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It seems like only yesterday that a mysterious new program called Energy Earthshots was in the works for the US Department of Energy, and everybody was wondering what that could possibly be. The curtain has now lifted and the answer is clean hydrogen. If you’re thinking why clean hydrogen and not green hydrogen, that’s a good question. The answer could make fossil energy stakeholders very happy or very, very sad.

Green Hydrogen Vs. Clean Hydrogen

For those of you new to the topic, hydrogen is the cornerstone of the modern industrial economy. The booming market for hydrogen fuel cells is just one slice of a huge chemical pie that includes agriculture, food processing, and refining, among other areas.

The problem is that almost the entire global supply of hydrogen comes from natural gas and coal.

However, not for long. Low-cost renewable energy has fostered a rosier economic outlook for new and more sustainable hydrogen sources, aka green hydrogen. Most of the activity is concentrated in the field of electrolysis, which refers to systems that deploy electricity to tease bubbles of hydrogen gas out of water.

This is what is known as green hydrogen. Other renewable hydrogen sources include biomass, biogas, municipal wastewater, and municipal solid waste.

The idea of producing hydrogen from reclaimed industrial gasses and plastic waste is also catching on. That’s more sustainable than using virgin natural gas or coal to produce hydrogen, though much of the foundational feedstock is still fossil-based and not renewable.

Then there’s a public relations gimmick cooked up by fossil energy stakeholders, in which you still produce hydrogen from natural gas or coal, but you hook it up to a carbon capture system and call it “blue” hydrogen, which supposedly translates into “clean” hydrogen.

I know, right? We think so, too.

So What Is It, Green Hydrogen Or Clean Hydrogen?

All else being equal, the “clean hydrogen” referred to in the new Energy Earthshots initiative could include support for fossil-sourced hydrogen with carbon capture, as well as reclaimed hydrogen from wastes.

However, last week CleanTechnica eyeballed the Biden administration’s FY 2022 budget proposal, and we took a quick look back the Energy Department’s green hydrogen initiatives during the administration of former President and accused insurrectionist Donald Trump, and then we connected the dots to current Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm’s pronouncements about renewable hydrogen earlier this year, and our conclusion is that when Energy Earthshots says clean hydrogen, they may be leaving a bit of wiggle room for fossil sources, but probably not all that much.

Get Ready For The Hydrogen Shot

The name “Earthshots Initiative” is a play on the successful 20th century Moonshot venture that shot US astronauts into space before anybody else got there, and the Energy Department’s early 21st century Sunshot Initiative, which launched during the Obama administration with the goal of bringing down the cost of solar power.

Energy Earthshots aims to replicate that all-hands-on-deck frenzy of collaborative innovation to tackle the energy challenges of the early mid-century period, which will make or break the ability of humankind to save itself from catastrophic climate change.

The Energy Earthshots Initiative aims to “accelerate breakthroughs of more abundant, affordable, and reliable clean energy solutions within the decade,” the Energy Department explained in a press release on Monday.

Skeptics were and still are laughing off the idea of the hydrogen economy of the future, but the Energy Department is a big fan and they just clapped back bigly when they picked hydrogen as the very first focus of the new Energy Earthshots initiative.

“The first Energy Earthshot — Hydrogen Shot — seeks to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen by 80% to $1 per kilogram in one decade,” the Energy Department said. “Achieving these targets will help America tackle the climate crisis, and more quickly reach the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 while creating good-paying, union jobs and growing the economy.”

“Clean hydrogen is a game changer. It will help decarbonize high-polluting heavy-duty and industrial sectors, while delivering good-paying clean energy jobs and realizing a net-zero economy by 2050,” Secretary Granholm added.

Here’s the money quote from the press release:

“By achieving Hydrogen Shot’s 80% cost reduction goal, we can unlock a five-fold increase in demand by increasing clean hydrogen production from pathways such as renewables, nuclear, and thermal conversion. This would create more clean energy jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and position America to compete in the clean energy market on a global scale.”

Fossil-Sourced Hydrogen With Carbon Capture, Or Maybe Not

If you caught that thing about renewables and nuclear, that’s a reference to electrolysis, meaning green hydrogen. There is also something called thermochemical conversion, which deploys high heat from nuclear or concentrating solar plants to split hydrogen from water, but that seems a bit too early-stagey to fit into the Hydrogen Shot timeline. The other option is thermal conversion, which generally refers to steam reformation and other processes that apply to natural gas and coal, meaning not green hydrogen.

