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Last week, the U.S. Energy Department made a long-awaited announcement: It picked seven proposed clean hydrogen hubs that will share $7 billion in federal funding to boost the development of a hydrogen fuel industry. But environmentalists have concerns about just how “clean” the whole hydrogen industry will be.
Each of the proposed hubs brings together state governments and private interests, with the aim of building demonstration projects showing how hydrogen can be produced and used throughout a region. They all have plans for making hydrogen with either clean energy or natural gas, then piping the fuel away for heating buildings, producing cement and steel, powering transportation, and other uses.
Today, the hydrogen industry is just getting its footing. Energy experts see the fuel as a potential power source for heavy industry and heavy-duty vehicles, which aren’t easily powered by electricity alone. But while hydrogen itself doesn’t release carbon emissions when it’s burned, it’s typically made using natural gas, which means it still has an emissions impact.
That’s an issue many environmental advocates have with the hydrogen hubs the Biden administration picked for federal funding. While the Inflation Reduction Act mandated that one federally funded hub produce “blue” hydrogen out of natural gas, the DOE picked four blue hydrogen hubs for funding. And while other hubs will produce “pink” hydrogen” from nuclear power or “green” hydrogen from renewable sources, some critics wonder if the clean energy resources these hubs build out could be better used elsewhere.
More clean energy news
🏛️ Greening the White House: The General Services Administration — the agency that maintains all the federal government’s buildings — is leading a quiet but unprecedented effort to slash emissions from federal buildings by installing heat pumps, solar panels and energy-efficient lighting and windows. (Washington Post)
📅 Utilities need a better plan: Most large U.S. electric utilities have pledged to cut their carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, but a report has found they still haven’t made adequate plans to achieve that goal, even with federal funding at their disposal. (Canary Media)
☀️ Solving solar skirmishes: Solar developers, environmental groups, tribal organizations and farmers have developed a framework of best practices for handling land-use issues that often stymie solar projects. (New York Times)
🔌 EVs get more affordable: A new Tesla Model 3 now costs less than the average new combustion vehicle — even before factoring in rebates. (Canary Media)
🚧 The pipeline fight continues: Activists and residents along the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s route through Virginia and West Virginia continue to oppose the long-delayed project as it finally begins to near completion. (Bloomberg)
🚛 An alternative to electric trucks: A Chicago-area startup is developing technology to retrofit diesel engines to run on ethanol, betting that it’s a faster path to decarbonize heavy-duty trucking than waiting for electric replacements. (Energy News Network)
🌲 A coal plant’s second life: Developers envision turning a retired coal plant in northeast Ohio into a campus of parkland, public lake access and up to 1,200 homes, potentially becoming an example of how decaying power plants can become community assets once again. (New York Times)
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