The Hindenburg Solution to 'Climate Change'

Rich Trzupek14 Feb, 2024 4 Min Read
Oh, the humanity.

Every reasonable educated person, even those who are among the most extreme of climate alarmists, understand that the biggest problem with the two most currently popular forms of renewable energy -- wind farms and solar farms -- is the intermittent nature of those energy sources. Except for hydroelectric sources, renewable energy is generally unreliable -- and one cannot operate an electric grid without a large supply of reliable, base load power.

As part of a proposed rule the United States Environmental Protection Agency published last year, the agency offered up a plan to address that deficiency. Their suggested plan is remarkably inefficient and expensive, but one can argue that it is probably feasible, given infinitely deep pockets. This seeming feasibility is what makes the proposal especially dangerous.


Late last year the EPA published a proposed New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) limiting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from electric generating units (EGU). If adopted, the agency says that these standards would dramatically reduce GHG emissions in America. It likely would. But despite EPA's claims to the contrary, the cost would be phenomenal. The standard would cause even more reliance on renewable sources of energy, but it would use that energy in a much different way than we do now. Since large-scale battery storage is not feasible, the agency is proposing to store the energy in the form of hydrogen.

A standard demonstration used by many a high school chemistry teacher involves the electrolysis of water. By passing an electric current through water one generates free hydrogen and free oxygen. If you collect those gases in a balloon and then put a match to the balloon one gets a very satisfying small explosion and burst of flame. Since that's relatively easy to do, one may wonder why don't we do utilize electrolysis to produce hydrogen as an alternative source of energy now? The answer is that it's too damned expensive.

The reason it's too damned expensive is that the electrolysis of water uses more energy then it creates. It makes no sense. That is why the vast majority of hydrogen produced and used in industry is derived from natural gas. Getting your hydrogen from natural gas is on the right side of the energy balance, but a byproduct of that process is carbon dioxide. Lots of carbon dioxide. Thus the green team is not going to encourage the use of hydrogen generated in this manner.

Instead the EPA’s proposal would create a new class of hydrogen, low GHG hydrogen. This would include any hydrogen generated through electrolysis where the source of the electricity was either renewable or, oddly enough, nuclear. Any hydrogen so generated would then be used in combustion turbines to generate reliable power. At first the current generation of combustion turbines would be retrofitted to co-fire 30 percent hydrogen and 70 percent natural gas. In later years the agency would require new turbines be built that would fire 100 percent hydrogen.

Buying eggs for 7 cents, selling them for 5 = profit.

Both steps would undoubtedly reduce GHG emissions in America. But at what cost? According to Joe Biden’s EPA, the economic benefits would far outweigh the costs incurred. Don’t be fooled. This broken-record style of justification for ever more stringent, and ever less marginally relevant, environmental regulations has been a staple of green apologists for over thirty years.

Call it the Milo Minderbinder approach to environmental economics. If executed, the EPA’s plan would require a massive investment in new infrastructure. New electrolysis plants would be built, many of them near wind and solar farms. New pipelines for the transport of water and hydrogen would be laid. Whether using fresh water or salt water, electrolysis leaves a lot of solid residue behind, in the form of naturally occurring minerals and salts. These would require collection and further processing or disposal.

Some people may claim there’s a safety factor at work as well. Hydrogen is flammable and, in the right mixture with air, explosive. Let’s not forget the Hindenburg! However, in fairness, we know how to handle flammable and explosive gases in 21st century America. We safely handle trillions of cubic feet of natural gas each year, with very few incidents. There’s no reason we could not do the same with hydrogen.

The real issue here is about cost. The renewable to electrolysis to hydrogen to combustion turbine to electricity route is massively more expensive and hideously less efficient than the natural gas to combustion turbine to electricity route, or the coal to boiler to electricity route. There is little doubt that the EPA and the Green Machine will spend endless amounts of time and energy attempting to assure us that the tremendous savings to be realized by mitigating the evils of "climate change" will more than offset the costs of creating the new hydrogen infrastructure. Don’t be fooled. Basic principles of thermodynamics and economics don’t disappear just because the enviro-fascist crowd choose to ignore them.

Rich Trzupek is a chemist and air quality expert who has worked with industry and the EPA for over thirty five years. He is the author of Regulators Gone Wild: How the EPA is Ruining American Industry and other works. He lives in the Chicago area.


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2 comments on “The Hindenburg Solution to 'Climate Change'”

  1. Incidentally, the byproduct of hydrogen combustion is of course water vapor—a gas with greenhouse properties that are an order of magnitude greater than carbon dioxide. Yes, yes the hydrogen proponents will respond by saying that water vapor can be scrubbed by simple condensation but that belies the added complexity and cost associated with engineering such systems. Indeed, apart from simple hydrogen, if all (complete) hydrocarbon combustion produces water vapor and carbon dioxide (with methane combustion giving the highest ratio of these molecules, 2:1 respectively) one must ask why the greenhouse effect of water vapor has been ignored. Well, can anyone imagine a scenario in which SCOTUS would have bought into the Endangerment Finding argument if the EPA had petitioned to regulate human activities that produce water vapor? Even for the often dim-witted Justices, that would have been a bridge too far. Catholic indulgences?—okay they could stomach that. Pay your carbon sin tax and escape purgatory. But Protestant-style predestination to Hell (I.e. no reasonable taxing mechanism for the state to profit from regulating sinful water vapor emissions)? That’s crazy! What good is a religious doctrine like Global Warming if you can’t make money from it?!?!

  2. "We safely handle trillions of cubic feet of natural gas each year, with very few incidents. There’s no reason we could not do the same with hydrogen."
    We simply DO NOT know how to handle hydrogen safely and cheaply ... there are plenty of reasons that handling hydrogen safely is very difficult ... and hydrogen is much more explosive than natural gas ... a small leak in your home of nat gas doesn't blow up at the slighest spark ...

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