Lankford: We Need an All-of-the-Above Approach to Give Hydrogen Production the Best Chance of Success
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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) served as lead Republican of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) on behalf of ENR Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY) and delivered remarks during a full committee hearing to examine the opportunities and challenges in using clean hydrogen in the transportation, utility, industrial, commercial, and residential sectors.
The hearing featured testimony from an Oklahoma-based company from Mr. Brian Hlavinka, Vice President, New Energy Ventures, Corporate Strategic Development at Williams; Dr. Sunita Satyapal, Director Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies office at the US Department of Energy; Dr. Glen Richard Murrell, Executive Director Wyoming Energy Authority; Mr. Jonathan Lewis, Senior Counsel and Director of Transportation Decarbonization with the Clean Air Task Force, and Mr. Michael J. Graff, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at American Air Liquide Holdings, Inc.
For more information on witness testimony click here.
Lankford’s opening remarks:
Remarks as prepared
Good morning. I want to thank Chairman Manchin for holding this hearing on the future of the use of hydrogen in the energy and transportation sectors. I honored to be here for Ranking Member Barrasso and join you with our family in praying for Bobbi and her quick recovery.
Hydrogen is the simplest and one of the most commonly-occurring elements on earth. The reason we are here discussing it today is that it burns cleanly: the only two by-products it produces are heat and water.
Hydrogen has many potential uses. One of the most talked about possible uses for hydrogen is in the transportation sector as a fuel to power heavy-duty trucks. NASA has been using hydrogen fuel since the 1950s to power rockets into outer space, and was one of the first to use hydrogen fuel cells to support electrical systems on spacecraft – it is time we learned from their experience and applied those lessons to solve transportation challenges here on earth.
Despite the promise of hydrogen, there are challenges in unleashing this potential. Hydrogen must be freed from compounds it commonly occurs in, like water (H2O) and methane (CH4), to get it to a state where it can be used as an energy source. The process to separate the elements requires significant power inputs. Depending on the method used, it can also require large amounts of water or methane.
Beyond production challenges, there are many logistical questions that need to be answered as the use of this technology grows. Once such question is how best to transport hydrogen from where it is produced to where it is used. Our existing natural gas pipeline network holds promise for transporting and delivering blended hydrogen across the country, and provides an incredible example of how we can leverage existing infrastructure to meet future needs rather than starting from scratch.
But to have this infrastructure available for a future hydrogen economy, we need to make investments now. Unfortunately, investment in natural gas pipelines is all too frequently met with opposition, despite natural gas playing a key role in lowering emissions, and despite the critical role pipelines may play in empowering broad adoption of low- and no-emission hydrogen.
There are efforts already underway to grapple with how best to produce and deploy this resource. I am particularly proud of my home state of Oklahoma’s efforts to grow the hydrogen industry. In the spirit of its long history being an energy leader, the state put together a taskforce to determine how it can use its deep experience in the energy industry to pioneer the hydrogen frontier. The report the taskforce released last year outlined a roadmap for how we can combine our existing resources, like abundant natural gas and renewable power, with our energy expertise to grow the hydrogen economy. I am glad we have a witness here today who is familiar with this effort and may be able to speak to the importance of stakeholder collaboration—and I’m always glad to see some Oklahomans here as well.
Although there are states and regions that have the building blocks for the hydrogen industry, its growth and broad success is far from guaranteed. Government policies unfortunately sometimes unfairly or unintentionally prevent technologies that should be winners from floating to the top. I am concerned that the conversation around “green” versus “blue” and all the other colors will pit technologies against each other rather than working together to establish a robust hydrogen marketplace.
The simple truth is that 95 percent of hydrogen produced in the United States today is made from natural gas. If our goal is to determine whether hydrogen is a viable alternative to some of our existing energy technologies, we cannot discount a method that could drive the need for, and development of, other parts of the supply chain. We truly need an “all of the above” approach to give this effort the best chance of success. I’m hoping this topic is one our witnesses can speak to today.
Finally, the hydrogen provisions in last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, including the $8 billion to stand up Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs, have generated a lot of interest in many of the states represented on this Committee. I look forward to hearing how the Department of Energy plans to spend this funding and how they define a hub. I had grave concerns about the infrastructure package due to its long-term impact on our national debt. However, now that the funding has been provided, we must ensure it is spent in a way that creates the largest and most beneficial impact for all Americans.
I’m always glad to see an Oklahoman at a hearing, but I want to sincerely welcome and thank all of the witnesses for joining us. I look forward to the conversation.