This new energy has been under study for years already, but recently while researching ways to make it affordable and appealing to consumers, the natural gas and fracking business came into the picture. Hydrogen can also be produced from natural gas (harvested via fracking) but when it is there is also a CO2 byproduct. The artificial leaf does the same, minus the pollution factor.
Everything ultimately should come down to efficiency and whether or not it is economically feasible. Another article reviews the economics of the artificial leaf. From a strictly environmental perspective there is a great benefit of using the leaf because it comes in just under the production of hydrogen from solar panels and electrolysis in price, $7 versus $6.50 per kilogram. However, obtaining hydrogen from fossil fuels only costs $1-2 per kilogram. If coming from a strictly economical perspective it is a wasteful idea. Environmentally the hydrogen from fossil fuels has harmful byproducts, so it is possible that the externalities could make it not worth the saved money. Personally I think the leaf should be taken into consideration for the future, but also I think more effort needs to be placed on finding a way to cleanly utilize fossil fuel produced hydrogen as well. If the government or some other private organization could find a way to efficiently and cheaply use the hydrogen produced from fracking then I think there could be a benefit. This isn’t changing the creation of harmful byproducts, but maybe the extra hydrogen being used can prevent some coal from being used.