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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Secretary of Vitality Jennifer Granholm on cleansing up ‘clear’ power

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As a lot as local weather change is reshaping life on Earth as we all know it — the options posed are additionally going to vary on a regular basis life. 2023 is on observe to be the hottest in the books, and until we wish to shatter that document 12 months after 12 months, each nation on Earth should work collectively to wean themselves off fossil fuels. The US, the world’s greatest producer of oil and gas, has more work to do than others.

So, how do you remake our total power system whereas the clock is ticking? While you construct all this infrastructure, how do you accomplish that with out steamrolling over communities within the course of? And the way do you keep away from the harms brought on by drilling and mining up to now, particularly after we’ll want a variety of important minerals to make EV batteries, wind generators, and photo voltaic panels?

The Verge spoke with Secretary of Vitality Jennifer Granholm shortly after the Division of Vitality announced $7 billion in funding for hydrogen manufacturing hubs throughout the US. It’s a textbook instance of a possible various power supply that has opened up a complete new can of worms.

The environmental advantages of hydrogen are nonetheless contested. A number of the hubs will run on renewable power. Others will probably be made with fossil fuels that also produce greenhouse fuel emissions. The Biden administration thinks it might clear up that air pollution with controversial carbon seize know-how. However a variety of communities don’t want that industrial infrastructure — pipelines and storage — including to well being dangers they already face after many years of environmental injustice. 

That’s all to say, it’s sophisticated. Within the interview, Granholm spoke about how she would possibly navigate these difficult subsequent steps. 

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This interview has been evenly edited for readability.

The DOE not too long ago introduced billions in funding for hydrogen hubs throughout the US. Hydrogen as a gas has been round for some time. Why prioritize making extra of it now?

All people at all times says renewable power, fabulous, however the Solar doesn’t at all times shine, and the wind doesn’t at all times blow. How do you just be sure you have clear power that’s 24/7? And the way do you just be sure you have clear power that’s serving to to decarbonize the toughest to decarbonize sectors? Like heavy business, heavy trucking, for instance. And so I believe clear hydrogen just isn’t for each use however actually for these necessary areas as a filler, as a Swiss Military knife, as they name it.

Vans proper now run on diesel, and people create air pollution, clearly. Effectively, in the event that they’re capable of run on gas cells, that takes care of that drawback. Gear used at ports, marinas, sustainable aviation gas, [the] creation of inexperienced ammonia, metal and industrial warmth, information facilities. These sorts of makes use of are, I believe, prime for this.

Just a few of the hubs will use fuel to make hydrogen — and a few environmental and local weather justice teams — say this perpetuates dependence on fossil fuels. Why select tasks that depend on fuel as a substitute of simply funding tasks that make hydrogen utilizing renewable power?

We will’t flip the change and simply fully rework our power system in a single day. We have now to have this transition. If these manufacturing websites are powered by pure fuel, all of them will need to have carbon seize and sequestration and never enable for carbon air pollution to go up into the environment.

I fully perceive the will to not perpetuate, as many within the environmental justice group have mentioned, any makes use of of fossil fuels. However you recognize, the fact is individuals will probably be driving automobiles, and never everyone is driving electrical automobiles. Not each enterprise can convert tomorrow to have electrical automobiles. There will probably be this transition. 

Even clear power has an environmental footprint. Advocates are already involved about mining minerals utilized in batteries for electrical automobiles and renewable power, as an illustration. How do you weigh these sorts of prices and decrease any harms?

Effectively, right here’s what I’d say. One, if we’re going to affect our transportation system, we’re going to wish batteries. And the batteries are going to wish the important minerals that propel these batteries. So any person’s going to be mining them. Is it doable for us to be the chief in sustainable practices for mining as a nation? You wager it’s. Is it doable for us to companion with international locations that do this in a sustainable manner, in a manner that respects Indigenous lands and peoples who’ve deep considerations over land getting used? Can we do that? Sure. The photo voltaic panels, the wind generators, they’re made with metal, they’re made with glass. That cup must be produced someplace. Can we produce it in a sustainable manner? Can we create the roles right here in America? Sure. 

We will’t create these merchandise out of thin air, however we are able to do it in a manner that we incentivize firms, present carrots and sticks, in order that they’re producing, manufacturing within the cleanest manner doable. 

America is in the most effective place to have the ability to do this, fairly than relying upon international locations whose values we might not share. Who might not share our respect for the surroundings, or who might use baby labor, for instance, to extract minerals from the Earth.

Secretary of Vitality Jennifer Granholm pictured with Press Secretary Charisma Troiano.
Photograph by Dee Dwyer for The Verge

The DOE is funding hubs for hydrogen and carbon elimination — two applied sciences that critics typically say might create new environmental injustices. I’ve heard from communities that don’t wish to share a fence line with these industrial services and pipelines that join them. What would you say to a resident who’s involved about that? 

We have now to acknowledge that a lot carbon air pollution, and air pollution on the whole, is in deprived communities due to a historical past of racism. These are the locations which are going to wish essentially the most TLC, if you’ll, to assist take away the emissions from the air for these communities. For instance, in Most cancers Alley within the Gulf Coast in Louisiana, so many individuals are experiencing well being impacts due to the air pollution of heavy business. But when we have been to have an answer that removes diesel fumes from the air, that may assist to restore what has been a historical past and a legacy of air pollution. 

Clear power has gotten dragged into tradition wars, and we regularly see these conversations devolving into questions of private alternative — what if somebody needs to maintain their fuel range, as an illustration. How will we get out of that lure to see what the larger image is? 

To begin with, let me simply be clear, President Biden doesn’t wish to ban fuel stoves. We wish to make all home equipment environment friendly so that individuals aren’t losing their cash on power that’s not going to its supposed use, for stoves or for something. 

These are all distractions. Our planet is on fireplace. All individuals need to do is have a look at what the variety of excessive climate occasions has been this previous 12 months. We’re at record-breaking temperatures all throughout the nation. This would be the hottest 12 months that now we have ever recorded due to our actions as human beings. 

All of that’s to say, now we have received to propel ahead with a way of urgency, the identical sense of urgency that’s felt by the communities which are experiencing these excessive climate occasions. And we can not enable ourselves to be distracted by arguments which are political or are sideshows to what the primary present is. The principle present is that we should scale back our carbon emissions. 

Are you involved {that a} future president will undo all of this administration’s efforts to advertise sustainable power?

In fact. In fact we’re very involved about that — about going backward and contributing additional to the heating of our planet.

Worldwide climate talks are arising on the finish of the month. One of many greatest questions is whether or not international locations can agree on a world plan to phase out fossil fuels. What do you assume must occur? 

I believe that all of us need to get collectively as international locations and decide to holding ourselves to the targets that we set. And for the international locations that haven’t set targets, they should set them. We can not stand idly by as passive bystanders as our shared dwelling, this planet, is on fireplace.



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