In the fight against climate change, the idea has been established that mitigation (investing to reduce emissions as soon as possible) is what must be done, and that adaptation (making the necessary changes to live in the new climatic conditions) is an erroneous policy that implies giving up the fight against global warming.
I think this approach is wrong. First, because it is no longer possible to achieve the reduction in emissions that would probabilistically prevent the average temperature in 2100 from rising no more than 1.5 degrees over the prevalence at the end of the 19th century. With which, we can spend today amounts of money in investments that will not achieve the objectives. The option is to wait until the technology could allow more efficient and cheaper investments in a few years. This may be the case of the current ‘Hype’ with hydrogen. I am not saying that mitigation should not continue, it must be done, but maximizing efficiency, cost and emission reduction over time, that is, investing wisely; and I will propose a case to study, H2O versus H. There are others such as comparing the effects in terms of emissions and social welfare, and why not, equality of renewing the fleet of diesel cars versus accelerating the introduction of cars with batteries This second case will probably be developed in another article.
It is clear that there are probabilistically existential climate risks (disappearance of the Gulf Stream, for example) that, although unlikely for now, oblige us to continue accelerating mitigation. The problem is that the most probable and close changes in time are not existential and are already very real and with possible high damage. For this reason, investments should already be redoubling to adapt.
I’m not giving you numbers, but the best policy to reduce the cost of deaths from heating is still the installation of air conditioning and this would be an adaptation investment decision. The problem of which policy to choose can be understood very well by comparing them with decisions of the “or guns or butter” type that were studied in first year of economics, in Samuelson’s manual.
For example, if drought and lack of water is very likely in Spain in the year 2050 and we have a limited spending capacity -assumed restriction-, what should we prioritize today? Spend money on bringing water, through pipes, to Spain? Or commit a large sum of money to make very expensive pipelines to bring renewable hydrogen gas that you don’t already have to Germany?
It does not make strategic economic sense for Spain to transport hydrogen outside our borders
The first option is to adapt to climate change, the second is… some will say that they will mitigate, reduce emissions. But this second option does not seem to have any advantage. First, this “mitigation” can even generate more emissions by burning the gas at destination -Dutch gas produced in the Netherlands with carbon capture systems-, and using the blue hydrogen thus generated. Second, because it does not make economic sense for Spain to transport hydrogen beyond our borders. I mean, if Spain could generate competitive green hydrogen in large quantities, it should use it in its industries and attract more hydrogen-consuming industry to Spain, for example, chemicals and metallurgy. Third, there are many less expensive investments that are there to increase: producing hydrogen to transport long distances in gaseous form is the most expensive way I can think of. Even thinking about the technological advances of the coming years. It is true that the ‘Hype’ has an explanation: to date no other technology is seen to decarbonise the industry and part of transport, but if we add transport in gaseous form to that, in the long term we are talking about something else, much more expensive, with security indications and very difficult access.
Therefore, following this analysis in this potential decision, there is a clear win to adapt versus reduce. In Spain, water should be ensured for the consumption of its citizens and at the same time not destroy the competitiveness of one of the three main sources of economic growth and exports in Spain: agribusiness. The second option, reduced via pipeline transport of gaseous hydrogen, does not seem to allow reaching ‘net zero’ and for Spain it is also giving away a possible competitive advantage. That is why I suggest proposing to the Germans that they not build a pipeline from the Rhine River to the Autonomous Communities of Valencia and Murcia and to the province of Almería. In return, we will then send you the hydrogen via Marseille.
The French, like the Rhine River with the Rhone, we have to use nuclear power plants in times of drought that we have to stop, because the Rhone carries little water to cool them and we will send pink hydrogen. The French nuclear power plants do not have cooling towers like the Spanish ones because they thought that they would never lack cold water from the Rhône to do so, but now they do.
In this way, France would produce pink hydrogen that would mix it with Spanish green in a pipeline and a lot of hydrogen would reach Germany. Thus, this second country could preserve its chemical and metallurgical super-industry, even relaunch the steel industry.
I only see two strategic problems with my proposal. Firstly, most of the solar to generate the green hydrogen will be in Extremadura and we should charge a fee or tax on the export of natural resources from Extremadura to the rest of Spain and, secondly, if the Rhine continues to drop its average level of water, perhaps it is not worth it for Germany to change H2O for H. This second problem is less because at least we can make a discontinuous fixed agreement, when there is excess water in the Rhine they send it to us, we damm it and use it and in summer we send it green hydrogen produced with solar Extremadura via France. In conclusion, the future of my proposal and its cost strategically depends on the decision of the people of Extremadura about their exports of renewables to the rest of the world.
I end again with the idea of the article, it is necessary to study the implications and possible effects of policy decisions and decisions on climate change, and especially the comparison between investing in adaptation or mitigation. For reasons of security of supply, economics and regional politics, I see a lot of potential in bringing water seasonally from Germany, but bringing green hydrogen there by pipeline, I don’t even see it seasonally. I’ll leave it there, because the problem is complicated if the French want to keep German water exports to generate their pink hydrogen, and they don’t let the necessary water flow to Spain. So, what would we do to ensure the supply of the liquid element that we will need in 2050? Let’s wait to see what the Supreme Court decides on the Tajo Segura transfer, and then we decide.