Have you noticed the bright yellow polyethylene plastic pipes that are being laid down in great heaps next to where gas employees are working? After many years of complaining to gas
companies about the multitude of leaks from old pipelines that are killing trees, hurting human health, and adding to our greenhouse gas emissions, your first response might well be, “Great, they are finally fixing the leaks.” Think again. These are not fixes but represent the gas companies’ latest gambit to keep us dependent on natural gas (aka methane) for many more decades.
These new pipes are designed to carry a 7-12% hydrogen/methane mix. The gas companies claim that this is an essential part of their plan to “decarbonize” as required by the Massachusetts Next Generation Roadmap law. At best, the effect will be minor (a 10% or so reduction), well short of the reductions required by the law, and the hydrogen in the mix is not a clean or low-cost fuel either.
Consider the following:
• The pipeline replacement program is estimated to cost $20 billion, rivaling the Big Dig, with the expense to be passed onto the rate payer.
• One source of hydrogen is methane. The process of extracting it and making it suitable to reblend creates even more CO2.
• National Grid** says it is using electrolysis to split the hydrogen from water molecules, thereby producing pure hydrogen. This is a very energy intensive process that they claim can powered by using offshore wind power. Why not skip this step and use offshore wind for its intended purpose, which is to produce electricity?
• While National Grid claims that there are “no harmful by-products” generated by the burning of hydrogen, studies have shown that it emits nitrogen oxide (NOx) which is linked to respiratory problems and reduced cognitive performance, especially in children, adds to our greenhouse gas emissions, and presents a higher risk of explosions than natural gas.
• Finally, as this mix becomes more expensive, those who cannot afford to transition their homes to renewably sourced electricity, will be stuck with continually higher bills. Thirty independent studies, world wide, have concluded that using hydrogen for heating makes no sense.
What Can I Do?
1. You can write to National Grid, letting them know that you are unhappy about paying for their
gambit to remain profitable, despite the absolute necessity to de-carbonize.
2. Let the DPU (Dept. of Public Utilities) know that you do not want to pay for this false transition to clean energy. Ask for a call back rather than an e-mail. That way you won’t be sent a form letter and can speak directly to the agency that is responsible for protecting us from schemes like this:
3. Transition your own home to clean energy as quickly as you are able. This includes tightening your home’s envelope, replacing your furnace or gas boiler with air source heat pumps/mini splits, installing a solar array on appropriate roofs, switching to electric ranges and hot water heaters, and making sure to conserve energy as much as possible.
4. Advocate for a transition to geothermal heating and cooling, utilizing the same infrastructure that the gas companies have built with public monies.
For information on actions you can take in your home, visit
More on the hazards of gas/methane for home use and the world wide transition:
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