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A Sustainable Future for Fresno: Rethinking Our Hydrogen Strategy
GV-Wire
By Special to GV Wire
Published 3 weeks ago on
May 10, 2024

Michael Maher highlights concerns about Fresno's hydrogen fuel contract, advocates for a sustainable energy path utilizing regenerative agriculture, and envisions Fresno as the first self-sustaining green city in the U.S. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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In a recent POLITICS 101 column, David Taub reported on the Fresno City Council’s approval of a hydrogen fuel contract without competitive bidding. While I applaud the City Council and mayor for their initiative in adopting hydrogen as a future energy source, the terms of the contract, which locks Fresno into a $19 per kilogram rate plus a $72,000 annual service fee, raise significant concerns about fiscal responsibility and strategic foresight.

Michael Maher

Opinion

The hydrogen fuel contract was reportedly selected through an RFP process conducted about eight months ago. Despite the Fresno Transportation Department asserting that this was equivalent to a competitive bidding process, the hydrogen market has shifted significantly since then. In the past eight months alone, the supply of commercially available hydrogen in California has increased by more than 10%, and this trend is expected to continue, almost certainly leading to lower prices for buyers. Unfortunately, the current contract lacks the flexibility to adjust pricing to reflect these changes, preventing Fresno from capitalizing on potential savings and locking taxpayers into a costly agreement.

I specialized in nuclear energy in the U.S. Navy, where I served on a fast attack submarine and was responsible for the nuclear power plant. Underwater we made the air we breathed using electrolysis to separate purified water to oxygen and hydrogen. As the candidate for U.S. Congress, my professional experience and post-military service in industrial electrical construction and power systems, sustainable biofuels, and advanced energy systems, I understand the challenges facing our environment and represent a new generation of leadership committed to utilizing this knowledge to transform Fresno and its surrounding communities into a model of sustainability and prosperity.

Powering Fresno and the Valley

Our community faces a decision on how we power the future of Fresno and the Valley. There are multiple paths we may choose to go down, but for simplicity I will contrast the divergence of two paths. One path is based in new current technology utilizing regenerative ag practices and requiring zero external electrical supply, providing truly carbon negative sustainable energy. These new technologies are manufactured and sourced here in North America, supporting indigenous communities providing ongoing and future employment opportunities for farm workers and labor. The other path is based on updates to older technology requiring external electrical power input heavily dependent on overseas components manufactured in countries with ongoing serious human rights violations, and complete dependence on our Valley’s most precious resource, water.

“I envision Fresno becoming the first self-sustaining and self-renewable green city in the U.S., with a holistic energy system that meets all our electricity and transportation needs.” — Michael Maher

The new technologies are capable of producing hydrogen without ongoing external power or water inputs, some with minimal water use, all while repurposing ag waste to produce fuel and energy at far lower prices — half the rate what the City of Fresno is locked into. This new technology path is not dependent on modern-day slavery or human rights abuses to produce the materials needed for fields of solar panels and farms of battery banks, choking out the natural beauty of our Valley for the brutalist appearance of miles of industrial hardware.

The new path I am working toward and see for the future of my children and future generations here in our Valley will be sustaining and utilizing the natural beauty of our Central Valley’s abundance of rich agricultural resources. It will utilize almond and pistachio shells, prunings, fruits, livestock manure, and other ag waste to generate green energy and fuels. This path leads to growing and maintaining jobs and increased economic development. We can’t afford another Bitwise boondoggle and blunder stripping reputation and value from our Valley.

The first and better path promotes an expansion of our agricultural industry the likes of which we have not seen for decades. We’ll succeed by introducing innovative crop varieties that enhance and regenerate our soils, and by incorporating advanced desalination technologies to access the largest body of water on our planet, our neighboring Pacific Ocean. We’ll further secure our food supply and expand our water resources. This method connects food security with national energy security in a winning combination of interests to protect and grow our ag industry. Additionally, our proposed agriculture-driven energy strategy aims to create thousands of sustainable jobs in farming, energy production, and distribution. This initiative will support clean, safe, and abundant energy production throughout Fresno, using environmentally friendly practices that respect our community’s needs.

A Self-Sustaining Vision for Fresno

I envision Fresno becoming the first self-sustaining and self-renewable green city in the U.S., with a holistic energy system that meets all our electricity and transportation needs. This includes upgrading the Fresno Yosemite International Airport to become the world’s first hydrogen-fueled airport ready to drive the future of hydrogen and electric aviation. Establishing Fresno as a hub for green energy will allow us to market our innovative, agriculture-based energy solutions nationwide and demonstrate our leadership in sustainable practices. The Valley will become the hub where students and graduates want to move to Fresno to take part in the future opportunities in energy, aviation, and ag technologies.

Our skilled, local workforce will be instrumental in rolling out the “Fresno Green Energy Model” across the country, showcasing how agricultural prowess can be harnessed to power a city sustainably. This plan is more than just an energy strategy; it’s a blueprint for economic growth and environmental stewardship.

Community engagement is pivotal in our journey towards sustainability. We will collaborate with international universities and share knowledge, host forums and workshops to gather input, ensuring that our strategy aligns with global future needs while maintaining the values of Fresno residents. By involving the community in a continuing and open process, we will build a stronger base of support and ensure that our initiatives are well-informed, and the people will feel the shared ownership in our success.

In the coming months, through a series of detailed discussions in GV Wire, I will outline how this plan will be realized, inviting community input to refine and enhance our approach. Together, we will ensure Fresno not only leads in the energy transition but sets the standard for California and the rest of the world on implementation of urban sustainability and environmental resilience.

About the Author

Michael Maher, U.S. Congressional candidate (CA-21) in the Nov. 6 election, is committed to making Fresno a national leader in green hydrogen, regenerative ag, and energy production, leveraging extensive experience from his Navy, FBI, and private sector careers to benefit the entire community. His local business interests include TO Viridi Inc., a company dedicated to transforming Fresno and the Central Valley into national leaders in green hydrogen production.

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