It Appears Hydrogen Energy Isn’t Really as Green as Everyone Makes Out

We all want to live in a healthy environment.  One that’s free from harmful toxins and one that doesn’t suffer at the hands of pollution day in, day out. For years, people have been coming up with ways to not only try and mend what’s already been done but to try and find alternative ways of sustaining lives without all the harmful effects to the environment and ourselves. This is done is through the use of various renewable energies such as the wind, solar, and hydropower.

Up until recently, we’ve all been led to believe that hydrogen to is a good source of renewable energy, but that’s not the case.  Hydrogen energy is not green at all. According to information from the U.S. Department of Energy, around 95 percent of all hydrogen produced in the U.S. comes from a process that uses natural gas. As a comparison, around 15 percent of the whole country’s electricity production comes from renewables excluding nuclear power. It just isn’t cost effective to produce hydrogen from clean energy with today’s technology. But, that doesn’t mean it won’t be some day.

“Hydrogen production from fossil fuels is the most cost-competitive,” said Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.  “But this process releases a lot of [carbon dioxide].”  Zhang is hopeful that one-day hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) technology will replace regular combustion engines and also contribute a large amount of electricity to stations.

Battery technology, on the other hand, is moving at a much faster pace.  Joseph Romm is a physicist and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and he commented, “Hydrogen cars have missed the boat. This is like Betamax competing against VHS tapes in the ’90s. Once the market decides it’s going one way, the loser is screwed.” There’s not only the “greenness” of hydrogen to consider either. There are still other issues to address including the lack of infrastructure in place for hydrogen, as well as the problems with storing and transporting it.

Zhang believes that these issues will be addressed in the future, but what about now?  Hydrogen production from renewable energy sources is scarce and is unlikely to change imminently. Experts at the U.S. Department of Energy say hydrogen that comes from natural gas “will be augmented with production from renewable, nuclear, coal (with carbon capture and storage), and other low-carbon, domestic energy resources”, much the same as electricity did.

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