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Hydrogen energy: Game changer to fight climate change?

Hydrogen: new clean energy source

Hydrogen is the simplest and most abundant element on Earth, comprising 10% of human body weight and being the most prevalent element in the universe. It naturally combines with other elements in various states – as water when combined with oxygen, and as hydrocarbons when combined with carbon, found in fossil fuels like natural gas, coal, and petroleum.

Alternate methods

Hydrogen production methods have implications for the environment. Currently, most hydrogen is derived from fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, which release greenhouse gases. This process raises concerns about further reliance on fossil fuels and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Making hydrogen from natural gas necessitates the capture and safe storage of carbon dioxide, and improved control of methane emissions. The cleaner alternative is “green hydrogen,” produced using electricity from renewable sources, which significantly reduces carbon emissions. The Biden administration aims to reduce hydrogen production costs by 80% to $1 per kilogram by 2030, although this goal is currently challenging to achieve for green hydrogen due to higher renewable power costs.

Annually, the United States produces over 10 million metric tons of hydrogen, which contains energy equivalent to the petroleum fuel consumed by all commercial light-trucks, buses, and passenger trains combined.

Hydrogen is versatile, acting as a carrier and energy storage medium. It can be used in fuel cells to generate electricity, heat, and power. Common applications include petroleum refining, fertilizer production, food processing, steel manufacturing, cosmetics, and as rocket fuel and a power source for spacecraft due to its high energy content per unit of weight.

An investment for a clean future

Future applications of hydrogen are expanding in the transportation and utility sectors. Over 70,000 hydrogen-powered forklifts are already operational in warehouses, and there is increasing investment in clean hydrogen for long-haul trucks and transit buses. In the long term, hydrogen has the potential to decarbonize various industries and could contribute to over 20% of annual global emissions reductions by 2050, according to a McKinsey & Co. analysis. The Biden administration’s plan to invest $7 billion in creating regional hydrogen hubs is part of a broader effort to transition to cleaner energy sources and reduce the nation’s carbon footprint, aligning with the goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

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