The UK and Scottish governments both remain fully behind the North Sea Transition Deal, which envisages production of oil and gas continuing up to 2050 and beyond. Hydrogen – initial produced from natural gas – is key to the strategy, and the assumption is that hydrogen will replace direct use of natural gas for home cooking and heating, the source of around 23% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. Hydrogen produced from gas is usually called ‘blue hydrogen’ and while burning hydrogen involves no emissions, the production of blue hydrogen involves the emission of large amounts of carbon dioxide.
The case against the strategy is growing apace. Back in August 2021 Chris Jackson, the chair of the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (UKHFCA) resigned just days before the publication of the Westminster government’s hydrogen strategy. He stated:
“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.”
Last week we posted on the findings of research by the Imperial College Energy Futures Lab comparing hydrogen and heat pumps for domestic heating. The report recommended that hydrogen will be important in decarbonising some specific industrial and transport processes but should not be used for domestic heating. Now MPs on the Westminster Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee have come to the same conclusion. The committee’s report slates the government for the lack of clarity in phasing out domestic gas boilers. It argues that hydrogen is not a practical or sustainable solution. And it condemns the lack of urgency shown by the government in organising for and supporting viable alternatives such as heat pumps and district schemes.
We should be clear that despite the evidence to contrary the hydrogen-based strategy for home heating – while driven by the oil and gas industry – remains the policy option preferred by Westminster, Holyrood and some of the major unions. Now’s the time for climate activists in workplaces to insist that unions need to rethink and for of all us to get behind a campaign to phase out North Sea Oil and Gas and end all the attempts to pretend that a net zero oil and gas basin (the purported aim of the North Sea Transition Deal) is possible.
Check out the Scot.E3 briefing for more on this topic.