The world is addicted to natural gas. Fossil fuel companies are lobbying hard to keep it that way

A compressor station to accommodate downstream gas flows from the yet-to-be-approved Nord Stream 2 project, in Radeland, Germany.

(CNN)Imagine a world entirely free of fossil fuels. That's no longer such an abstract concept, as most of the everyday things we do can be powered by electricity -- driving a car, heating a home, charging a phone or computer -- and all that energy could come from sources like the wind, the sun and the natural movement of water.

For industries that need more oomph than solar or wind can offer -- like aviation, steel and concrete -- there's hydrogen. And it's everywhere.
There's a lot of buzz and billions of dollars being poured into the hydrogen industry, but not all types of hydrogen are created equal. Hydrogen is the most abundant element on the planet, but it needs to be isolated from its source, and that in itself takes energy. At the moment, it's mostly derived from fossil fuels -- natural gas, coal and oil -- in what's called "gray" hydrogen. If the carbon-dioxide (CO2) emitted during production is captured, you get "blue" hydrogen.
    As governments around the world devise new energy strategies to rapidly remove the carbon from their economies, major fossil fuel companies are lobbying hard to keep blue hydrogen in the mix. In doing so, energy and climate experts say, they are locking in the global use of natural gas, a planet-warming fossil fuel, potentially for decades to come.
      The most promising hydrogen for the climate is really the "green" sort, which is derived from water and is processed using 100% renewable energy, making it a potential zero-emissions power source. Green hydrogen is seen as a game-changing solution to emissions in the heaviest of industries, but it has a long way to go -- less than 1% of the world's hydrogen today is green, according to Fitch Ratings. The rest comes from fossil fuels.
      An analysis provided to CNN from the independent climate think tank InfluenceMap, which uses data to track the influence of business and finance on climate policy, found that several major fossil fuel companies are using the hydrogen hype to keep natural gas on the playing field, and that's having an impact on a crucial upcoming decision in the European Union.
      The EU's 27 countries are so divided on the future role of natural gas that the bloc's executive arm, the European Commission, has for months failed to deliver what should be a simple list of energy sources that it considers sustainable.
        After several delays, the decision was again postponed on this week, as countries squabbled over whether gas -- as well as nuclear power -- should make the list, and whether they should be called "green" or "transitional" forms of energy.
        Earlier draft versions of the list -- known as the Sustainable Finance Taxonomy -- made no mention of gas or nuclear, a source close to the talks told CNN, and now EU officials are publicly saying they will almost certainly be included. That could allow natural gas operations to carry on with a green stamp of approval and unleash a wave of private investment and green recovery public funds to new projects.
        In an opinion piece for the website Euractiv, Greta Thunberg and follow climate activists described the list as "fake climate action."
        Using a database of more than 350 of the world's largest companies, InfluenceMap identified a number of major fossil fuel companies that have been active in lobbying the EU on the sustainable fuels decision, as well as two other policies on gas and hydrogen. The three most active companies were Equinor, TotalEnergies and BP, the analysis concludes.
        Gas industry associations representing some of the biggest fossil fuel companies operating in Europe are also arguing that natural gas in new projects could be blended with hydrogen -- including blue hydrogen -- to make it "cleaner." Vivek Parekh, an InfluenceMap analyst, des