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U.S. Secretaries of Labor and Energy visit Delaware, discuss future of hydrogen technology

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Rachel Sawicki
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Delaware Public Media
From left to right: U.S. Congresswoman Lisa Blunt-Rochester, Senator Tom Carper, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Senator Chris Coons, and Governor John Carney.

U.S. Secretaries of Energy and Labor visited Delaware Friday to discuss clean hydrogen technology at Air Liquide.

Hydrogen energy has the power to decarbonize electricity, transportation, and manufacturing industries, and could play a critical role in reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 and tackling the climate crisis.

The U.S. Infrastructure bill included $8 billion for Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs that will create jobs to expand use of clean hydrogen in the industrial sector, and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said she wants to see different applications.

“We have to have at least one hydrogen hub that is in fossil [fuels], it probably will be a natural gas, but we'll see what comes in the door," Granholm said. "We have to have one that uses renewable as a fuel. We have to have one that has nuclear as a fuel. So we do want to see both different fuels, stocks as well as different applications.”

The most likely option for Delaware is a fossil fuel option: refining methane, says Dave Edwards, Air Liquide Hydrogen Energy Director. But that still creates emissions, and needs carbon capture technology to mitigate that.

“The hubs that are part of the infrastructure bill are going to highlight the different ways that hydrogen can be produced – low carbon hydrogen and low cost hydrogen, but from different resources and from different processes," Edwards said. "Carbon capture will be one of those, there's a number of those that are going to be fossil based, but there will also be demonstrating all of the new low carbon renewable processes and those same demonstrators.”

Ultimately, incentivizing students to pursue STEM is at the base of these goals.

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said they have to get to students early, in middle and high school, to get them interested in math and science.

“So it's not just about the transition with hydrogen, it's also creating a workforce," Walsh said. "Because all the scientists can do all the work they want, but if we don't have a workforce, a skilled workforce, ready to go in this field, I mean, what do we do with that?”

Leaders also emphasized the importance of a diverse workforce, but Air Liquide representatives say they struggle to find women applicants.

Rachel Sawicki is Delaware Public Media's New Castle County Reporter. They are non-binary and use they/them pronouns.