Latin American journalists propose more critical and in-depth coverage of green hydrogen energy during recent event

With the arrival of green hydrogen in Latin America, some media outlets have depicted the energy source as “the fuel of the future” or “the energy against climate change.”

However, journalists from Climate Tracker, an organization that supports, trains and promotes better climate journalism globally, warn that more critical coverage is necessary and that it needs to go beyond economics, politics and simplistic stories about the production of this energy source.

To promote more in-depth reporting on the social and environmental impacts of green hydrogen in Latin America and the Caribbean, Climate Tracker on Oct. 19 held a community hangout with 12 journalists from the region who have covered stories related to the impact of green hydrogen production in their countries.

Along with the event, “Green Hydrogen Challenges,” Climate Tracker also presented a guide to help report on green hydrogen.


Latin American media report on a nascent energy source


Because green hydrogen, also called renewable hydrogen, is extracted via water electrolysis, which is powered entirely by renewable electricity, it does not generate any type of polluting emissions into the atmosphere.

This fuel has become popular for its potential role in the decarbonization of the planet and reducing greenhouse gasses. And Latin America is a strategic region for its production due to its extensive development of renewable energies, as explained in the Climate Tracker guide.

“It doesn't seem to me that, at the moment, we can talk about a ‘green hydrogen industry’ in Latin America, because there is no such development," Víctor L. Bacchetta, a journalist specializing in environmental issues, told LatAm Journalism Review (LJR). “What we have are projects, most of them in the definition and evaluation stage.”

There is a lot of speculation about the topic in the region's media, explained Paula Díaz Levi, journalist of Climate Tracker, during the community hangout.

She said that the reporting on green energy done by the 12 journalists for Climate Tracker revealed certain issues to take into consideration. For example, although green hydrogen does not generate polluting emissions into the atmosphere, it is necessary to evaluate other types of environmental impact these projects may have, such as the amount of water they require for their operation, or how biodiversity and the communities that inhabit the project areas may be impacted.

During the community hangout, journalist Alicia Martins Morais mentioned her reporting from the Brazilian Amazon, in the northern state of Amapá, in which she found a green hydrogen project emerged in an area where there is no energy for the population, yet the project will supply energy to the European market.

She explained that, in general, in Brazil, journalistic coverage positions green hydrogen as if it were a “magic solution or the new green solution for the world's energy.” Which, according to her, is “a positive but superficial vision.”

Still, she said, she increasingly is seeing critical coverage that contemplates the negative impacts of the green hydrogen industry.

Argentine journalist Fernando Heredia explained during the community hangout that in his country, “there is practically no environmental coverage in the media.”

Regarding the coverage of green hydrogen, he said that in the media “it began to be discussed as a strange topic and as a great opportunity to save the country's economy.”

However, Heredia said, "there are many people who warn the opposite," that green hydrogen will not be the "salvation,” and that more attention must be paid to the voices of these specialists and the communities that live where the green hydrogen projects are being set up.

The Argentine journalist also said the media make comparisons with neighboring countries when reporting on this potential new energy source.

“It is very common to say: ‘Argentina cannot fall behind its neighbors.’ But there are many areas for working together, to think about a regional synergy that can be beneficial for everyone,” he said.

That is why he has reported on the collaborative potential between Argentina and Chile to develop green hydrogen projects jointly.

Mexican journalist Blanca Velázquez explained during the community hangout that the challenge when investigating green hydrogen in her country is to access relevant government authorities and experts who specialize in green hydrogen, in addition to focusing on “energy transition” (that is, the set of changes that are carried out in the production and consumption model to avoid greenhouse gas emissions).

Martins Morais said that access to public information was a challenge during her investigation, in addition to the fact that there is little research from academia. “It’s not studied much and very little is understood on the subject. As journalists, we can encourage this public debate,” she said.

Bacchetta agreed with the Climate Tracker journalists that, in Latin America, “major media coverage of green hydrogen has been complacent, with no further analysis, reproducing the official messages of governments and companies interested in promoting these projects.”

In short, “there is no serious analysis of the energy crisis and the trumpeted energy transition” he added.

Translated by Liliana Valenzuela
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