The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package completed over the weekend includes billions in funding for three emerging energy technologies that Wyoming is already exploring: clean hydrogen, carbon capture and advanced nuclear power.
After a precarious, monthslong negotiation process that saw the bipartisan deal nearly fall through, the Senate voted Wednesday to open debate on the infrastructure plan by a margin of 67-32. Wyoming Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis both voted against advancing the bill.
In a statement, Barrasso characterized the legislation as governmental overreach — calling it “the Biden administration’s takeover of America’s electric system” — and expressed concern about where the funding would come from.
“We should be investing in our infrastructure responsibly. Instead, this bill spends too much and mandates policies that are bad for Wyoming,” he said.
Despite the senators’ misgivings about the infrastructure plan, some of the programs covered under its hefty price tag would support the development of advanced energy sources, which many in Wyoming say are key to revitalizing the state’s economy as natural resource revenue continues to decline.
According to a summary of the 2,700-page bill, the package would allocate more than $8 billion toward carbon capture efforts through 2026, including $100 million for the Department of Energy’s Carbon Capture Technology Program, $300 million for the development of carbon oxide products, $2 billion for carbon dioxide transport infrastructure, $2.5 billion for the commercialization of carbon sequestration projects and $3.5 billion for four regional direct air capture hubs.
The influx of federal spending could boost Wyoming’s existing carbon capture, utilization and storage efforts, including the University of Wyoming’s CarbonSAFE sequestration project and other initiatives at UW and throughout the state.
For hydrogen, the bill would reestablish and expand the DOE Hydrogen Program to include additional clean hydrogen programs as well as a national strategy for advancing clean hydrogen.
It authorizes $500 million to support a domestic clean hydrogen supply chain, $1 billion for a hydrogen commercialization program and $8 billion for four clean hydrogen hubs that “demonstrate the production, processing, delivery, storage, and end-use of clean hydrogen” and “can be developed into a national clean hydrogen network to facilitate a clean hydrogen economy.”
Under the bill, both blue and green hydrogen qualify as clean, though there is some disagreement about whether blue hydrogen — a classification for hydrogen generated using natural gas that requires that the carbon released as a byproduct be sequestered — can be considered as clean as green hydrogen, which is produced using renewable energy.
Many in Wyoming, including the oil and gas industry, see blue hydrogen as a way to keep the state’s gas production competitive as power plants’ demand for natural gas wanes. Several energy companies received grants last month from the Wyoming Energy Authority to support feasibility studies on the production and use of both blue and green hydrogen.
The bill also directs the DOE to conduct a report on the feasibility of using advanced nuclear technologies to meet U.S. climate goals, and introduces a $6 billion civil nuclear credit program to help keep existing nuclear reactors operating.
That expanded federal support for nuclear power would come as nuclear design company TerraPower begins the permitting process for the advanced reactor it plans to build at one of four retiring Wyoming coal plants.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he hopes to finalize amendments to the bill and pass it through the Senate before the monthlong August recess starts next week.