What was it about the urgency of protecting your profits through the carbon transition that first attracted you to the wonder-fuel Hydrogen?

BP’s plant generating Hydrogen from Natural Gas, on Teeside.

It’s easy to check if a proposed tech solution to the climate crisis is legit or not.

Examine the solution; if it looks like it might have been designed to cleverly carry forward the capital structures and shareholder value of fossil industries to the post-transition economy then that’s all you need to know. It’s a wealth preservation device and building it will waste time we don’t have, push zero emissions further out, and risk further warming.

Hydrogen is a good example: we’re going to need it and we’re going to need a lot of it but only for some pretty specific applications – for very long-distance transport (boats basically) or for running plant that’s a long way from the grid, that kind of thing.

Used in other applications it’ll bring with it all the costs of a new industrial process and a new distribution fabric. Hydrogen at the scale proposed by capital is a way to reproduce existing ownership structures, to protect investments – and the absurd, distorting overhead of doing that – building and maintaining networks, developing and selling a whole new ecology of devices, growing new markets and so on – all for the single purpose of protecting the value of the corporations that got us here in the first place – will cancel all the benefits.

And don’t get me started on the demented logic of using electricity (green or otherwise) to extract hydrogen and then burning hydrogen to generate electricity (and all the crazy variations on that model). Used in this way Hydrogen is a dirty fuel.

Enlightened old men

I wonder if there’s a generation of scientists, artists and technocrats ready to succeed Freeman Dyson, Arthur C Clarke and all those other admirable, enlightened, imaginative old men who came of age before the bomb. Clarke dreams of a time when a majority of humankind can’t quite remember which way to point when asked where planet Earth is. Dyson of extending the range of life, infinitely adaptable, to the the furthest edges of the universe and of rearranging the Solar System.

They, I’m sure, would have no patience with the narrow-minded campaign to retreat from manned space flight. BBC 4 has an excellent documentary about Dyson’s Orion project. He planned to send people across inter-stellar distances by exploding hundreds of Hydrogen bombs behind their space ships. The programme will probably repeat half a dozen times so you have time to catch it and you can hear Dyson speaking at the programme’s web site.