Green hydrogen, produced with electrolysers to separate hydrogen from water, uses clean energy as a power source. Green hydrogen will not be with cost competitive with grey hydrogen for some time, perhaps not until 2030. Grey hydrogen, derived from steam reformation of natural gas, represents 98 percent of global hydrogen consumption, and is primarily used for industrial processes. To replace grey hydrogen with green hydrogen would require a doubling of global electricity generation with primarily solar and wind sources, pre-empting the use of renewables for electrical power. This would necessitate more use of natural gas for power production. And there are extraordinary inefficiencies and technological challenges for green hydrogen, while there is no shortage of affordable and efficient clean technologies alternatives. Nevertheless, US$30 billion has been committed to-date for green hydrogen through government stimulus packages. Is green hydrogen a fossil fuel industry trojan horse for gas derived hydrogen and the use of gas for electrical power?
The Canadian federal election of September 20, 2021 brought the Liberals back to power, once again as a minority government. As with previous elections, the Liberal election campaign leading up to voting day, placed a major emphasis on addressing climate change. Though the Liberals failed to deliver on previous emission reduction targets, this time things appeared to be different in that a former climate activist, Steven Guilbeault, was appointed the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Canada.
What has happened since this nomination constitutes a sad tale of giant steps backwards. These are presented hereafter.
Methane emissions are underrated at one third of global warming gases, largely because fossil fuel sector methane emissions are underestimated by 70 percent. Current data indicates the energy sector accounts for 40 percent of man-made methane. Consequently, the COP26 non-binding pledges of over 100 nations for a 30 percent reduction by 2030 are not only dreadfully inadequate, but also, without standardized measuring, reporting and verification standards, oil and gas industry methane greenwashing is rampant. The draft European Union (EU) plan to reduce methane emissions up to 80 percent by 2030 zeros in on methane accountability norms and establishes transparent extraterritorial requirements to cover imports. The U.S. too, with the backing of the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, now has the foundation for vigorous proposal to update its regulations and investments in methane reduction. Sadly, Canada’s methane ambitions procrastinate and are fuzzy. Lastly, stringent government actions would be less critical if the oil and gas industry applied existing technologies to capture fossil fuel methane and sell it for a net profit.
Putin’s war has created an electroshock for Europe because it depends on fossil fuel imports for 60% of its energy, one-third of which comes from Russia. Organically evolving European Union (EU) plans target 2027 for a massive and rapid transition to a green economy and energy independence. Renewables, electric vehicles, clean technologies and energy efficiency will all play major roles in the creation of fast-forward paradigms for global emulation. For the immediate, by the end of 2022, EU plans entail cutting Russia gas imports by two-thirds, substitution fuel sources plus ramping up renewables and energy efficiency. These EU plans will be devastating for the Russian economy. Russia needs European oil and gas revenues more than Europe needs these fuels.
China is several years ahead of other developed countries on the migration to a green economy, in clean technology production capacity, massive market penetration and green investments. China already has an extraordinary global green export potential. China leads in renewables, electric vehicles and battery production, incrementally regulating plastic solutions, high-speed rail, private clean tech investment, government environmental support and green bonds. China’s concurrent climate actions are gamechangers destined to have huge global competition impacts on energy, economic, transportation, industrial and other paradigms, perhaps more so than the climate crisis. But there are simultaneous contradictions. China is the world’s largest liquified natural gas importer, once again ramping up coal production and certainly not a leader on human rights.
BlackRock, the world’s largest investment firm, has indicated that those that don’t tackle climate change will lose money in 5 years. Some financial institutions have made multi-trillion commitments from now to 2030 to invest in the green economy while still focusing the majority of investments in fossil fuels. Canadian banks are among the global top fossil fuel investors.