The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) – the most significant climate legislation in our nation’s history – will be a game changer for American industries, workers, and future generations. It is also especially good news for Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of energy in the country. In addition to heating our homes and fueling our factories, our energy economy puts tens of thousands of people to work across the state and generates over $22 billion in economic activity each year, all the while substantially reducing CO2 emissions from electricity generation.
The IRA will help foster a host of innovative technologies to fight climate change, with hydrogen chief among them, and Pennsylvania’s energy economy is uniquely positioned to benefit. Investing now in clean hydrogen will not only boost our energy industry, but also support our workers and communities.
Many of us still aren’t sure what hydrogen is and what it means for Pennsylvania. Hydrogen gas is three times as energy rich as natural gas and when it is burned for power or heat it does so without producing carbon dioxide or methane. It can be made by splitting water molecules with electricity or by refining natural gas and can be transported around the state much the same way that natural gas is today.
There are many sectors of our economy that can use hydrogen to reduce emissions. Hydrogen-powered vehicles can refuel in just a few minutes, and hydrogen burns very hot, which is critical for industrial processes like steelmaking. Reaching a net-zero carbon economy will require significant investment and innovation as hydrogen is currently too expensive for these applications. The incentives in the IRA, however, will help tip the scales in favor of more cost-effective and cleaner production.
The future of energy will require a diverse mix of low-carbon fuels. Hydrogen will play a crucial role, and Pennsylvania’s competitive advantage in natural gas production – the cheapest and fastest way to generate hydrogen – means it is also a particularly good fit. Our state is blessed with a highly skilled workforce experienced in the energy and manufacturing sectors.
A hydrogen economy would generate thousands of new jobs in the building and construction trades and open new career paths in engineering, manufacturing, and facility operation. When combined with carbon capture – as is planned for more than 135 facilities around the world – Pennsylvania can create the fuel of the future with up to 95% fewer carbon emissions at the point of hydrogen production.
Reducing Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions will require multiple solutions, and we must keep all policy and technology options on the table. The opportunities for decarbonization here are significant and challenging, but it’s a task that, if done right, can benefit all Pennsylvanians. We should not allow Pennsylvania – given its strengths in energy, manufacturing, and workforce – to be left behind in the race to secure investments to tackle the climate challenge.
Finding a path to a low-carbon economy will take time, effort, and the courage to have some difficult discussions about our priorities. Pennsylvania can and should be a leader in clean hydrogen, and we will continue to build partnerships and accelerate the needed policy approaches to do so.
This letter was submitted to and published as an Op-Ed in PennLive by the Team Pennsylvania Foundation on behalf of the Pennsylvania Energy Horizons Cross-Sector Collaborative, which reflects the deep and coordinated engagement needed for critical innovative solutions to emerge and thrive in the commonwealth.