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Biden treasury could end up vaporizing billions of dollars with activist-driven rule

by

Daily Caller News Foundation

In May of last year, I wrote about how U.S. Treasury Department’s then-proposed rules for the hydrogen production tax credit (Internal Revenue Code Section 45V) could impact the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) power-plant rules.

While low greenhouse-gas (GHG) hydrogen was listed as a key technology to decarbonize power-related emissions at the time, EPA reversed course this year, removing the technology from its final rule released late last month.

Here’s how the Houston Chronicle put it: “And in a blow to clean hydrogen developers in Texas and beyond, the EPA dropped language encouraging power companies to burn hydrogen fuel at gas plants after pushback from power companies.”

The reason for the pullback is obvious. The activist-driven draft rules that Treasury published in December make it extremely difficult and costly to qualify for the credit, which means hydrogen will not be produced at the volumes necessary to supply the need. Green hydrogen producers are required to source their power from new zero-emission sources and match their hydrogen production to the carbon-intensity of the grid on an hourly basis.

Meanwhile, so-called “blue” hydrogen producers must use a national average to estimate upstream emissions, meaning there’s no incentive to use the cleanest natural gas to produce hydrogen. Both are policies that will result in the same outcome: less clean hydrogen on the market and higher costs, all of which was completely foreseeable last May.

It is notable now that individual companies are speaking up and warning about cancelling planned investments. Last year it was all speculative, and activists dismissed industry warnings as just fearmongering. Well, now companies are clearly not playing around.

Here are some examples of just a few big hydrogen investments that could be paused or cut entirely as a result of the unworkable rules:

Mark Klewpatinond, global business manager for hydrogen at Exxon Mobil, told the Houston Chronicle: “If we’re not able to differentiate natural gas production, it’s highly unlikely Baytown would proceed. It needs to compete for capital against other projects we have.”

Kathleen Barrón, executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Constellation, told the BloombergNEF Summit held in New York City in mid-April that her company, which is already producing hydrogen using electricity from one of its nuclear power plants, will file for the 45V production tax credit despite the fact that the project does not meet the draft criteria. Barron said Constellation was prepared to “visit with the courts to sort out whether the final guidance is consistent with the statute.”

Axios reported on May 6 that metals giant Fortescue’s CEO Andrew Forrest says the company will cancel its own major investments in hydrogen unless significant changes to the Section 45V credit regulations are made. “Projects we have across North America will stop” without such changes being implemented, Forrest said.

Fortescue’s array of hydrogen-related investments in the United States include a federally subsidized plant in Washington state, another plant in Arizona and a car manufacturing site in Michigan. All are now in jeopardy.

These announcements by major companies seeking to commit billions to new hydrogen-related projects if the rules make sense fly in the face of a claim by left-wing activist group Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that industry complaints that the regulations as written “will hinder industry growth consistently flout on the ground evidence and are contrary to the best analytical findings.”

Regardless of what “analytical findings” NRDC was relying on, the evidence on the ground as of today is clear: The Treasury interpretation as it currently exists will kill billions of dollars in job-creating investments in the United States, exactly as so many warned a year ago.

In an article published on its website last year, NRDC asserted there is “no tradeoff between scaling up the industry and safeguarding against emissions increases,” and that projects “can be cost-competitive from day one” under the rules they supported (and which Treasury adopted). But obviously, such a tradeoff does exist and the companies willing to risk billions of dollars on U.S. hydrogen development are not going to move ahead with such investments under a set of regulations that renders their projects non-profitable.

Corporations exist for one reason: To generate profits for their investors. They are not charitable organizations and no amount of high-minded rhetoric and wishful thinking from the climate-alarm lobby can alter that reality.

David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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Republished with permission from Daily Caller News Foundation

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