New Report Highlights Dangers of Hydrogen Blending in Homes June 22, 2022
Blending hydrogen with methane (“natural”) gas in our gas stoves and furnaces is dangerous and would accelerate climate change. Read about six failings of hydrogen blending in our just-released report.
Fossil fuel companies inaccurately claim that blending hydrogen with methane (“natural”) gas for cooking and space and water heating would lower these appliances’ carbon footprint. In fact, the use of hydrogen increases the risk of explosions while increasing our reliance on methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas.
In a new report, Physicians for Social Responsibility outlines six failings of hydrogen blending and proposes five policy recommendations to protect public health, safety, and the climate.
The report, “Hydrogen Pipe Dreams: Why Burning Hydrogen in Buildings is Bad for Climate and Health,” rebuts the wishful thinking that the hydrogen used would be “green” or free of climate emissions. In fact, green hydrogen — the only kind that is produced using 100 percent renewable electricity — composes less than one percent of all hydrogen produced.
Most of the hydrogen available now and in the foreseeable future is made from methane, ironically enough, or from coal. Both perpetuate the reliance on fossil fuels and the generation of climate pollution.
Blended hydrogen-methane gas is also more dangerous than methane alone. Not only do the blended gases increase the risk of “flashback,” which can lead to appliance shutdown, but hydrogen ignites more easily, is more explosive than methane, and, because its molecules are so small, is more leak-prone.
Furthermore, the appliances we use in our kitchens and homes have not been tested or approved to be used with blended hydrogen. And once the hydrogen blend reached 20 percent – the industry talks about blends reaching 100 percent — our existing appliances would probably have to be traded in for all-new appliances, creating steep costs for homeowners.
Hydrogen’s boost to reliance on methane gas will also perpetuate already-existing health inequities. Low-income households and Black, Indigenous and People of Color are already exposed to more ambient (outdoor) air pollution from burning fossil fuels than white people and are more likely to suffer from pollution-related illnesses like asthma.
They are also likely to be exposed to higher concentrations of indoor pollution, due to the greater likelihood that they live in smaller living units and, if they are renters, have older and inadequately ventilated stoves.
And when consumer costs of gas-based cooking and heating rise, low-income communities will be impacted disproportionately.
The report, written by Andee Krasner, MPH, and Barbara Gottlieb, acknowledges that there is a role for hydrogen in powering hard-to-electrify heavy industries. However, for use in the home, it calls for replacing gas with building electrification, using already-proven technologies such as heat pumps and electric induction stoves.
Overall, we must eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels entirely and instead look towards electrification and decarbonization for a safe, clean, and equitable future.