Bipartisan Appalachian Governments Work to Become One of Many ‘Hydrogen Hubs’

A bipartisan group of Appalachian governors is coming together to focus on hydrogen and its uses in the future as a fuel and energy source. The group is part of several around the country working to secure funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to fund regional hydrogen hubs.

The Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub (ARCH2) came together as a part of a bipartisan infrastructure bill passed in Congress in 2021, which allocated $7 billion to the DOE to create regional clean hydrogen hubs (H2Hubs) around the U.S. as a part of “America’s future clean energy economy.”

The H2Hubs are meant to bring jobs to local economies through “clean energy investments,” while adding to the nation’s energy security, according to the DOE, a part of President Joe Biden’s goal of “a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.”

The DOE announced plans for six to ten of the regional hubs in the coming years, with the first round of funding to be announced later this year after applications are submitted in April.

“These H2Hubs are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to lay the foundation for the clean hydrogen future President Biden is building—one that will lift our economy, protect the planet, and improve our health,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “With input from America’s brightest scientists, engineers, community organizers, and entrepreneurs, this national hydrogen strategy will help us accelerate the development and deployment of technologies to realize the full potential of clean hydrogen energy for generations to come.”

Appalachia’s Shift to Alternative Fuel Sources

While the governors in Appalachian states are not the only ones seeking to become an H2Hub, it is notable as Appalachia has historically been seen as the country’s main coal production hotspot. According to a report (pdf) from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), coal output in Appalachia declined by 65 percent from 2005 to 2020.

Coal production has dipped so sharply due to a major uptick in natural gas, a competitor to coal electric power generation, that the price is cheaper and thus has become much more popular, according to the ARC.

A Toyota Project Portal hydrogen fuel cell electric semi-truck
A Toyota Project Portal hydrogen fuel cell electric semi-truck is shown during an event in San Francisco, Calif., U.S., Sept. 13, 2018. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

“The Appalachian Basin is the largest gas producing region in the US, spanning parts of Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, and ARCH2 is expected to be a major economic and environmental investment,” according to Gas Pathways.

The DOE reports hydrogen energy has the power to cut emissions while creating new economic opportunities.

“Getting hydrogen right would mean unlocking a new source of clean, dispatchable power, and a new method of energy storage,” according to the DOE. “It would mean another pathway for decarbonizing heavy industry and transportation.”

Appalachian Hydrogen Hub

“The region is the ideal location for a clean hydrogen hub, due to its unique access to ample low-cost natural gas feedstock, end-user demand, workforce and technology capability, and carbon sequestration potential,” according to H2 Bulletin, a hydrogen industry market intelligence provider.

H2 Bulletin reports the Appalachian team is composed of entities spanning the region, “including the National Energy Technology Laboratory, consultants, academic institutions, community organizations, and NGOs that will provide commercial, technical, and programmatic leadership for the development and buildout of the hub.”

Another key point of the ARCH2 project is its already existing resources and critical infrastructure such as existing pipelines, transportation networks, and proximity to the Midwest and Northeast markets.

West Virginia began working on the ARCH2 early last year after the federal infrastructure bill passed in November 2021, centering itself as the epicenter of the ARCH2 hub alongside Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky.

“Under the leadership of Gov. Jim Justice, West Virginia is prepared to lead in this initiative, and others like it, that continue to diversify and grow the energy portfolio of our state and our region while spearheading the expansion of energy options for the nation,” said W.V. Secretary of Economic Development Mitch Carmichael. “

He added the leadership of the state is following the state’s history of “supplying the energy needs of the United States.”

Ohio’s Clean Hydrogen Hub Alliance (OH2Hub) announced support for the Appalachian hub last fall.

“Ohio continues to support efforts to lead in the innovation of new technology, including the clean hydrogen market,” said Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Dec. 8. “My administration will continue to support these efforts so that Ohioans may share in the benefits from the development of hydrogen as part of the country’s long-term energy strategy.”

​In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, threw his support behind the project and the state’s mission to work alongside fellow governors of both parties.

Mike DeWine
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine answers a question while taking part in a panel discussion during a Republican Governors Association conference in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 16, 2022. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Photo)

“Kentucky’s leadership in the automotive and logistics sectors position us as a natural location for economic development in hydrogen,” Beshear said. “We are looking forward to working with our Appalachian region governors and industry partners to continue to shape a hydrogen economy in Kentucky and across this region.”

The governor noted hydrogen can be made through fossil, renewable, and nuclear resources. The energy density and energy-carrying capacity of hydrogen make it an attractive fuel option for transportation, aviation, and industrial uses, as well as electricity generation.

Beshear notes Kentucky’s strategic location as well, as the epicenter of a 34-state distribution area for shipping products by truck or rail across the eastern United States and is within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the U.S. population.

Kentucky is also working alongside several midwestern states to create a Midwest Hydrogen Coalition (MH2 Coalition) and with utilities in the south to support a Southeast Hydrogen Hub, potentially setting the state up to be the center of several hubs.

Last year the Federal Highway Administration announced three interstate highways in Kentucky as future hydrogen corridors, something the Gov.’s office said “signals the importance of transportation connectivity to a nationwide hydrogen economy.”

Chase Smith

Chase is an award-winning journalist. He covers Tennessee and other parts of the Southeast for The Epoch Times.

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