Letters to the Editor: Should Californians buy the hype on ‘green hydrogen’?

Steam rises from an outdoor generator
Steam is generated at the Scattergood Generating Station, which the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power hopes to transition from burning natural gas to burning green hydrogen.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Kudos to Sammy Roth, as usual, for a great article on hydrogen, but let’s stop talking about hydrogen as a fuel. We don’t have much free hydrogen on Earth — it is created by splitting water, which takes energy. So it would be better to talk about hydrogen as a storage medium — think a battery.

Words matter. As fossil fuel interests try to survive, referring to hydrogen as a fuel makes it seem like we have a source of clean energy readily available. Thinking of it as a battery focuses us rightly on where the original power comes from. So remember: On Earth, hydrogen is a battery, not a fuel.

David Lappen, Santa Monica



To the editor: Roth’s article on hydrogen makes good arguments but misses the point.

Skepticism around gas companies’ motives for embracing hydrogen is understandable, but we should recognize that these companies operate infrastructure vital to decarbonization. “Green” hydrogen is the best solution for many tough carbon problems. Scaling this new energy resource requires collaboration with the gas sector. Vilifying will only slow transition.

Blending green hydrogen into gas is not the end game, but it is a necessary step in scaling green hydrogen to replace gas completely. Green hydrogen is one of the few viable tools to decarbonize infrastructure industries and can even help decarbonize our grid. Additionally, heating in cold seasons cannot be served by renewable electricity.

Renewable hydrogen is a vital decarbonization tool. The gas industry is best positioned to transmit, store and distribute it. They can and should be a part of the solution if we want to move quickly.

Raffi Garabedian, San Carlos

The writer is CEO of Electric Hydrogen and former CTO of First Solar.


To the editor: No, the gas company’s hydrogen proposal isn’t the answer. As the article states, hydrogen is now “produced from fossil fuels in a highly polluting process,” and it generates “lung-damaging oxide pollution.” If we get “green” hydrogen, it will be produced from water, which we need for other purposes. Creating the infrastructure will cost billions and will replace only an estimated “25% of the gas” that SoCalGas delivers today, as reported.

A much better answer would be to place a network of underwater generators along our very long coastline. Just beyond the surf line, our ocean pulses powerfully to create that surf. It could generate clean electricity 24/7, regardless of the weather: no need for toxic batteries to store power for when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.

It will be costly, but so will the hydrogen proposal, and so will massive amounts of rooftop solar, solar farms and wind farms (onshore and offshore). Unlike offshore wind farms, it won’t interfere with boat or ship traffic or mar our beautiful ocean view. Unlike onshore wind and solar farms, it won’t occupy large swaths of land or interfere as much with birds and animals.

This alternative won’t bail out the gas company, the oil and gas drillers or the coal mines. That’s OK. It will, however, benefit the electric utilities. They should get behind this.

Bob Gerecke, Claremont


To the editor: You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. Calling hydrogen green doesn’t make it so. As your article states, in order to be “green” hydrogen must be produced from water and clean energy sources. Most hydrogen today is produced from fossil fuels. SoCalGas is in the business of producing and transporting natural gas, i.e. methane, which can be used to produce the hydrogen, releasing the remaining carbon into the atmosphere. Once the hydrogen is in the pipe, it will be impossible to tell if it is “green” or not.

Murray Zichlinsky, Long Beach