Joint Letter by 40+ CSO Groups: No to Hydrogen Greenwashing of Fossil Gas Infrastructure

Over 40 CSO groups from across Europe have sent an open letter to the EU Commission. They are particularly concerned about the almost 150 large-scale hydrogen transport projects which have applied to receive Project of Common Interest (PCI) or Project of Mutual Interest (PMI) priority status via the PCI/PMI list.

According to the candidate project list provided in the public consultation:

  • 90% of the project candidates either openly aim at transporting fossil fuels-based hydrogen (60%) or fail to exclude fossil based hydrogen transport (30%);
  • A high number of proposed projects are either identical or similar to infrastructure projects that have been proposed for fossil gas transport in this form before, or are ‘classical’ fossil gas projects not even mentioning hydrogen. –
  • 90% of these projects have been proposed by the fossil fuel industry, most of them by ENTSO-G, a fossil gas transport industry umbrella body

Groups are worried that giant planned hydrogen infrastructures will promote the wasteful use of the scarce molecule. Vested fossil fuel interests risk creating a situation in which the PCI/PMI list becomes a priority list for polluters rather than people in Europe.
The signatories ask the EU Commission not support polluters greenwashing fossil gas pipelines through the PCI/PMI list and to protect Europe’s true common interest: real sustainability and energy security.

You can read the joint letter here.

EU Parliament: Please Support a Gas Package for People not for Fossil Polluters!

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Fossil Fuels

Fossil gas is among the main drivers of the cost of living crisis that Europeans have been suffering from for months. Inflation, the energy crisis, weaponization of energy deliveries and a worsening climate crisis bring hardship upon your constituents and are all linked to Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels. 7 in 10 Europeans are struggling this winter and 1 in 10 are skipping meals, while four fossil fuel companies alone made a shocking €77 billion in profit at our expense, in less than a year.

We sent a letter to the European Parliament’s Energy Committee, asking parliamentarians to stand up against including polluters into the Gas Package, a set of two important policy files defining our future energy market

Petition on Fossil Free Politics

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Fossil Fuels

FWAE SUBMITTED A PETITION TO THE PETI COMMITTEE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ON FOSSIL FREE POLITICS

Energy and climate legislation adopted in the past few years have fallen dangerously short of preventing the cost of living crisis millions of Europeans are currently facing, as well as protecting Europe and beyond from increasing threats by the climate crisis.

At the same time, we as civil society organisations witness countless opportunities for the fossil fuel industry, industry to access and influence the EU decision making process. 

This happens not only through numerous platforms where the biggest polluters enjoy a priority seat at the table. This includes events with decision-makers, participation in expert groups, or alliances like the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance with a strong representation of the fossil gas industry. It also happens by literally including the fossil fuel industry into regulations that are pretending to aim at a decarbonisation of our economy; The example of the wide mandate of fossil gas transport body ENTSO-G to decide needs, provide own data etc. in cross-border infrastructure legislation (TEN-E Regulation) is just one of many.

In the face of an unprecedented energy crisis, with a considerable part of the fossil fuel industry benefiting enormously, reaping excess profits reaching dozens of billions in only a year, it is irresponsible to continue to listen to these corporations and their allies – who are, in considerable part, responsible for this crisis. We strongly believe that policy influenced by these vested interests risks aggravating energy poverty and hardship in Europe and beyond, while cementing our dependence on fossil fuels and these companies for decades to come.

In the face of an ever-growing climate emergency, with little time left to act and reverse the catastrophic impacts of climate change, it is irresponsible to accept vested fossil fuel interests proposing so-called ‘solutions’ to the climate crisis. These range from blue hydrogen (made from fossil fuels) to carbon capture (signaling dangerous emissions might be taken care of in the future to justify continued pollution) or large-scale gas infrastructure build-out, all intrinsically benefiting the same industry that knows it fuels dangerous global warming but has lied about it for decades.

What do we ask?

We need a climate and energy policy that is free from fossil fuel interests. The EU Parliament needs to show is willing to establish a barrier, to protect decision-making from the very same polluters that threaten to destroy our future with their business.

We will not accept further decades of priority access, lobby meetings, revolving doors between industry and decision makers, decades of handouts to the fossil fuel industry while Europeans suffer from fossil fuel dependency, high prices and the impacts of climate change, it is enough! 

We hereby ask the PETI Committee to take the first steps towards establishing rules for protecting our energy and climate laws and to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable. We know that this can be done: just as the tobacco industry is not allowed to influence health legislation, we can stop the fossil fuel industry from holding hostage the health of the people and the planet.

Energy Imports: The Missing Piece of the EU Methane Regulation Puzzle

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Fossil Fuels

An Independent Verification Body Required to Oversee Methane Emissions outside EU borders

Deep cuts to human-caused methane emissions are a top priority if we want to fix the climate crisis and slow the rate of global warming. Methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 20-year period after it reaches the atmosphere. Time is of the essence and we need to act now. The energy sector is responsible for roughly 40% of total anthropogenic methane emissions and oil, coal and fossil gas operations are the largest source of those emissions.

