Rex Richardson: SB 1420 puts hydrogen on an even playing field. The Legislature should approve it.

Here in Long Beach, we’re at the center of both the opportunities and challenges of climate change. Our port, the second-busiest cargo port in the United States, is responsible for much of why Long Beach is such an economic engine for our region and the country. Historically, the boon of commercial and industrial advancement resulting from the activity at our bustling port has also come with expense to air and environmental quality. However, that legacy is changing — the people on the ground, at the forefront of new clean energy technologies, are ready to embrace the future of zero emissions infrastructure. They just need the fuel, equipment, and opportunity to make it happen.

The crux of the matter is this: environmental progress and economic progress are not mutually exclusive. It is entirely possible to do both, and there are already examples of this philosophy manifesting in key economic anchors like the Port of Long Beach. The Port is making significant investments to electrify their trade infrastructure in order to meet their stated commitment to achieve all zero-emissions cargo-handling equipment by 2030. They are building significant new on-dock rail infrastructure to replace truck trips, have implemented a clean truck fee with the goal of all zero emission trucks calling at the port by 2035, and, through the Westside Promise Initiative, the City of Long Beach is directing significant new public investments to improve air quality and public health outcomes in the city’s western neighborhoods most impacted by industrial pollution.

Our leadership in creating healthier and more climate-resilient communities has to take a multifaceted approach if we’re to stave off the worst consequences of climate change. Expanding the use of renewable sources of energy like solar and wind are important. So is the adoption of greener technologies, like electric vehicles run by batteries.

But we can’t forget the important role hydrogen energy also plays in reducing carbon pollution in many sectors of our economy. Hydrogen is vital for decarbonizing heavy-duty sectors used at the port — including larger forms of transportation like trucks and ships that battery technology doesn’t have the capacity to support.

Throughout the globe California’s climate allies are launching large-scale hydrogen initiatives to decarbonize transportation and energy. Because of its versatility, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm calls hydrogen the “Swiss army knife of zero-carbon technologies.”  The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has also highlighted hydrogen’s role in its 2022 plan for a cleaner future.

That is why we’re excited about California’s hydrogen hub and all the climate and jobs benefits it will bring to Long Beach and the state at large. All in all, the hydrogen industry is expected to create 224,000 union jobs and $2.95 billion a year in economic value, including significant savings in health care costs due to reduced pollution and improved air quality. This is why Long Beach was the first major city and port to join the ARCHES clean hydrogen hub coalition, which ultimately secured over $1.2 billion from the Department of Energy to help decarbonize our supply chain.

However, it’s not enough to use hydrogen; we also need to ensure it is produced in clean and renewable ways. Legislation currently being considered at the State Capitol, Senate Bill 1420, will do just that by ensuring hydrogen is produced in the most environmentally sound way possible.

This bill would help streamline permits for renewable and clean hydrogen production facilities, making it easier to deploy these vital technologies. And by boosting the amount of hydrogen produced here in the Golden State, we’ll bring down costs for businesses who use hydrogen to fuel their trucks, port cranes, and pipelines.

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This legislation sets a strong sustainability standard for hydrogen production, ensuring that the carbon footprint of hydrogen is as low as or lower than that of our electricity grid. It’s one of the strictest hydrogen production standards globally, making California a leader once again.

California is rightfully setting its sights on a future powered by clean and renewable energy. To get there, we cannot limit ourselves to only allow certain types of energy alternatives to decarbonize our economy. We need comprehensive solutions, and for industries like our thriving port and goods movement sector, hydrogen is critical for reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

Consistent with the Air Resources Board’s calls for rapid growth in all clean energy production, SB 1420 puts hydrogen on an even playing field, so that all forms of clean energy technologies are growing in the same direction to meet California’s ambitious climate action goals. That’s the only way we’re going to continue leading the way in combating climate change and building a more sustainable Long Beach and California for generations to come.

Rex Richardson is the mayor of Long Beach.

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