Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has sold Louisiana a pig in a poke that could cost taxpayers dozens of millions of dollars for no valid economic or environmental reason.
Last week, Edwards crowed about a decision by industrial gas manufacturer Air Products and Chemicals to take state money in exchange for siting a “blue” hydrogen plant and carbon sequestration facility. The state bribe to set down the anticipated $4.5 billion facility comes in the form of $5 million to offset construction, $1 million annually in payroll costs up to a decade, and tens of millions more in tax rebates on capital expenditures or on total expenses. Local governments in Ascension Parish will forgo a similar amount in property taxes over a decade.
Edwards raved about the reputed environmental benefits of the project, claiming the state had to fund the effort in order to stave off climate alarmists’ belief in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. It would constitute one of the world’s largest carbon capture and sequestering operation and shuttle the clean fuel hydrogen, cracked from the area’s plentiful natural gas, to the company’s Texas location.
Except that leading scientists and many climate alarmists expressly disavow Edwards’ view about the nature of blue hydrogen. Its production differs from “green” hydrogen in that it uses fossil fuels that produces carbon – in such massive amounts that capture and sequestration becomes necessary, hence the need for such a large proposed component – and methane, while the process to create green hydrogen involves use of renewable energy that has no gas output in operation (although it can in manufacture of devices to produce that energy).
But green hydrogen production occurs in very small amounts because of the enormous cost, so blue hydrogen gets pitched as a waystation for the next few decades. However, and most recently confirmed in research published this summer, the blue hydrogen production process allows the escape of enough carbon and emits methane to make it at least as dirty as burning coal, according to the authors.
This inconvenient fact, which moots any environmental advantage that the use of the separated hydrogen would produce, in Britain led the former head of the lobby for hydrogen use to quit it and castigate the government for subsidizing blue as heavily as green, writing blue “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.” Not incorrectly, he pointed out that the main advocates for blue are energy companies heavily invested in fossil fuels, which even as less expensive than green production still won’t turn a profit for at least a decade because of the high cost of dealing with the carbon – and it cannot deal with methane release.
Yet by 2030, the cost of green production, not needing to deal with carbon or methane, may become quite competitive comparatively, also driven by massive subsidies by governments. The Democrats’ $1.5 billion spending bill in Congress, some form of which is likely to pass before year’s end, contains $9.5 billion in subsidies that backers hope would be used for green production infrastructure, although the language doesn’t preclude spending it on blue facilities.
That means any blue facility could become obsolete within a few years of coming online and thereby moot much investment in carbon sequestration as a separate spin-off. Additionally, many market analysts see the predicted demand for hydrogen as overestimated, so that may temper production at the Burnside plant.
In other words, by the time of its anticipated start-up in 2026, the need for blue hydrogen production may be so sparse as to scale down the plant, if not abandon it, including the sequestration. Even if it comes off, it will end up a net polluter of greenhouse gases, subverting Edwards’ baseless boasts.
Which brings up the point about why, if it doesn’t address adequately an alleged environmental emergency and has significant financial downside – plus with the Democrats’ new subsidies large enough to attract business to Louisiana with its abundant natural gas without additional state and local sweeteners thrown in – would the state subsidize this? Because of the false optics of its environmental friendliness and economic development and the handout it gives to the nonrenewable energy industry?
This squandering of taxpayer dollars happens when you have a governor worshipping a CAGW fantasy who sees government and crony capitalism, not the private sector on which he has raised taxes and piled on regulations, as the creator and distributor of wealth.