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Hydrogen Hype's Physics Problem

Operation Attack, Techno-Fascists, and the Scioto Madtom no more

Yesterday my brain was as disorganized as the House of Representatives. Throughout the day I attempted to get my thoughts in order, but simply couldn’t get anything to add up. So we’re trying again today.


The Biden-Manchin administration is spending billions on the National Clean Hydrogen Strategy, even recently celebrating Hydrogen Day on October 81 to “mark a symbolic opportunity to celebrate hydrogen—clean hydrogen, specifically—and the crucial role this element plays in supporting a robust, equitable clean energy future for all Americans.”

There’s a lot to like about hydrogen as a fuel source,” mainstream climate journalists like David Gelles gush.

The only problem is that “clean hydrogen,” also known as “green hydrogen”—that is, hydrogen gas generated using renewable electricity—isn’t particularly “clean” or “green.” Unfortunately, it’s a powerful greenhouse pollutant.

As an important paper from Environmental Defense Fund scientists Ilissa Ocko and Steven Hamburg, explains, hydrogen is unavoidably leaky, because it’s such a small molecule, and like methane, has a high short-term warming effect. In fact, one of hydrogen’s main warming effects is to increase the atmospheric lifetime of methane.2

Hydrogen’s 100-year greenhouse warming potential (GWP) is twice as high as previously thought, and its 20-year GWP is 3 times higher than its 100-year GWP. Hydrogen’s maximum GWP occurs around 7 years after the initial pulse of emissions, with a range of 25 to 60 based on uncertainties, and a central estimate of 40.  

In short, “green” hydrogen isn’t. Oops!3

A post shared by @alexlebird

Egghead techno-billionaire Marc Andreessen published a “techno-optimist manifesto” that is a weak rehash of the Fascist Filippo Marinetti’s anti-humanist, anti-environmental techno-optimism of 100 years ago. The awesome thing is that Andreessen and his fellow accelerationist neo-reactionaries have seeded government with effective-altruism cultists to ensure that legislation and policy are in line with this manifesto. In fact, Andreessen is the star guest at Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s AI Insight Forum on October 24th (last month’s had Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Satya Nadella, Eric Schmidt, and Sam Altman). Rusty Foster has more.

The Bachman’s warbler has ceased to be.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has delisted 21 species from the Endangered Species Act due to extinction, all of whom were last spotted decades ago: the Little Mariana fruit bat, Bachman’s warbler, Bridled white-eye, Kauai akialoa, Kauai nukupuu, Kauaʻi ʻōʻō, Large Kauai thrush, Maui ākepa, Maui nukupuʻu, Molokai creeper, Po`ouli, San Marcos gambusia, Scioto madtom, flat pigtoe, Southern acornshell, stirrupshell, upland combshell, green-blossom pearly mussel, tubercled-blossom pearly mussel, turgid-blossom pearly mussel, and the yellow-blossom pearly mussel. The Kauaʻi ʻōʻō was the last surviving member of the Mohoidae family, which originated 15-20 million years ago.

The Prospect Park Zoo is closed indefinitely after its basement power and heating systems were destroyed by about 25 feet of floodwater from the remnants of Tropical Storm Ophelia two weeks ago. So far, the animals there are fine.

Melting glaciers are revealing a Viking pass hidden for centuries in Norway’s mountains.

How illegal meat ends up in Europe: France24 has a powerful documentary on Brazilian cattle laundering, the practice of pretending cattle raised on razed rain-forests weren’t.

The fossil-fuel industry really isn’t going down without a fight.

26 Democratic members of Congress have written to Securities and Exchange Commission chair Gary Gensler asking him to issue strong climate-risk disclosure rules now that California has enacted a law requiring major companies to disclose their carbon pollution footprint, including their sales of and investment in fossil fuels (Scope 3).

Do you know about Operation Attack? That’s the totally not menacing name of the American Gas Association’s public-relations campaign launched in 1969 to drum up sales of methane gas stoves, even as they learned from their scientists that the stoves were responsible for toxic indoor air pollution. So they hired the notorious tobacco PR agency Hill and Knowlton and financed scientific research questioning the risks of gas stoves. As NPR’s Jeff Brady writes:

“With the weight of evidence it had funded on its side, the gas industry became more vocal in arguing against a connection between gas stoves and health problems.”

