestration is still a failed fantasy and at best has yet to achieve any level of commercial viability. Critically, however, the energy required to capture carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning and permanently store them underground is itself astronomical. More energy means more fossil fuel burning, perpetuating the cycle of climate destruction.
New Mexico’s governor has argued that renewable energy could simply be used to meet all the energy needs of creating hydrogen, whether it’s powering direct production of the gas and/or energizing carbon capture and storage operations.
Of course, this is where the concept of hydrogen production veers from lunacy to an outright assault on the climate.
That’s because calls for renewable energy to power the creation of hydrogen are essentially calls to slow, if not halt, our world’s transition away from burning fossil fuels for electricity. Essentially, every bit of renewable energy used to create hydrogen is a bit of renewable energy that is unable to replace coal, oil, and gas-fired power generation.
This where the insidiousness of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s push for hydrogen really comes into focus. Her plan wouldn’t just promote more fracking, it would slow the New Mexico’s efforts to move away from coal and gas-fired power, effectively stalling the build-out of clean renewable energy to replace dirty fossil fuels.
This is shocking, but it’s all the more shocking coming from a governor who proclaims herself to be a leader in confronting the climate crisis.
As scientist warn that an expeditious move away from coal, oil, and gas consumption and production is needed to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, New Mexico can’t afford to slow down a transition from fossil fuels.
The prospect of New Mexico building out a hydrogen industry is about as anti-climate as you can get. By pushing her “Hydrogen Hub Act,” Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham isn’t just promoting a false climate solution, she’s promoting a climate killer.
With the New Mexico Legislature set to begin in early 2022, it’s more critical now than ever to fight back against the “Hydrogen Hub Act” and ensure the governor backs down from the idea that hydrogen is a climate solution. If the governor and Legislature are serious about climate action, then they need to get serious about transitioning the state away from fossil fuels and to 100% renewable energy ASAP.
You can help deliver this message, send an e-mail today to firstname.lastname@example.org, tell the governor to abandon her “Hydrogen Hub Act.” Tell her to get behind making New Mexico the first state to commit to a future 100% powered by renewable energy and 100% free of fracking and energy injustice.