It’s entirely true that there are differences between grey hydrogen, blue and green. The production methods, obviously, given that that’s what those colours are trying to delineate. We can also argue about whether this matters or not. There are some who just say sod the whole idea. Others who wet their pants at the idea that anyone might trade off the boiling future for the sake of warmth now. Chacun a son gout and all that.
What really does annoy though is the manner in which so many fail to understand the solution – if there is a problem there which needs a solution – so many economists agree upon. We have the example of Richard Murphy touting another grant grabbing exercise in his new accounting for climate change, whatever acronym he’s thought up for that.
His insistence is that all companies must detail how they’re to become carbon neutral in their accounts. He also insists that we cannot have a carbon tax. Which is odd. Because a carbon tax immediately puts all emissions into the accounts of companies. That’s actually the point of the carbon tax. The costs of emissions are now in market prices so that the costs of emissions alter peoples’ decisions. Very cool and all that.
But someone worrying about accounts and emissions should be able to make the next step, which is that accounts are done at market prices. So, if market prices now include emissions costs then all accounts now include emissions cost. We immediately see who cannot stay in business as a result of their emissions, whether they’re embedded in their supply chain, their own processes or even in the use of their output – for if users cannot afford the output then they will go bust anyway.
We see this in the maunderings of ecologists too:
In the face of the big push by governments and companies to claim hydrogen as a low carbon fuel, better quality information is needed.
So before a penny is handed to companies producing hydrogen, is no-one going to ask them for a proper inventory of current output? Is anyone going to check what they are doing about their share of the 830 mt a year of CO2 emissions?
Where is the evidence that this hydrogen spending spree would be more effective than demand-side solutions – such as insulating homes so that they don’t need much heat, and providing the heat that’s needed with electric pumps, as trade unionists in Leeds propose?
Unless such questions are asked, we can take the hydrogen hype as a reminder that governments’ decarbonisation strategies are aimed chiefly at concealing the lack of progress towards decarbonisation.
Unless such questions are asked, we can be sure that hydrogen is being used not to cut carbon emissions at the speed required, but to support the powerful companies that use it, and make them look greener than they are.
All of that’s exactly what a carbon tax does. The costs of the emissions to produce the hydrogen are now in market prices. As are the costs of insulation and the costs of not-insulation. Exactly by pricing emissions we gain the answers to all the questions being asked.
Of course, this is the reason why both the dim and the prodnoses refuse to consider a carbon tax. The dim because they can;t see it and the prodnoses because it passes over the prod and the nose to impartial market forces rather than to those who would rule and prod others. Both of which are good reasons to have the carbon tax and declare the problem solved – as it would be with a carbon tax.