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The hydrogen hype: Gas industry fairy tale or climate horror story?

The European Commission and its quest to let the gas industry write the book on hydrogen in Europe

Read the new Food & Water Action Europe, Corporate Europe Observatory and Re:Common Hydrogen Hype report here.

Industry’s hydrogen hype machine is in full swing. An analysis of over 200 documents obtained through freedom of information rules reveals an intense and concerted lobbying campaign by the gas industry in the EU. The first goal was convincing the EU to embrace hydrogen as the ‘clean’ fuel of the future. Doing so has secured political, financial, and regulatory support for a hydrogen-based economy. The second task was securing support for hydrogen derived from fossil fuels as well as hydrogen made from renewable electricity. Successful lobbying means the gas industry can look forward to a lucrative future, but this spells grave danger for the climate as well as the communities and ecosystems impacted by fossil fuel extractivism.

  • The hydrogen lobby, whose main players are fossil gas companies, declared a combined annual expenditure of €58.6 million trying to influence Brussels policy making, although this is suspected to be a gross underestimate.
  • The Commission’s European Hydrogen Strategy, published in July 2020, is worryingly similar to lobby group Hydrogen Europe’s demands, including goals and investments needed for hydrogen both inside and outside the EU, which industry costs at €430 billion by 2030.
  • The European Commission has put the gas industry in the driving seat of many new hydrogen-focused bodies, such as the ‘Clean Hydrogen Alliance’, tasked with drawing up a list of hydrogen projects eligible for public funds. This is a glaring conflict of interest.
  • Hydrogen projects will now enjoy regulatory and financial support from the EU, outlined in the European Hydrogen Strategy and the European Commission’s Industrial Strategy, among others, while also being pushed in the upcoming reviews of the Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E) Regulation and the Renewable Energy Directive. Hydrogen-related projects will also enjoy access to new and existing EU funding streams such as the Sustainable Investment Plan, the Recovery and Resilience Facility, the Connecting Europe Facility, and through revised state aid rules as ‘Important Projects of Common European Interest’.
  • Failed ‘carbon capture and storage/usage’ (CCS/U) technology is being resurrected, and is receiving political, financial, and regulatory support so the EU can justify including fossil fuel-based hydrogen in its 2050 climate plans.
  • The EU’s oversized and under-used fossil gas network has been rebranded by industry as Europe’s future ‘Hydrogen Backbone’, blending small amounts of hydrogen into existing gas pipelines in the short-term, and repurposing them for hydrogen in the longer-term. The European Commission appears to support industry plans, which would give a green light to companies building and operating fossil gas infrastructure to carry on as before.

Read the full list of key findings and the full report here.