Missouri has joined the growing list of red states seeking green gold in clean tech fields. That includes green hydrogen, but there’s a catch. Many of these same red states are also jumping on the opportunity to micromanage the lives of women, girls, and anyone else capable of carrying a pregnancy. That could limit their ability to attract and retain the STEM talent needed to push those green hydrogen plans into motion.
Missouri Catches Green Hydrogen Bug
In some red states clean power has lagged behind, with an assist from a 6-3 majority of Republican-appointed Supreme Court Justices. However, the bottom line benefits of wind and solar power are hard to resist on the state level, regardless of national policy. Businesses are ditching fossil energy and helping to accelerate the clean energy transition. Their influence can help shuttle policy makers across partisan lines.
The latest state ranking from the Solar Energy Industries Association, for example, puts bright red, abortion-banning Texas in the #2 slot right behind blue-leaning California for installed solar capacity. Pregnancy rights are also at risk in at least two other states that crack the SEIA top 10 list, Florida and Georgia.
A similar pattern shows up in the wind industry. Texas leads the pack in wind power by a wide margin, followed by a motley crew of red, blue and purple states including Iowa, Oklahoma, and Kansas.
The emerging green hydrogen market has further sparked the partisan vanishing act by introducing another bottom line angle to wind and solar development. Hydrogen is a ubiquitous industrial and agricultural commodity, and it is also an energy storage medium that can be transported by highway, railway, ship or pipeline. That provides wind and solar developers with new market opportunities.
That brings us to Missouri. The state has stubbornly resisted plans for a new interstate wind power transmission line originating in Kansas. However, Missouri’s homegrown wind industry has been growing thanks in part to the green steel trend.
The utility Ameren is also getting behind renewable energy, and now they are apparently eyeballing green hydrogen to expand their portfolio. On August 9, Ameren joined other partners in Missouri and Illinois to announce something called the Greater St. Louis and Illinois Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub Industrial Cluster.
To be clear, “clean” H2 is an overly broad term that can describe hydrogen sourced from natural gas, which currently is the main source of hydrogen on the global market. The “clean” angle comes in when gas-to-hydrogen systems are paired with new carbon capture technology, which has yet to be proven in the all-important sphere of commercial viability.
If you’re betting that the new St. Louis “clean” H2 hub will ultimately ditch the natural gas angle and wind up focusing on green hydrogen from renewable resources, that’s a pretty good bet. Much of the activity in the green hydrogen field is focusing on electrolysis systems, which deploy renewable energy to push hydrogen gas from water. The cost of both electrolysis and renewable energy are dropping like rocks, whereas the cost of natural gas follows the market up and down, and mostly up nowadays.
Anyways, that whole thing about “clean” hydrogen is not fooling anyone. Auto makers and other manufacturers are seeking to decarbonize their supply chains as fast as new technology allows, which doesn’t leave much of an opening for natural gas, at least not over the long run.
Green Hydrogen Comes To Show-Me State
Another reason why we’re thinking that green hydrogen will be the focus of the new St. Louis hub is pretty simple. The US firm Plug Power is among the partners. The firm initially focused on hydrogen fuel cell fork lifts but now it has gone off in all sorts of different directions, including the area of electrolysis systems for green hydrogen production.
Don Govel of Plug Power, for one, is not banking on natural gas with carbon capture.
“Plug is proud to join this diverse group of forward-thinking public and private sector leaders to deliver clean energy solutions through our first-class green hydrogen products,” he said in a press release.
Mitsubishi Power is another green hydrogen fan within the partnership. The company is marketing gas turbines for power plants that can transition to green hydrogen as the supply chain ramps up. Mitsubishi is already involved in the ACES advanced energy project in Utah, which includes a significant green hydrogen element.
On the other hand, the firm MPLX LP is also participating under the umbrella of Marathon Petroleum Corp. However, that could be on account of MPLX’s fossil energy transportation and storage systems, which could be repurposed for green hydrogen.
Rounding out the team are Burns McDonnell, Marquis Industrial Complex, Alton Steel, The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Inc., Walmart, Plug Power, Spire, Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Greater St. Louis, Inc., and the Leadership Council of Southwestern Illinois.
Who’s Gonna Pay For All This?
If you’re wondering where the Urban League factors in, that’s a good question. The answer is probably that the US Department of Energy has launched an $8 billion round of funding to establish at least four regional “clean” hydrogen hubs around the country, funded through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which squeaked through Congress last fall.
Since this is a Joe Biden shop, economic and environmental justice are on the menu. The Energy Department emphasizes that winning applicants for the new hydrogen hubs must keep in mind that “labor and community engagement will be a central component to successful implementation across the entire H2Hub project duration.”
“Teams are encouraged to maximize meaningful, early engagement with stakeholders, including disadvantaged communities, Tribal communities, and labor unions to address environmental justice and workforce or other economic concerns and opportunities,” the Energy Department adds.
What About The Pregnant People?
If the abortion-banning trend holds up, the Energy Department and other federal agencies may have to expand that thing about “workforce or other economic concerns and opportunities” to include people who happen to be born with a uterus.
“Pro-life” fits neatly on bumper stickers, but as a matter of law it is nothing more than a fetish that reduces a human biological system to a community-policed vessel for procreation. That doesn’t leave much wiggle room for uterus-enabled people to exercise their own human and civil rights.
In terms of economic equity, abortion bans are — oh, never mind. It’s all been said. Let’s just say that it’s a bad day for human rights when prosecutors are empowered to interpret the law after the fact.
It’s an even worse day when pregnant people at risk of homicide are denied a common medical procedure that could save their lives.
The fact that homicide is a leading cause of mortality for pregnant people should be reason enough to empower pregnant people to make life or death decisions on their own account.
“…US women who are pregnant or were pregnant in the past 42 days (the post-partum period) die by homicide at more than twice the rate that they die of bleeding or placental disorders — the leading causes of what are usually classified as pregnancy-related deaths,” is the conclusion of a study published in the journal Nature last November.
“Also, becoming pregnant increases the risk of death by homicide: between the ages of 10 and 44 years, women who are pregnant or had their pregnancy end in the past year are killed at a rate 16% higher than are women who are not pregnant,” the researchers add.
While Missouri policymakers vie for a share of that $8 billion hydrogen hub prize, the state’s abortion “trigger law” went in to effect on June 24, eliminating exceptions for rape and incest. Pregnancy rights advocates in the state are scrambling to help abortion-seeking people flee across the border to Illinois, where the rights of pregnant people are still protected by law, at least for now.
The full impacts of Missouri’s abortion ban have yet to roll out, but if the Biden administration is serious about supporting equity in the workforce, they may have to add a pregnancy rights rider to federal contracts.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Image: Hydrogen tanks courtesy of US Department of Energy.
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