Big Oil buying greenwashing carbon credits is not as entertaining a fraud as crypto and AI, with Sam Bankman-Fried and effective altruism, but the contours and the results of the fraud are the same—charismatic con artists buying castles. Carbon credit venture South Pole has been paid by Gazprom, Chevron, TotalEnergies, Qatar World Cup, Gucci, Nestlé, Porsche, JetBlue, Delta, the Cannes Film Festival with the promise that “every ton of CO2 they compensate for is backed by a verified emission reduction.” But as Heidi Blake gets the South Pole fraudsters to admit:

“I don’t know what you’re going to report on this, and I hope to God it’s not all of it, because I probably will go to jail.”

“It’s a little bit fishy. We are cheating.”

Mercenary hacker Aviram Azari stole data about climate activists that Exxon later cited in climate lawsuits, prosecutors say—but they haven’t yet formally linked Azari to Exxon.

The Maryland-based Competitive Power Ventures has dropped its plan for another gas power plant in Woodbridge, New Jersey, after significant grassroots outcry.

Madeline Ostrander takes a deep look at the fight to end Chevron’s highly polluting oil refinery in Richmond, Calif.

At 10 am, the highways subcommittee of the House transportation committee reviews the health of the Highway Trust Fund, and the Senate environment committee looks at the recent decision by the Supreme Court to strip Clean Water Act protections from wetlands and streams in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency.

At a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing, toxic chemical lobbyists Peter Huntsman, Chris Jahn, and Scott Whitaker will testify why it’s terrible that the Environmental Protection Agency has taken recent action to strengthen regulations on toxic chemicals such as ethylene oxide, chloroprene, particulate matter, and perfluoroalkyl substances. Reproductive scientist Tracey Woodruff will speak as the Democratic witness.

House Natural Resources subcommittees are busy today:

  • Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) face off in a Natural Resources energy subcommittee hearing at 10:15 am on the Biden administration’s slow-walking of offshore oil and gas leases in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.

  • At 10:30 am, the House Natural Resources wildlife subcommittee run by Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.) will hear from witness on three pieces of legislation to reauthorize wildlife programs: the Migratory Birds of the Americas Conservation Enhancements Act; the Chesapeake Bay Science, Education, and Ecosystem Enhancement Act; and the WILD Act, which helps fund game safari parks.

  • In the afternoon, the Natural Resources oversight subcommittee led by eco-fascist Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) is holding the hearing “Securing Our Border, Saving Our National Parks” premised on the claim that “illegal immigration has significant and well-documented environmental consequences,” with “illegal marijuana grows,” “trash accumulation and habitat destruction.” Witnesses include National Park Service deputy director Michael Reynolds, National Forest System deputy chief Chris French, Julie Axelrod of the white-nationalist Center for Immigration Studies, anti-marijuana militiaman John Nores, and Democratic witness Verlon Jose, a leader of the Tohono O’odham Nation on the Arizona border, one of whose members was recently murdered by border patrol agents.

Climate Power, started by Biden climate advisor John Podesta, will spend $80 million on advertising to lift President Biden’s climate rep for the 2024 campaign. Climate Power’s Lori Lodes made the pitch to reporter Reid Epstein:

“There are activists and then there are voters. Climate activists are going to push and push. And you know what? The Biden administration need to be pushed to do more and to go further. But at the end of the day, the reality is that he has done more than any other president in American history on climate.”

I hear the campaign is going to be called “A For Effort.”

Hearings on the Hill:

Thanks for subscribing and spreading the word. If you’ve got job listings, event listings, or other hot news, I want to hear it. Connect with me@[email protected] and  @climatebrad.hillheat.com on BlueSky

1 Hydrogen Day is 10/08 because hydrogen’s atomic weight is 1.008, get it?

2 Methane breaks down in contact with the hydroxyl (OH) radical formed when ultraviolet light interacts with ozone (O₃) and water vapor (H₂O). Hydroxyl also reacts with hydrogen molecules (H₂), so significant hydrogen pollution means atmospheric methane doesn’t break down.

3 It’s of course less polluting than “gray” and “blue” hydrogen, produced from natural gas. “Pink” hydrogen is produced from electricity from nuclear power. It’s a rainbow!

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