HYDROGEN has long been envisaged as a major way of decarbonising the economy, because its combustion in a fuel cell can release ample amounts of energy, with warm water and warm air the only emissions.
Getting to this point, however, has proven somewhat complicated.
Almost pure "natural" hydrogen has been found recently in underground reservoirs, confounding convention that said it did not exist.
Most hydrogen is manufactured.
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There are various ways to make it but all, in themselves, consume energy, meaning this otherwise clean fuel tends to come with an unattractively large carbon footprint.
Hydrogen has other problems.
It is far more volatile and explosive than the fuel we carry in conventional motor vehicles, generating safety concerns.
But the advent of "clean and green" renewable electricity has helped make hydrogen become a more "affordable" fuel in carbon footprint terms.
Around the world, scientists and engineers are working hard to improve the technology and, importantly, to reduce the cost of hydrogen in financial as well as environmental terms.
This is the sort of work that Australian governments are now encouraging financially with the creation of various hydrogen "hubs" or "zones".
In November last year, the NSW government belatedly added the Hunter to a state-based list of renewable energy zones, then included our region in a $70 million "hydrogen hub" announcement in March.
This is good news for the region.
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Hydrogen is still a very prospective industry.
Even if it fulfils its potential to the highest by replacing fossil fuels - so the "hydrocarbon economy" becomes the "hydrogen economy" - it is heavily reliant at this stage on taxpayer subsidies.
Macquarie Street and Canberra have effectively agreed on the Hunter as the best place to concentrate or "cluster" this state's private-sector based hydrogen economy.
This can only encourage businesses to either start here or move here.
These companies may well have suitable work for power station workers whose employment is coming to an end, as well as the best and brightest coming out of the education system.
All working to clean up our world.
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