Two energy transition advocates locked horns over the hydrogen debate at CERAWeek by S&P Global, with US Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk receiving pushback from the head of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) .

Turk described the effort to create cost-effective renewable-energy sources as a “phenomenally important moment in our history”.

“The scale and pace of what we need to do is so immense that this is the moment, this is the opportunity to super accelerate,” he said.

Turk said the addition of $62 billion in funding for the US Department of Energy from the 2021 infrastructure bill had allowed it to fund 60 different renewable-energy programmes.

“We’ve now got $8 billion to work on hydrogen hubs with the private sector, with other $10 billion for CCUS. We’ve got $7.5 billion to work with on batteries and supply chains for batteries. We’ve got billions and billions to work on grids, technology after technology,” he said.

“We’ve now got the tools in our tool belt which frankly we did not have.”

US President Joe Biden’s administration has taken frequent criticism for its lack of a relationship with US oil and gas producers, with opponents claiming the administration is trying to suppress domestic production.

On Monday, Turk said the administration was doing “everything we can” to increase short-term production and reduce costs endured by consumers.

“It’s going to require an immense amount of public-private partnership, NGO partnership, company partnership and investor partnership. On the US production side of things, how do we use our strategic petroleum reserves,” he said.

Turk made it clear the long-term interest was on net-zero fuels, and made a case for hydrogen as a potential where the government and private industry could collaborate in making an efficient fuel source cost effective.

“There’s no way we can have progress on these issues in the US if it’s not public and private,” he said.

However, EDF president Fred Krupp stated clear misgivings about the use of hydrogen as a fuel, saying, “we could have a disaster”.

Krupp said hydrogen molecules are “slippery” and are small enough to pass through pipes, creating what he called “indirectly… a very potent greenhouse gas” that is 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

“For God’s sake, before we build all this hydrogen infrastructure, let’s design it in a way that is only used for those uses that are appropriate, and that we measure the leakage. Right now, you can’t measure that way because nobody has the equipment to do it,” he said.

Still, Turk maintained that the global opportunity to move forward towards renewable sources of energy has never been better.

“We’ve just got to step up and deliver real-world results,” he said.

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