The Hydrogen Shot Request for Information emphasizes diverse energy sources in the US, and it specifically mentions fossil energy plus carbon capture for ramping up hydrogen production, so it looks like fossil energy stakeholders have something to cheer about after all.

Or, maybe not. Climate action has become a mainstream business model. It’s a good bet that the market for fossil-sourced hydrogen will shrink as the supply of sustainable hydrogen grows, carbon capture or not.

The Energy Department’s RFI appears to recognize that the private sector is already leaning towards green hydrogen. Despite the nod to fossil-sourced hydrogen, the agency highlights green hydrogen in a shortlist of major projects currently under way:

“… hydrogen production, storage, and end use in turbines through the $1 billion Advanced Clean Energy Storage project in Utah; a 5 MW electrolyzer project planned in Washington State; first-of-a -kind nuclear-to-hydrogen projects in multiple states; a 20 MW electrolyzer plant to produce hydrogen from solar power in Florida; and the first GW-scale factory for electrolyzers announced in New York, with a 120 MW electrolyzer soon to be installed.”

If you can spot the thermal conversion project in that list, drop us a note in the comment thread (hint: there is none).

But What About Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles?

Yes, what about them? Hydrogen Shot is not taking aim at the hydrogen fuel cell passenger car and SUV markets, though Toyota and a small but growing list of automakers have been pitching the idea (for the record, the growing list includes Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, and most recently, BMW).

Instead, Hydrogen Shot is focusing on long haul trucks and other heavy applications. That could include locomotives as well as hydrogen aircraft and hydrogen watercraft.

Green hydrogen has already been incorporated into much of the planning for transportation applications, so it’s no surprise that green hydrogen producers are already jockeying to compete for business.

In the latest development on that score, the firm SGH2 Energy is pitching a “greener than green” hydrogen product that draws from biomass and other bio-based waste. The company claims that its green H2 displaces more carbon than both electrolysis-based process as well as thermal conversion, so hold on to your hats.

Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.

Image: Hydrogen production from various sources courtesy of US Department of Energy.


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Italy says that it’s illegal for Alfa Romeo to call its new EV the Milano

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Italy says that it’s illegal for Alfa Romeo to call its new EV the Milano

What’s an Alfa Romeo without a cool Italian-sounding name? The Stellantis-owned company is naming its first BEV after the famous city of Milan, but the Italian government is now playing hardball by saying that’s illegal since the car will be built in Poland. If it’s not made in Italy, it can’t sound Italian.

Alfa Romeo – the iconic Italian brand founded in 1910 – unveiled its first all-electric car this week, a small SUV dubbed the Milano. Stellantis has been at odds with the Italian government for months for what he says is its lack of support in EV adoption and not backing home-grown brands Fiat and Alfa Romeo, but the government says that moving production outside the country is a step way too far.

Italy’s industry minister Adolfo Urso, according to Automotive News Europe, slammed Stellantis for the decision to build the EV at the company’s Tychy plant in Poland – meaning the car will be the first Alfa Romeo to be entirely built outside of Italy. And if the electric vehicle isn’t built in Italy, it can’t carry an Italian-sounding name according to Italian law.

“A car called Milano cannot be produced in Poland. This is forbidden by Italian law,” Urso said, referring to 2003 law that prohibits any products being sold with Italian-sounding names that aren’t made in Italy. Yet somehow calling it the Tychy doesn’t have the same ring.

“This law stipulates that you cannot give indications that mislead consumers. So a car called Milano must be produced in Italy. Otherwise, it gives a misleading indication which is not allowed under Italian law,” he added, according to Automotive News Europe.

Urso is referring to a law that says it is illegal to falsely present a foreign-made product as coming from Italy, but has typically been invoked against food products, such as forbidding a US-made “Parmigiano Reggiano” cheese. France has similar laws protecting its products, such as prohibiting sparking wine be called “champagne” if it doesn’t come from the Champagne region of France.

The rationale for building the vehicle in Poland, according to Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares, is that it will shave off €10,000 from its retail price.

