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"Driving through Hell." Photo by Jose Pontes.

Clean Transport

Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) And Hydrogen Paradises Are Fossil Fuel Delay Tactics

I drafted this title before I saw the news break about a study that dismantles the “blue hydrogen” argument. In fact, a reader sent in the news within a minute or so of me drafting that title. The reason I was “inspired” to write this piece is that I keep seeing very serious people (and sometimes very humorous people) who are trying to do very good things for the future of humanity go out there and either promote carbon capture & storage (CCS) and hydrogen or at least put them on the table and treat them as parts of the puzzle. My problem with them is that I think they are very powerful and effective delay tactics, and my concern is that they have momentum on their side at the moment, especially the latter of the two.

The realm where this is a problem is not the realm of consumer technology and theoretical debates about what the future of energy looks like. The realm where this is a problem is the political and policy realm. Governments of the world have to help manage and guide major infrastructure and utilities, especially when it comes to essentials like energy and transport. Sometimes they do that well. Sometimes they make mistakes. Also, let’s be frank — not many world-leading engineers and physicists sit at the desk of great governmental power. They rely on experts for all variety of topics, including energy and infrastructure. And the problem is that a lot of nefarious, selfish, short-sighted “experts” can sneak their way into the decision-making room. So can some misguided experts who do indeed know a lot about the subject matter but somehow have a tendency to come to the wrong conclusions.

The smoke screens of CCS and hydrogen create two big problems. First of all, they are money dumps, sucking up government funding that could be used for truly helpful improvements and solutions — faster deployment of solar power, wind power, and EV charging stations; procurement of electric vehicles for governmental fleets; greater incentives for consumers to install energy efficiency, renewable energy, or electric vehicle technologies.

Secondly, both CCS and hydrogen hype tell people, “We don’t really have to change much. We can just capture the carbon and bury it. [No, it’s not that easy, and it’s also bloody expensive.] We can stick to a fuel-based transport system rather than switch to charging at home, work, and destination. [The latter is often actually more convenient, not less convenient, but don’t let that secret get out.]” The message with both is basically to not worry about anything, not do anything, and leave it to some obscure experts to solve all our problems for us in a few years. I can see why that’s tempting, but it is definitely misleading and counterproductive. Looking at it most cynically, the people who push so hard for CCS and hydrogen as our saviors could be specifically trying to delay the cleantech transition. Well, some of them no doubt are.

No matter if hydrogen and CCS pushers are lobbying for these because they are trying to delay real solutions, because they think everything should be on the table, or because they are some of the most climate-concerned citizens of the world and they’ve just been convinced that this is the magic we need, what we actually need is for people with the power to stop governments (and private investors, for that matter) from misguidedly putting billions of dollars into programs for these “solutions.” Those of us who have the power to do so also need to speak up and explain that we have cost-competitive solar, wind, battery, and pure electric car solutions that need to be deployed at the fastest pace possible — as if we are entering World War 3 and these are our weapons. We need to say that we don’t want our money wasted on faux solutions based on magical thinking that is overly complicated and not tied to economic realities.

A lot of money is going to go into climate solutions and potential climate solutions in the coming decade. Wasting a large percentage of that on fossil fuel delay tactics is not just a bad idea — it has the potential to destroy society to a level we’ve never seen.

Also, let’s remember, the absolute best things we can do are to drop fossil fuel vehicles (by biking, walking, or driving/riding in electric vehicles) and drop the use of fossil fuel generated electricity (most easily for those with their own roof, by going solar).

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Written By

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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