(The Center Square) — Delaware will be a key player in the new Mid-Atlantic Energy Hub, a $7 billion federal program to develop hydrogen as an alternative fuel touted as a way to reduce emissions and create green energy jobs.
The hub was announced Friday by the Biden Administration as part of its hydrogen program, which calls for building seven hydrogen hubs across the nation that will decarbonize transportation and industrial manufacturing.
The Biden administration says the new regional program is part of a broader effort to build a green energy workforce and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Overall, the program is expected to cut carbon emissions by 25 million metric tons every year, the equivalent of removing 5.5 million gasoline-powered vehicles from the road, White House officials say.
The Mid-Atlantic hub’s territory includes Delaware, southern New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania.
Dozens of entities will be part of the regional hub, including DuPont, Chesapeake Utilities, the University of Delaware, Bloom Energy and Delaware-based PBF Energy, according to the Biden administration.
The University of Delaware oversaw a 17-year-long program that tested several prototype hydrogen buses, which wrapped up last year. The program spawned the creation of a fuel cell company, the university said.
In a statement, the Biden administration said the Mid-Atlantic hub will “help unlock hydrogen-driven decarbonization … while repurposing historic oil infrastructure and using existing rights-of-way.”
“It plans to develop renewable hydrogen production facilities from renewable and nuclear electricity using both established and innovative electrolyzer technologies, where it can help reduce costs and drive further technology adoption,” the White House said.
The plans call for negotiating project labor agreements on all projects, which often require union workers. It also provides nearly $14 million for regional workforce boards to offer community college training and pre-apprenticeships. This will create 20,800 jobs — 14,400 in construction jobs and 6,400 permanent jobs, the White House said.
“Clean hydrogen projects represent that potential and possibility and the Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub proposal set forth with our regional partners is a truly exciting opportunity,” Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Democrat, said in a statement.
“Leveraging all the best aspects of our region — in particular our world-class workforce — there’s a cleaner, greener, and brighter path forward with lower emissions and better jobs,” she said.
Hydrogen is touted as a cleaner option to use coal, oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels to power steel mills, lumber yards, chemical plants and other industrial sites.
“Targeted investments in these areas can help reduce costs, make new breakthroughs, and create jobs for American engineers, manufacturing workers, construction workers, and others,” the White House said.
But the “clean energy” source has its share of critics, who point to the high cost of producing the fuel source and environmental impacts that outweigh its benefits.