Lancaster and Namie in Fukushima now promoting hydrogen
LANCASTER, Calif. — The city of Lancaster in the Antelope Valley and the town of Namie in Fukushima, Japan, would seem to have little in common.
One is a landlocked area at the edge of the Mojave Desert. The other is a coastal region half a world away that experienced a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, followed by a 50-foot tsunami and then a nuclear meltdown that forced its 21,000 residents to evacuate in 2011.
But on Monday, Lancaster and Namie joined forces in a first-of-its-kind international agreement to use hydrogen as their primary energy source.
Announced five days before the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics, which will be marked with an Olympic torch fueled — for the first time — with hydrogen, the agreement was designed to draw attention to the most abundant chemical substance on the planet and its potential as a clean energy source for transportation and electricity.
“Solving climate extinction requires never-before-seen global collaboration and smart, ambitious solutions,” said Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris. “Hydrogen will be the critical component for making all of this work. For the first time, we actually have the technology to save the planet. The question is, will we have the political will to save the planet?”
Parris was the driving force behind Lancaster’s current status as the first net-zero emissions city in the world, having transitioned to solar energy after becoming mayor in 2008. Now serving his fifth term, Parris intends to up the ante, transforming Lancaster into the first hydrogen city in the U.S.
Lancaster is currently in the process of building an anaerobic digestion plant to make renewable hydrogen out of organic waste. And its city hall will be the first in the world to be powered with renewable hydrogen generated with solar electricity, as well as the first city to subsidize hydrogen-powered cars for its residents.
“We are thrilled to connect with other cities around the world that share our ambition and recognize that hydrogen’s potential is the potential to save the species,” Parris said of the smart sister cities partnership with Namie to produce, store, deliver and use hydrogen.
Prized for its abundance and an ability to be created and consumed without generating any emissions, hydrogen can be made from water, renewable biomethane gas and even plastic waste.
“Today we mark the historical opening of a new era of creating an energy sector centered on hydrogen, a fuel that can help the environment while creating new business and employment opportunities at the same time,” said Akira Muto, Japan’s general counsel in Los Angeles.
Muto hosted Monday’s event at his home alongside Parris and LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, with dozens of governmental and business leaders from both sides of the Atlantic participating online. It was Barger who introduced Muto to Parris last July, setting the wheels in motion for the smart sister cities partnership.
Japan is already the largest foreign investor in California, operating almost 2,500 companies that employ more than 81,000 people in Southern California alone, Muto said, noting that many of those investments are involved with sustainability.
When Japan’s general counsel met Parris, he recognized that Lancaster and Namie had overlapping visions. Japan had just opened the world’s largest green hydrogen facility next to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March…