So far the provisions discussed in the EU Methane Regulation Proposal to tackle emissions across the whole supply chain only include an information obligation for importers and are based on a weak verification system, referring to the UNEP-led International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) as verifier body (article 10 of the Methane Regulation Proposal). This is not good news, considering its position is biased because of its connections with fossil fuel industries.

The Methane Proposal needs to be a bold instrument to cut methane emissions across the entire supply chain, while phasing out fossil gas by 2035 and accelerating the transition towards 100% renewables.

Extending the EU domestic provisions on Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification (MRV), Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR), and Limits on Routine Venting and Flaring (LRVF) to operators located outside the EU is legally possible.

Together with CAN-Europe, we co-wrote a fact sheet highlighting the importance of slashing methane emissions from energy imports and the need for an independent verification system detached from fossil fuel industry interests.

Given the powerful warming potential of methane and the fact that it is leaking across the supply chain, especially upstream at extraction level, requires urgent action outside EU borders. More than 80% of the fossil gas consumed in the EU comes from third countries responsible for 75 to 90% of the energy sector’s methane emissions. A recent report shows that legally speaking it is feasible to apply measures on non-EU operators placing products on the EU market. Policy makers cannot shut their eyes on what’s happening outside EU borders and need to push through rules to bring down domestic but also external methane emissions stemming from imports.” (Enrico Donda – Gas Campaigner, Food & Water Action Europe)

Given the powerful warming potential of methane and the fact that it is leaking across the supply chain, especially upstream at extraction level, requires urgent action outside EU borders. More than 80% of the fossil gas consumed in the EU comes from third countries responsible for 75 to 90% of the energy sector’s methane emissions. A recent report shows that legally speaking it is feasible to apply measures on non-EU operators placing products on the EU market. Policy makers cannot shut their eyes on what’s happening outside EU borders and need to push through rules to bring down domestic but also external methane emissions stemming from imports.” (Esther Bollendorff, Gas Policy Expert at Climate Action Network Europe)

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The Dirty Side of “Green” Hydrogen

Proponents laud green hydrogen as a new zero-carbon energy in the fight against climate change. But green hydrogen is not that simple — and not that green.

The European Union is all abuzz with what’s been hailed as the new frontier of clean energy: hydrogen. Both in Europe and in the U.S., utilities are unveiling plans to develop green hydrogen pipelines attached to regional hydrogen hubs.

The buzz began just before the EU published its Hydrogen Strategy in 2020. Hydrogen has since found its way in virtually all relevant energy policy proposals; by now, most EU member states have announced their intentions to build hydrogen infrastructure. 

The hydrogen hype is similarly strong on the other side of the Atlantic. In the U.S., the Biden Administration announced an avalanche of cash to develop hydrogen projects; notably, through the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act

Proponents have depicted hydrogen as a miracle power source that will help us fight climate change while keeping the lights on. But they’ve neglected to mention the massive obstacles they face, and the enormous costs to us.

Ultimately, a pivot to hydrogen stands to harm vulnerable communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis, and will siphon resources from proven climate technologies.

Green Hydrogen Isn’t So Green

Most companies insist that their hydrogen will be clean, but that’s a lofty promise to make when around 98% of global hydrogen production comes from fossil fuels. In the U.S., currently up to 95% of hydrogen energy is sourced from fracked gas. The other 5% is called “green” hydrogen, because the hydrogen comes from splitting water molecules with electricity from renewable energy.

But even if industry could produce “green” hydrogen at scale, it would still be wasteful and inefficient. Compared to renewable-powered batteries, which are 80% efficient, hydrogen fuel cells are only 30%. That makes hydrogen far more expensive than renewable-based electric power.

Moreover, hydrogen power is a thirsty power source. Throughout its life cycle, each megawatt-hour of “green” hydrogen consumes at least 5,000 liters of water. Compare that to solar, which uses 20 liters per MWh, and wind, which uses just 1 liter per MWh. At a time when climate change already threatens our water supplies and Europe experienced its worst drought in centuries this summer, a huge hydrogen buildout will only make things worse.

We can’t even be sure that “green” hydrogen will actually create no emissions. Hydrogen is a very small molecule, making it more likely than methane, a major greenhouse gas, to leak. And if it does leak, we are in trouble. Hydrogen molecules have a global warming potential 11 times greater than carbon dioxide. 

Already, the fossil gas industry in Europe operates leaky infrastructure. Despite claims that it leaks only a small percentage of product, we know that isn’t true. Randomized video imaging samples taken at major EU oil and gas sites show methane streaming right into the sky.

