(The Center Square) — Republican lawmakers welcome the state’s future hydrogen hubs as the next step in energy production that balances environmental conservation with economic growth.
But not everyone believes in the promise of hydrogen and instead worry that the government will waste billions on questionable technology.
The Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub (MACH2) based in Philadelphia and the Appalachian Hydrogen Hub (ARC2) based in West Virginia will bring $1.7 billion in federal largesse to the commonwealth and “billions more in commitments from the private-sector companies,” Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington, said during a press conference on Tuesday.
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The hubs, announced in October, are part of a $7 billion federal push to create hydrogen-centered production areas aimed at making the transportation and manufacturing industries less carbon-intensive.
“The hubs are also expected to produce thousands of family-sustaining jobs across a number of industries,” Bartolotta said.
Legislators were optimistic that the shift would be viable for nature and for people.
“We do not have to pick between a clean environment and a robust economy — we have it both ways by backing responsible policies like these hydrogen hub projects and creating a regulatory framework that supports additional investment in our region,” Bartolotta said.
They also want the commonwealth to be at the center of a national shift.
“We can make hydrogen in Pennsylvania cleaner and more cost-effective than anywhere else on Earth,” Bartolotta said. “We should be on the forefront of these advancements. We need this in Pennsylvania, and we need to do it quickly.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, R-Greensburg, argued that the legislature needs to “stop the war on fossil fuels,” while Sen. Cris Dush, R-Brookville, warned of “foolish overregulation” driving out Pennsylvania’s working class.
“There’s not a state in the United States that doesn’t have a Steelers bar in it, and that’s because it’s our working-class people, our workers, who’ve gone out to those states,” he said.
Those jobs would create a pathway for young men and women to join our world-class, class A apprenticeship program.
Labor leaders have not yet given up on the dream of a third hydrogen hub in the area, either.
“Now is the time to partner with one another and find a way to bring another hydrogen hub to the Mon Valley,” Michael Ford of the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council said. “Those jobs would create a pathway for young men and women to join our world-class, class A apprenticeship program and have a career that will provide for their family for a lifetime.”
Yet not everyone is persuaded that the hubs can deliver on their dramatic economic and environmental promises.
At a House Environmental Resources and Energy committee hearing in May, the Natural Resources Defense Council warned of poorly designed subsidies that would fall short of reducing emissions but burden taxpayers with the cost.
Right-leaning political advocacy groups like Americans for Prosperity have also been skeptical.
“These clean hydrogen hubs, just like the innovation hubs the President was promoting over the summer, are simply more of the command-and-control central planning that we’ve come to expect from President Biden,” AFP-Pennsylvania State Director Ashley Klingensmith said in a press release. “He’s spending billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize his administration’s preferred energy sectors while strangling others.”
Anthony Hennen is a reporter for The Center Square. Previously, he worked for Philadelphia Weekly and the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. He is the managing editor of Expatalachians, a journalism project focused on the Appalachian region.
This article was republished with permission from The Center Square.