Last month’s Church & Home piece focused on a Washington public utility district producing green or renewable hydrogen by 2021—and the use of hydrogen fuel cells in forklifts, delivery vans, semitrucks, and mass transit busses. This month, we take a look at additional ways to move forward in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Transportation accounts for 42% of Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions; but hydrogen’s only emission is water vapor – zero GHG.
Hydrogen is usually produced from natural gas. However, green hydrogen can now be created from both solar photovoltaics and electrolysis of water. Electrolysis uses an electric current to separate the oxygen and hydrogen in water (H2O). The current is energy generated from renewable sources (solar grids, wind farms, hydroelectric dams, or tidal energy).
Cars & pickup trucks
Lithium batteries probably have a lock on electric vehicles (EVs). But the mining of one ton of lithium requires 500,000 gallons of water and is often linked to environmental degradation.
California has two motor vehicle emission standards – low-emission vehicles (LEV) and zero emission vehicles (ZEV), which states can adopt instead of the weaker federal standards. Oregon adopted both of them in 2005, and Oregon residents are currently driving 50,000 registered zero emission vehicles.
Washington also adopted California’s LEV standards in 2005. But our legislature didn’t authorize adoption of the ZEV standards until last March when it passed a “clean car standards” bill (SB 5811) with three ZEV options:
- battery-powered EVs – i.e. Tesla
- plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEVs) – i.e. Ford Fusion
- hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles (FCEVs) – i.e. Toyota Mirai.
Washington ranked fourth in the country in EV sales in 2019. But our options are limited since automakers choose to prioritize EV sales in the 11 states with ZEV programs. The federal Clean Air Act requires a minimum phase-in period of three model years. When SB 5811 becomes effective in 2022, about 6% of the new cars sold in Washington must be zero emission vehicles.
Our legislature failed to pass another bill (HB 2515) in either house this year. It stipulated that all new cars sold in Washington must be EVs (including FCEVs) starting with model year 2030.
Japanese firms are currently constructing a harbor tug with battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell power plus a hydrogen fuel cell tourist boat. A French firm is building a utility vessel with fuel cell-based power and propulsion for pushing barges and floating platforms on the Rhone River.
European Union grants are being used to develop/build a hydrogen-fueled, seagoing car and passenger ferry in Scotland and a 229-passenger, 80-car ferry in Norway. A Norwegian consortium is building a fuel cell powered, passenger cruise ship that will use liquid hydrogen rather than the more commonly used compressed gas.
Washington State Ferries worked with consultants on using FCEV technologies to zero-out its GHG emissions. But the goal was too daunting. Instead, it ordered 16 less polluting ferries. WSF hopes to move toward a fully hybrid-electric (battery-powered) fleet by 2040.
Norway passed a law in 2018 that bans vessels powered by any form of hydrocarbon which produces CO2, exhaust, or other emissions in 2026.
Washington needs a comparable law(s) for both vessels and vehicles.
The Earth is Sacred – Not Ours to Wreck