US energy secretary Jennifer Granholm has defended allocating billions of dollars of subsidies to Hydrogen Hubs that will produce blue H2 from fossil gas, saying that the carbon capture and storage they must use will be an essential part of the government’s fight against climate change.

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The Biden administration announced last Friday that it would allocate $7bn of grants to seven H2Hubs across the US — funding set aside under the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law — with four of those projects involving the production of blue hydrogen. Those four hubs are due to receive up to $4.05bn of grants.

Multiple environmental organisations criticised handing so much taxpayer money to the fossil fuels industry, especially with cash-rich climate laggards ExxonMobil and Chevron due to be among the recipients, but Granholm said that while she “hears” the criticism, she believes such investments are very much necessary.

She told Forbes magazine that investing in blue H2 “gives us the chance to demonstrate that [CCS] works”, adding that CCS will be a vital tool for reducing CO2 emissions.

“[The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change] has said that we’re not going to get to 2050 and net zero without some kind of carbon management and removal. That’s going to be a piece of a couple [sic] of these hubs as well,” she said.

But she added: “We want to be in a position to move eventually away from fossil fuels and to clean energy all the way.”

Five of the selected H2Hubs — which will both produce and use clean hydrogen — will involve the production of green H2, and two will see pink hydrogen made from nuclear power.

“Hydrogen is going to play a role in the hardest-to-decarbonise sectors (that are) 30% of our CO2 emissions,” Granholm told Forbes.

“Renewables are not going to be able to get to the temperature necessary for decarbonising heavy industry. Another solution is going to be necessary and we think this is really right for that.”

But speaking in Philadelphia last Friday, she was less specific about the sectors that should utilize clean hydrogen.

“Clean hydrogen is the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of zero-carbon solutions because it can do just about everything: Powering trucks, buses, and airplanes; heating homes and fertilizing crops; revolutionizing shipping; and cleaning up America’s manufacturing industry.

“Clean hydrogen will shore up our energy security and independence and ensure that energy workers who’ve powered our nation for the last century will propel us for the next 100 years.”

For more information on the selected H2Hubs, click here.

For more on the environmental groups’ criticism of the blue hydrogen funding, click here.