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Is the Hydrogen Plan Actually Going to Help?

I attended the Public Accounts Committee and grilled the Natural Resources Deputy Minister on the unrealistic assumptions and expectations in the government’s report on a hydrogen strategy (“Hydrogen’s Potential to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, the 2022 Reports 1 to 5 of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development”).

I had five rounds of questions:

I am questioning the Deputy Minister of the Department of Natural Resources, John Hannaford about the blending of hydrogen into gasoline for a 5-95% mix within about 3 years.

I am questioning the Deputy Minister Hannaford about whether he agreed that the production of hydrogen is one of the most expensive and least efficient forms of power. We actually consume more power to make green hydrogen than is produced, and it is expected to be 20 or 30 years before technology evolves to make it practical. It is interesting watching him try to defend the strategy when he is clearly well aware of the obstacles.

I am pressing Mr. Hannaford on whether it was prudent to look at the blending of hydrogen with gasoline – and its potential to reduce emissions – as a “transformative” strategy (that is, results seen all at once) versus an incremental strategy (which occurs over time as technology improves and infrastructure is modified).

In other words, are the advantages of hydrogen being hyped as an immediate improvement when, in fact, it will take many years or decades to show those results? The department’s own modelling shows that by 2030, hydrogen will contribute only 0.05% to Canada’s emissions reduction plans.

I followed up on the Prime Minister’s statement that there is no business case for LNG (patently incorrect) and that Germany’s interest in Canada’s hydrogen is for chemical processes, not to replace other sources of power.

I pressed him on the cost to consumers – and impact on inflation – of switching to the exponentially more expensive use of hydrogen for power: 20 times more expensive!

I am questioning Deputy Minister Hannaford and his officials and those from the Environment Department. I am questioning them about the cost assumptions in the report, which appear to be back-end engineered – in other words, determine the outcome you want, and then make assumptions that will support that outcome. For example, their estimate of the cost of electricity is well below any current prices anywhere in Canada. The department considers the report “aspirational” – I consider it unrealistic.