Hydrogen: How the US has fallen behind Europe in the Trump years

It is the only center of innovation that America has lost. However, hydrogen is asserting itself as a “key link” in the energy transition, according to a study by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the European Patent Office (EPO). It shows Europe’s technological lead over the US, which has fallen behind in the Trump era. In the 2011-2020 decade, the European Union (28%) and Japan (24%) dominate the filing of international patent applications related to manufacturing technologies.Hydrogen, according to the study, is the first of its kind in the world. The US, with 20% of patent applications, is the only major innovation hub that has lost ground, especially during Donald Trump’s mandate (2016-2020).

While the country was at the top in 2011, their numbers “declined significantly” after 2015 and found the country to be “in third place” in 2020, behind Europe and Japan, the study noted. During the decade, China represented 4% and Korea 7% of patent applications. In Europe, Germany (11%), France (6%) and the Netherlands (3%) lead the way in patenting hydrogen technologies, the study underlines. Europe is the “leader” in terms of production capacity for electrolyzers, which are used to produce hydrogen without emitting CO2 by splitting water molecules (H20) into oxygen molecules and hydrogen through electricity.


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Highly active chemical and automotive groups

Based on the research, “we have a shift” towards decarbonised technologies, explains Yannick Menier, EPO’s chief economist. Given the technologies that release a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere, this is very strategic since current hydrogen production processes are almost 100% fossil-origin from the gas. Hence what is produced industrially is given the nickname of gray hydrogen. While it is produced mainly from carbon-free electricity such as wind, solar or nuclear, hydrogen can “replace fossil fuels” and can be used to decarbonize sectors with long transport distances and “few clean alternatives” such as fertilizers, the IEA director notes. General Fathi Brol.

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In terms of sector, the chemical and automotive groups are the most active and are led by the French liquid air 174 patent applications were filed, ahead of Germany’s Linde (155). Within universities and public research institutions, the French institutions CEA, CNRS and IFP occupy the top three positions in the world for basic research based on patents on hydrogen.


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