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Types of Haters
1. It threatens your business or expertise. This may seem obvious, but it's surprising how many people don't take this into account when they listen to someone's opinion on the subject. Clearly, if the use of hydrogen represents a threat to your business model, or a better alternative to your product, you are highly incentivized to trash talk it. Some cynical types might call this marketing 101. Similarly, if it has the potential to make the expertise you've developed over a career less relevant, you might be looking for any opportunity to derail its implementation.
2. It competes with your preferred solution. Closely related to the previous type, this category often includes proponents of other solutions to decarbonization. Sadly, this is analogous to picking a fight with someone on your own team, and can sometimes take on the heated tenor usually reserved for brawls (e.g., batteries vs hydrogen). We need a portfolio of solutions to the problem... attacking other legitimate options causes confusion and is counter-productive to the overall goal.
3. You think it's an oil and gas industry conspiracy. I admit to being taken off guard by this one having spent nearly four decades developing hydrogen systems, none of them associated with the oil & gas industry. The fact that this industry has recently begun investing in hydrogen projects as a path to transition away from legacy fossil fuels seems like a positive trend to me. Of course, any of these efforts must be assessed in terms of their lifecycle environmental and public health impacts to be certain we are heading in the right direction and not supporting 'greenwashing' projects. That said, the workforce skill sets in the oil & gas industry overlap very closely with those needed for large scale hydrogen infrastructure. Let's not throw out the baby with the dirty bathwater.
4. You are a victim of misinformation. The previous categories are largely responsible for creating this type of hydrogen hater. A primary challenge for this category is separating the signal from the noise on the topic, and then being open to changing one's mind based on facts, data, and evidence. The remainder of this post will address this challenge with some guidance on how to assess the misinformation overload when it comes to hydrogen.
Red Flags and Filters
There are a few red flags to watch for when you're reading or hearing opinions about hydrogen:
- "I ran some calculations...". Some people seem to think if they start with a preconceived (and often self-serving) conclusion, pull together some unverified assumptions that support it, and then reverse engineer simplistic equations full of errors and omissions, they can 'prove' their case. If it hasn't been published, or at least vetted by an independent third party, be very skeptical of anything claimed by these hand wavers.
- When someone challenges another's hydrogen claims with data and evidence, the best response is to engage in an objective discussion with the willingness to adjust both of your perspectives based on what you each learn. Compare this to bad behavior responses such as egotistical rants, personal attacks, trolling, empty sarcasm, ghosting, or continuing to repeat the same claims ad nauseum after being proven wrong. Be extremely skeptical of any information from individuals exhibiting these bad behaviors
- Claims that any given solution is always right or always wrong. This is an easy flag. Anyone who is forever beating the same dead horse at every opportunity and refuses to acknowledge that their preferred solution isn't universally the best in all applications - or that their hated solution will never work - can safely be ignored.