Report: Hydrogen is Big Oil’s Latest Greenwashing Scheme

Report: Hydrogen is Big Oil’s Latest Greenwashing Scheme

WASHINGTON – A new report commissioned by Friends of the Earth sounds the alarm on the newly-established federal clean hydrogen standard as Big Oil’s next greenwashing scam. The clean hydrogen standard, alongside $8 billion in funding for hydrogen demonstration hubs, were both created under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law under the heavy influence of Big Oil’s favorite senator, Joe Manchin. The report release comes as Manchin leads a hearing today on federal hydrogen pipeline regulations and the future development of hydrogen infrastructure.

Analysis from Bruce Buckheit, former director of the Air Enforcement Division at the EPA, shows that the clean hydrogen standard allows fossil fuel interests to co-opt this massive influx of clean energy funding all while increasing carbon emissions. This scheme would allow Big Oil to produce over twice the pollution they claim to qualify as ‘clean’ hydrogen. 

Key findings of the report include:

  • The current clean hydrogen standard will result in more than twice the reported greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions if all associated emissions are considered. Hydrogen production at the standard will emit 4.77 metric tons (mt) CO2e per mt H2. 
  • A full analysis of grey and blue hydrogen, including methane leakage associated with steam methane reformation (SMR) produced hydrogen, demonstrates that these fuels increase rather than decrease energy carbon intensity. 
  • Due to high energy demands of manufacturing green hydrogen and the need to dramatically decrease the carbon intensity of our grids, green hydrogen is only suited to limited end-uses. Careful consideration of more efficient alternatives, such as direct electrification, should be conducted before investing in green hydrogen. 
  • Hydrogen demonstration hub funding should be directed towards projects demonstrating end-uses with the best climate and sustainability outcomes compared to alternatives. The DOE’s standards for funding demonstration projects appear to preclude many of the proposed end-uses suggested by advocates of a hydrogen economy. 


“Subsidizing repackaged fossil fuels at the direct expense of renewable investment is worse than inaction,” said Sarah Lutz, Climate Campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Despite Big Oil’s greenwashing claims, simply refusing to count a portion of emissions does not negate their impact on the climate.” 

“Companies with substantial interests in natural gas are seizing opportunities to hype blue hydrogen as the next shiny object that will save the planet – and preserve shareholder value,” said Bruce Buckheit, former director of the Air Enforcement Division at the EPA. “Fascination with blue hydrogen has become a distraction from implementing critical changes – such as a mandate to decarbonize the grid over the next 15 years – that are far more important for the climate.”

Communications contact: Brittany Miller, (202) 222-0746, [email protected]

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