Scientific journal investigating UMass hydrogen study after revelations of gas industry influence
A peer-reviewed scientific journal has begun investigating a study it recently published on the use of hydrogen as a heating fuel in Massachusetts, citing a Globe investigation that found the authors failed to disclose gas industry funding and the role of a lobbyist aligned with the industry.
A research integrity specialist for the journal Frontiers in Energy Research, which published the study in September, said in an e-mail that the Globe’s account led the journal to open its “own internal investigation into the aforementioned manuscript to assess the situation and establish the facts of the matter.”
If the investigation finds conflicts that call into question the study’s findings, it could lead to a retraction.
The study, by scientists at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, endorsed the use of so-called green hydrogen for heating buildings in Massachusetts and recommended the state consider adopting hydrogen as a clean fuel. The American Gas Association and gas interests in Massachusetts have been promoting hydrogen as a climate-friendly alternative to carbon-emitting gas. Adopting such a plan on a large scale would allow gas utilities to continue operating and profiting much as they do now but with a different fuel.
But many scientists say using green hydrogen as a replacement for natural gas — or mixing it with natural gas or other fuels, as the gas industry has also proposed — isn’t feasible for reasons that include high cost, safety risks, and hydrogen’s potential to harm the climate. What’s more, they say, continuing to push green hydrogen as a climate-friendly option could delay progress on more realistic climate solutions.
Beyond that, many experts say there simply isn’t enough of either gas available to feasibly heat homes.
A report by National Grid found there is ample renewable natural gas in the Eastern United States, but Ben Butterworth, the director of climate, energy and equity analysis at the clean energy advocacy organization Acadia Center, said he has not seen any independent research supporting that conclusion. Studies including a 2021 Princeton report called “Net Zero America” have found that similar supply issues face green hydrogen, because producing it at scale requires so much wind or solar power.
“It makes absolutely no sense that we would be talking about using this for residential and commercial uses,” he said.
Read the full article in The Boston Globe here.