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A hole in hopes for hydrogen power?

Scientists model scenarios where hydrogen leaks could further erode ozone layer

Widespread use of hydrogen to power cars and even homes, seen by many as the Holy Grail of clean energy, could actually increase the hole in Earth’s protective ozone shield, researchers said in a study released Thursday. The scientists emphasized, however, that their research reflects a need to better understand hydrogen and is not a call to stop the transition to hydrogen-based power in lieu of polluting fossil fuels.

THE TEAM at the California Institute of Technology modeled what would happen if all oil- and gas-burning technologies were replaced with hydrogen fuel cells.

The model assumed that extracting, storing and then shipping hydrogen via a factory process would lead to leakage levels like what’s seen in existing, albeit limited, hydrogen extraction industry. That in turn would increase manmade hydrogen emissions by four to eight times, the team reported in the journal Science.

That kind of increase, they then found, would make Earth’s stratosphere cloudier and cooler as hydrogen molecules oxidize and form water. The lower temperatures would encourage chemical reactions that “make the ozone hole deeper, larger (in area), and more persistent” when it forms each spring, the scientists wrote.

The holes that appear in the north and south could increase by as much as 7 and 4 percent, respectively, while the holes could last five to eight days longer, the scientists concluded.