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How ocean wind power could help the US fossil fuel industry

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

The government wants to lease offshore wind in the Gulf of Mexico – but the oil industry wants it for its own needs

Photo courtesy of NREL By Terry L. Jones and Pam Radtke Offshore wind farms in the Gulf of Mexico proposed by the Biden administration could generate enough electricity for 3.1m homes in Texas and Louisiana. But industry is eyeing the potential for offshore wind farms to instead power oil refining, steel and fertilizer manufacturing and other industrial processes.

The administration has committed to building 30 gigawatts of offshore wind to power 10m homes nationally by 2030 to help boost renewable energy in the country. But multiple companies interested in leasing offshore parcels in the Gulf of Mexico want to use that energy to make renewable hydrogen to power industrial processes to reduce their carbon footprint. The so-called “green” hydrogen could be sent to shore via the gulf’s existing extensive oil and gas pipeline network and replace traditional hydrogen made from fossil fuels. Green hydrogen could reduce the state’s carbon emissions by as much as 68% and spark an industrial revolution, according to proponents.

The approach, yet to be tested anywhere in the world, is being criticized by some as inefficient and a way to prolong the life of the region’s oil and gas industry even as the International Energy Agency has called for a halt to the development and production of oil and gas to keep climate pollution at manageable levels.

“Hydrogen is, at worst, a false solution and, at best, potentially a distraction,” said Kendall Dix, national policy director for Taproot Earth, a grassroots activist organization concerned with climate pollution. “If you want to have an energy system that is truly climate and people-friendly, we need to focus on building out renewable energy and using that to help people.”

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