An ex hydrogen lobby boss has mentioned that oil firms have used false claims to secure billions in taxpayer money and win over the Treasury. Chris Jackson had stepped down as chairman of a leading hydrogen industry association ahead of implementing a government strategy paper that supported “blue hydrogen” - gas derived from fossil fuel that releases carbon emissions. He stated that he could no longer lead an industry that supports oil companies, as their schemes were unsustainable and “make no sense at all”.
Environmental groups have also criticised these schemes for giving equal weight to blue hydrogen as that of “green hydrogen”. Green hydrogen has no negative impact on the environmental crisis, as it uses renewable electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen instead.
Blue hydrogen consists of natural gas extracted from gas fields and then purified by removing carbon dioxide, which is then stored underground. The process is known to release 10-15% of the greenhouse gases that aren’t captured and stored, and this will accumulate further as production increases.
Both kinds of hydrogen are incredibly expensive to produce, so the government is offering taxpayer subsidies to make the fuel. The Treasury was told that blue hydrogen is cheap and would take millions of tonnes of carbon emissions out of our economy. Jackson believes this statement to be false and manipulative.
“If the false claims made by oil companies about the cost of blue hydrogen were true, their projects would make a profit by 2030, after starting up in 2027 or 2028, because carbon prices are forecast to rise to £80 a tonne,” says Jackson. He believes that the Treasury was just told what they want to hear from a business perspective. “Instead, they’re asking taxpayers for billions in subsidies for the next 25 years. They should tell the government they don’t need it. The fact that they don’t, tells you everything you need to know... It’s been easy for big energy companies to make the case for blue hydrogen, but we need to show that there is another way. We need to be better at that.”
Jackson resigned from the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association, saying he “could no longer in good conscience” persist in his role, as he would be expected to hold a neutral stance. He posted on his LinkedIn, “I believe passionately that I would be betraying future generations by remaining silent on that fact that blue hydrogen is at best an expensive distraction, and at worst a lock-in for continued fossil fuel use that guarantees we will fail to meet our decarbonisation goals.”
He is the Chief executive of Protium Green Solutions, who focus on developing green hydrogen projects. “The UK has all the ingredients to be a world leader in green hydrogen, which is an essential net-zero technology – we just need the will and support from the government to make that happen.”