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Tribune editorial: State showing desire to curb climate change
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Tribune editorial: State showing desire to curb climate change

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Several companies this week announced ambitious plans to create a hydrogen “hub” in North Dakota. Hydrogen projects are seen as one way to help put the brakes on climate change.

Bakken Energy, Mitsubishi Power Americas and Basin Electric Power Cooperative explained their strategy for creating a hub. As with any launch, the parties involved are upbeat. One of the key elements of the plan involves the sale of Basin’s Great Plains Synfuels Plant near Beulah to Bakken Energy, formerly known as Bakken Midstream.

The synfuels plant was constructed with great fanfare in the 1980s, with experts coming from Germany and South Africa to provide expertise. The plant began operating in 1984, producing among other products synthetic natural gas from lignite coal. The plant recently has struggled financially amid low gas prices.

While the sale of the synfuels plant isn’t essential to the hydrogen hub project, it would provide security for the 525 people who work there and for the Beulah region.

The hub would involve hydrogen production, storage, transportation and consumption with facilities located across the state. The hydrogen market is considered a growth industry by many.

Mitsubishi is one of the world’s leaders in hydrogen-powered vehicles. There’s also potential for hydrogen to fuel large trucks and trains, according to Steve Lebow, founder and chairman of Bakken Energy.

The companies plan to make hydrogen from synthetic gas produced at the synfuels plant as well as from gas produced in the Bakken. If successful, the project would provide a big boost for North Dakota and increase its role in curbing climate change.

The state’s efforts won praise this week from Michael Regan, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, during a visit to North Dakota. He complimented the state’s efforts on hydrogen and carbon dioxide capture. Gov. Doug Burgum last month called for the state to become carbon neutral by the end of the decade.

Regan touted President Joe Biden’s efforts to reduce emissions and lauded North Dakota’s efforts.

“There’s no doubt there’s huge potential there, and right here in North Dakota we’re seeing leadership,” he said.

State and business leaders urged Regan to have the administration encourage federal and state governments to work together to share power and collaborate in climate change efforts. They warned against forcing unpopular initiatives on the states.

The Biden administration has made climate change efforts a priority. While the state remains strongly supportive of oil and gas development, it has shown a willingness to develop projects to reduce the carbon footprint.

The hydrogen hub, if successful, would be an important step in curbing climate change. Collaboration by the federal government and the states would be the best approach. Whether all states will be receptive remains to be seen.

North Dakota has demonstrated it wants to be a player.

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