The Hindu Editorial Analysis
09 September 2021

1. Green Hydrogen holds promise as an alternative, truly clean fuel and in aiding the world’s decarbonisation goals

  • Source: TH - Page 6/Editorial: Green hydrogen, a new ally for a zero carbon future
  • GS 3: Environment, Energy.

Context: Fossil fuels are responsible for the production of over 830 million tons per annum of carbon dioxide. Scientists are trying to find the alternatives to these fuels. The forthcoming 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow from November 1-12, 2021 is to re-examine the coordinated action plans to mitigate greenhouse gases and climate adaptation measures.

 

Green Hydrogen - Energy-rich source:

    • ‘Green hydrogen’: is a zero-carbon fuel made by electrolysis using renewable power from wind and solar to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. It can be utilised for the generation of power from natural sources — wind or solar systems — and will be a major step forward in achieving the target of ‘net zero’ emission.

    • Presently, less than 0.1% or say ~75 million tons/year of hydrogen capable of generating ~284GW of power, is produced.

    • Types: The production techniques of this ‘Energy-Carrier’ vary depending upon its applications — designated with different colours such as black hydrogen, brown hydrogen, blue hydrogen, green hydrogen, etc.

      • Black hydrogen is produced by use of fossil fuel.

        • Brown hydrogen is formed through coal gasification. 

        • Grey hydrogen from natural gas throws off carbon waste. 

        • Blue hydrogen is cleaner version for which the emissions of carbon are captured and stored, or reused. 

      • Pink hydrogen is produced through electrolysis, but using energy from nuclear power sources.

      • Green Hydrogen: Uses fossil fuel.

    • Advantages of Hydrogen:

      • High Fuel Efficiency: Hydrogen has an energy density almost three times that of diesel.

      • Zero emission: ‘Green hydrogen’ produces ‘zero emission’ of carbon dioxide. Power generation by ‘net-zero’ emission will be the best solution to achieve the target of expert guidelines on global warming to remain under 1.5° C.

      • Industrial application: From rockets in space technology to industrial manufacturing and metallurgical processes, apart from production of energy. It has application in sectors such as ammonia, steel, methanol, transport and energy storage.

      • Offset high power Demand: The global population is growing at a rate of 1.1%, adding about 83 million human heads every year on the planet. As a result, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts the additional power demand to be to the tune of 25%-30% by the year 2040.

      • Less Air Pollution:  in 2018, 8.7 million people died prematurely as result of air pollution from fossil fuels around the Globe.

    • Challenge:

      • Technological: Challenge is to compress or liquify the LH2 (liquid hydrogen); it needs to be kept at a stable minus 253° C (far below the temperature of minus 163° C at which Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) is stored; entailing its ‘prior to use exorbitant cost’.

      • The obstacle of cost: According to studies by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA), the production cost of this ‘green source of energy’ is expected to be around $1.5 per kilogram (for nations having perpetual sunshine and vast unused land), by the year 2030; by adopting various conservative measures.

 

International Example: ]Saudi Arabia is prioritising plans to manufacture this source of energy by utilising ‘idle-land-banks’ for solar and wind energy generation. It is working to establish a mega $5 billion ‘Green hydrogen’ manufacturing unit covering a land-size as large as that of Belgium, in the northern-western part of the country.

 

Indian Plans:

    • The Indian Railways have announced the country’s first experiment of a hydrogen-fuel cell technology-based train by retrofitting an existing diesel engine;

      • this will run under Northern Railway on the 89 km stretch between Sonepat and Jind.

      • The project will not only ensure diesel savings to the tune of several lakhs annually but will also prevent the emission of 0.72 kilo tons of particulate matter and 11.12 kilo tons of carbon per annum.

    • National Hydrogen Energy Mission aims to produce Hydrogen from green energy sources.

      • Currently, India consumes around 5.5 million tonnes of hydrogen, primarily produced from imported fossil fuels.

      • Currently India produces grey or blue hydrogen which use fossil fuels for it production.

 

Conclusion:  

  • India is the world’s fourth largest energy consuming country (behind China, the United States and the European Union), according to the IEA’s forecast, and will overtake the European Union to become the world’s third energy consumer by the year 2030. Realising the impending threats to economies, the Summit will see several innovative proposals from all over the world in order to reduce dependence on use of fossil fuels.
  •  It is high time to catch up with the rest of the world by going in for clean energy, decarbonising the economy and adopting ‘Green hydrogen’ as an environment-friendly and safe fuel for the next generations.

 Expected Question: Strengthening of supply chains would be necessary to boost Hydrogen production in India. Comment (150 Words)

 

2.Kerala HC order on allowing earlier second dose flags need to review 84-day gap

  • Source: TH -Page 6/Editorial - The lag between jabs
  • GS 2: Health

Context:

  • The Kerala High Court has intervened regarding the time lag between the two doses of Covishield vaccine. It has asked the Government to allow the scheduling of the second dose four weeks after the first for those who want it.
  • The petitioners are two companies that have purchased vaccines for their employees and their family members and did not want to wait for the current mandatory 12-16 week period to administer their second doses.

 

  • Discrimination: A single judge has held that the relaxation in the 84-day norm for some categories of people, when it is normally not open to the public to get their second jabs earlier, amounts to discrimination.

    • There are relaxation from the minimum 12-week rule for some categories among those travelling abroad already.

    • The court has countenanced this argument favourably and termed as discriminatory the denial of “early protection” to those who wanted the second dose after 28 days.

  • The direction by the court: CoWIN portal should allow scheduling of the second dose after 28 days — the period initially fixed — for those who want early protection is likely to be questioned on appeal, even though it has its own logic.

 

Questioning the Better protection Theory:

    • Better Protection v/s Early Protection: The court framed it as an issue over “better protection” offered by the scientifically validated 12-week gap between two doses, and “early protection” favoured by individuals.

    • Union government's Argument: the relaxation was to meet unavoidable contingencies, and an earlier second dose could not be claimed as a matter of right.

 

Problem with Court's direction:

    • The court based its order on what it believed to be “discrimination” in favour of some sections but refrained from deciding the question “whether a person is entitled to make a choice between early protection and better protection” while accepting the Government’s free vaccine.

    • Important for Herd Immunity: A delayed second dose enables reaching more people for their first dose. This means the order to allow earlier administration of the second dose could impinge on the public health objective of giving some protection to more people rather than full protection to fewer people.

 

Immanent Questions regarding 12 Week policy:

    • Now Vaccines are available: Now since the availability of the vaccines have eased, it also raises the issue whether the policy of an 84-day gap between doses should continue.

    • Despite being approved by experts, the change from the four-to-six weeks norm to the current 12-16 weeks may have been dictated as much by higher efficacy as by the extent of vaccine availability then.

 

Conclusion:

  • The time may have come for the Government to review the norm and allow a shorter gap based on the availability of vaccines and COVID-19 prevalence in a given geography.

 Expected Question: Make an outline of India's vaccination drive that has been constructed to fight the COVID-19 Pandemic.  (150 Words)