In the best of circumstances, hydrogen can be made from electrolysis of water, powered either by solar or wind. Theoretically, it can therefore store surplus renewable power when the grid is unable to absorb it, and most critically, it can help decarbonize hard-to-electrify sectors such as long-distance transport and heavy industry. It has emerged, in part, because of our need for a solution to the intermittency of renewables.
Originally used by the Nazis to produce synthetic fuels from coal, currently– as earthquakes and climate change turn natural gas from boon to bane—there is new hope for the use of hydrogen if it can be made “clean”.
Hydrogen is not a technology, but rather an energy carrier that can be produced either clean or dirty. The climate impact depends entirely on how it is made – if from natural gas, not so clean (called “grey”), if from natural gas with carbon capture and storage, better (called “blue”), and if from the electrolysis of water powered by renewables, very fine indeed (called “green”).
Some have posited that hydrogen has a future fueling private cars, but most believe that the future of automobiles is electric, although many suggest that long haul freight will be electric plus hydrogen. Philipp Niessen, director for industry and innovation at the European Climate Foundation, predicts its most important potential lies “in sectors such as heavy industry where there is no decarbonization alternative.”
Essentially, all of the summarized information above came from an utterly brilliant, articulate, and vastly more comprehensive article written by Sonja van Renssen, on August 27, 2020, in Nature Climate Change. A PDF of the entire article is here.
People have used biomass energy — energy from living things — since the earliest “cave men” first made wood fires for cooking or keeping warm. The most common biomass materials are plants, such as corn and soy. Biomass is an organic renewable energy source that includes materials such as agriculture and forest residues, energy crops, and algae. Used to fuel electric generators and other machinery.
It can also, unlike other renewable energy sources, be converted directly into liquid fuels, called “biofuels,” to help meet transportation fuel needs. Scientists and engineers at the U.S. Department of Energy, and its national laboratories, are finding new, more efficient ways to convert biomass into biofuels that can take the place of conventional fuels like gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.
Examples of biofuels include ethanol (often made from corn in the United States and sugarcane in Brazil), biodiesel (from vegetable oils and liquid animal fats), green diesel (derived from algae and other plant sources), and biogas (methane derived from animal manure and other digested organic material).
Unfortunately, trees are also being burned. About 20% of the energy the EU counts and subsidies as “renewable” comes from logging and burning forest wood. This increases carbon pollution, destroys forest ecosystems, and adds to air pollution. Burning forest biomass isn’t carbon neutral or even “low carbon” as the idea of “renewable” implies. Leading scientists recognize that regrowing forests to offset CO2 from burning wood takes decades to centuries. Not to mention that per unit of energy, biomass results in higher emissions than coal.