While pricing has yet been released, the new EV is based on Stellantis’s e-CMP platform, which powers its Jeep Avenger. A 54 kWh battery pack will deliver up to 250 miles of range, and in an urban cycle, it can get up to 366 miles of range.

Italy, home to some of the oldest, most polluting cars in Europe, is working (finally) to change that, with the government weighing a plan to put €930 million ($1 billion) into some enticing financial incentives to nudge drivers toward electric cars. This includes an incentive topping €13,750 to allow Italian citizens with an annual income lower than €30,000 to replace old Euro 2 models (meeting emissions standards set back in 1997) for new electric cars. An EV made is Italy is even better, of course.

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IEA downgrades oil demand growth forecast as prices heat up on elevated Middle East tensions

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IEA downgrades oil demand growth forecast as prices heat up on elevated Middle East tensions

An oil pumpjack is shown near the Callon Petroleum vicinity on March 27, 2024 in Monahans, Texas. 

Brandon Bell | Getty Images

The International Energy Agency on Friday downgraded its forecast for 2024 oil demand growth, citing “exceptionally weak” OECD deliveries, a largely complete post-Covid-19 rebound and an expanding electric vehicle fleet.

In its latest monthly oil market report, the IEA said it had revised down its 2024 oil demand growth forecast by around 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.2 million bpd.

The global energy watchdog said that it expected the pace of expansion to decelerate even further to 1.1 million bpd next year “as the post-Covid 19 rebound has run its course.”

The IEA’s report comes amid a rebound in oil prices on elevated Middle East tensions, with energy market participants closely monitoring the prospect of supply disruptions from the oil-producing region.

Iran, which is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, has vowed to retaliate after it accused Israel of bombing its embassy in the Syrian capital of Damascus earlier this month.

The attack has ratcheted up tensions in a region already grappling with the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. Israel has not claimed responsibility for the attack.

International benchmark Brent crude futures with June delivery traded 0.8% higher at $90.45 per barrel on Friday at 9:30 a.m. in London, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures with May delivery rose nearly 1% to trade at $85.84 per barrel.

“We’re seeing the surge in [electric vehicle] sales, especially in China and also in Europe, really taking into gasoline demand, but also in the United States,” Toril Bosoni, head of oil industry and markets division at the IEA, told CNBC’s “Street Signs Europe” on Friday.

“There has been a lot of talk about sales not increasing as much as maybe was expected, but EV sales and increased fuel efficiencies in the car fleet is lowering gasoline demand, at least in advanced economies and particularly in China.”

Asked about some of the main concerns relating to oil supply security, Bosoni replied, “We are watching, obviously, the Middle East very closely. The continued tanker attacks in the Red Sea is of key concern, but also escalating tensions between Iran and Israel, and then we’re seeing tensions between Russia and Ukraine continue, with attacks on Russian refineries.”

“So, there are several tension points in the oil market today that we’re watching very closely that could have major impacts … if there would be any significant outages,” she added.

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Tesla unveils new Sport Seats to absorb Model S Plaid’s insane power

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Tesla unveils new Sport Seats to absorb Model S Plaid's insane power

Tesla has unveiled new Sport Seats for the Model S Plaid to absorb the electric supercar’s insane power better.

While it’s in the form of a family sedan, the Model S Plaid could easily pass as an electric supercar with its 1.99-second 0 to 60 mph acceleration.

That’s more power than anyone would need, but it is fun.

Some Model S Plaid owners even like to take the fun to the racetrack. When cornering, you can really feel the Gs on the racetrack.

Tesla’s Model S seats are comfortable, but they are not designed for super-spirited driving, which the rest of the vehicle enables.

Today, Tesla decided to address the issue with the release of new Sports Seats:

They obviously feature much more pronounced side support. Here are the main features of the seats:

  • Increased lateral support
  • Modular seat architecture for comfort & support, plus same 12-way power adjust, heating & ventilation
  • High performance suede for increased grip & reduced weight

Here’s another look at the new seats:

The seats are now standard for the $90,000 Model S Plaid and included on all cars built since the beginning of the month.

Electrek’s Take

We had known new sports seats were coming to the new Model 3 Performance, which is expected to be unveiled any day, but it makes sense that the Model S Plaid would get them first.

The vehicle’s level of performance deserves sports seats.

I am surprised that Tesla is making it standard rather than a paid option, but we’ll take it.

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