Moreover, authorities and industry have been unwilling to act or have proven to be powerless when faced with mega-leaks, such as the historic leak of the Nord Stream II pipeline in the North Sea in 2022. That leak beat the record of the previous largest at a U.S. fossil gas storage facility that leaked for 100 straight days. There, the utility in charge failed to to both monitor the facility properly and immediately report the leak to officials. 

Hydrogen leaks are even less regulated than methane. Though the European Commission proposed a new Methane Regulation in 2021, it is much too weak to really cut emissions and will not help the EU reach its climate goals

Green Hydrogen Risks Dangers in Our Homes and Backyards

Besides climate risks, hydrogen poses health and safety risks as well. It’s volatile and flammable, even more so than natural gas. Hydrogen pipelines have already caused explosions, posing major dangers to communities near that infrastructure. Moreover, hydrogen is currently stored as ammonia, a hazardous chemical that can even be deadly in high concentrations.

These health risks go beyond pipelines and facilities and into homes:  Utilities have proposed blending hydrogen with methane in power plants and utility lines used to heat homes. 

Not only is this wildly inefficient compared to electric heating, hydrogen blending can cause nitrogen oxide pollution six times greater than burning fracked gas. Such pollution is an ingredient for particulate matter and ozone, which causes respiratory illnesses that already plague frontline communities. 

Hydrogen build-outs threaten to entrench already existing injustices. Rather than bringing relief to communities that have been sacrifice zones for decades of industrial activity, hydrogen stands to keep them in these untenable situations. 

Dirty Energy Companies Hide Behind Green Hydrogen

It’s no coincidence that some of the dirtiest polluters are heavily investing in green hydrogen: Promoting this fuel is nothing more than greenwashing the expansion of pipelines or power plants. 

These same dirty energy utilities have hidden the dangers of climate change for decades. The fossil fuel industry as a whole spent decades delaying, blocking, and distracting from ambitious climate policy. And they are widely stalling on their climate promises: all talk, no walk. 

Companies like Total, Shell, Engie, or Enagás using the still “green” image of hydrogen as a fig leaf for their dirty activities. They are still making billions selling climate wrecking fossil fuels, while quietly advocating against real clean solutions. If allowed, they’ll gobble up our tax money through hydrogen subsidies and raise rates to help cover the expensive projects, too.

Green Hydrogen: Coming to a City Near You

The European Clean Hydrogen Alliance (ECHA), launched by the EU Commission, is full of representatives of the fossil fuel industry with a small number of civil society actors. ECHA developed a hydrogen “project pipeline” with over 1,500 hydrogen projects across Europe, aiming to facilitate financing of the plans. 

But a closer look reveals that some projects proposed in this pipeline are not hydrogen projects at all, but rather purely fossil gas projects (e.g., the proposals by GAZSYSTEM). 

However, in September, EU Commission President von der Leyen announced a “Hydrogen Bank” that would provide €3bn of tax money to boost the European hydrogen economy. This is  badnews for the planet, but good news for polluters: As one U.S. Food & Water Watch organizer put it, “Hydrogen is being used by fossil fuel interests to maintain their dangerous pipeline and energy infrastructure.”

We can’t let hydrogen continue to grow. Instead, we should be investing in community-driven solutions and shutting down this dirty infrastructure in a just transition to 100% clean energy.

We Know How To Fight Climate Change. We Don’t Need “Green” Hydrogen to Do It

Hydrogen may make sense for a few niche uses, but using it for power is a non-starter. We are facing a massive buildout that aims to make hydrogen a major part of the EU energy system. That buildout means sprawling new facilities and pipelines — and more community sacrifice zones. 

These projects are multi-billion euro distractions from the clean energy deployment we’ve been calling on for decades. We know wind, solar and geothermal electrification, demand response, and energy efficiency with weatherization will fight climate change. Not only will they do so more cheaply, more efficiently, and with far less public health risks — they will create thousands of new clean energy and climate jobs.

The truth is, oil and gas industries want to make billions pretending to be part of the solution to the climate crisis. We can’t let this happen. We must protect energy and climate decision-making from fossil fuel interests. We must fight for a 100% renewable energy transition, where no one gets left behind.

LNG: The U.S. and EU’s Deal for Disaster

Categories

Fossil Fuels

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Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Union faces an energy crisis, leaving millions of residents in energy poverty and millions more in fear of coming winters.

A key part of the EU’s solution calls for increased imports from the United States of liquefied “natural” gas, or LNG, totaling an extra 15 billion cubic meters in 2022 and 50 billion more annually until at least 2030.

A Food & Water Action Europe analysis finds that this misguided EU policy could generate 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent annually, cost over €64 billion through 2025 and lock in fossil fuel infrastructure for decades. A better investment for the EU and our planet is a rapid transition to 100% renewable energy, avoiding significant fossil fuel emissions.