Deposit of natural hydrogen could be the largest ever found and enough to meet global demand for two years.

Hydrogen has long been seen as a wonder fuel that does not give off greenhouse gases when used, and which could help replace fossil fuels. But there is at least one major drawback to this idea because the production of hydrogen largely uses fossil fuels and so making clean hydrogen from the process of splitting water needs renewable sources of electricity. Lots of power is required and it is expensive.

Less well known are deposits of natural hydrogen buried underground. Scientists at the University of Lorraine were searching for methane in north-east France, when they unexpectedly discovered a large deposit of natural hydrogen more than 1,000 metres deep underground. This hydrogen is produced by groundwater reacting with iron-rich minerals, splitting the water into hydrogen, possibly renewing itself almost indefinitely.

Natural hydrogen deposits have been found before and there is already a small well in western Mali. Larger deposits are thought to exist elsewhere, such as the US, Australia and some European countries. But the discovery in France could be the largest naturally occurring deposit of the gas ever found, possibly 250m tonnes of hydrogen, enough to meet current global demand for more than two years. The challenge is how to transport that gas to where it is needed.

Well, 2023 didn’t exactly go to plan, did it?

Here in the UK, the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, had promised us a government of stability and competence – not forgetting professionalism, integrity and accountability – after the rollercoaster ride of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss. Remember Liz? These days she seems like a long forgotten comedy act. Instead, Sunak took us even further through the looking-glass into the Conservative psychodrama.

Elsewhere, the picture has been no better. In the US, Donald Trump is now many people’s favourite to become president again. In Ukraine, the war has dragged on with no end in sight. The danger of the rest of the world getting battle fatigue and losing interest all too apparent. Then there is the war in the Middle East and not forgetting the climate crisis …

But a new year brings new hope. There are elections in many countries, including the UK and the US. We have to believe in change. That something better is possible. The Guardian will continue to cover events from all over the world and our reporting now feels especially important. But running a news gathering organisation doesn’t come cheap.

So this year, I am asking you – if you can afford it – to give money. Well, not to me personally – though you can if you like – but to the Guardian. The average monthly support in the Czech Republic is around €3, however much you give, all that matters is you’re choosing to support open, independent journalism.

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