PPI Examines the Future of the Hydrogen Economy

New Studies Outline Proposals to Speed the Commercial Use of Fuel Cells.

Published: 23-Jan-2003

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With possible war in the Middle East looming and global warming proving its impact around the world, America's dependence on oil to fuel its transportation sector is rapidly moving to the forefront of national debate. Continuing its efforts to assume a leadership role in this area, today the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) released two papers offering constructive means by which public policy can drive the nation toward a new hydrogen-based, energy future that would improve national security, boost our economy, and reduce global warming. The first paper takes a broad look at how the federal government can encourage partnerships to explore the potential for hydrogen-fuel use across the U.S. economy, while the second specifically examines the impact hydrogen and fuel-cell use could have on our transportation systems.

In Toward Tomorrow's Energy: Speeding the Commercial Use of Fuel Cells and Hydrogen, Peter Hoffmann, editor and publisher of "The Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Letter," and Robert Rose, executive director of the Breakthrough Technologies Institute in Washington, D.C., argue that building a hydrogen economy will require strong, concerted national action and identify four priorities for improving support. The authors propose a coalition led by the federal government and including private sector fuel cell companies and institutions to:

"Given hydrogen's enormous potential to promote energy security and environmental quality, there is a clear national role to play in its promotion," Hoffmann and Rose write. "But building an economy based on hydrogen will require a much greater commitment of resources and political will than either Congress or the White House has thus far managed to muster."

In FreedomCAR and Fuel Cells: Toward the Hydrogen Economy?, Daniel Sperling, a professor of transportation engineering and environmental science and policy, and founding director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, explores ways to accelerate the use of fuel cells in surface transportation vehicles. The author argues that the Administration's FreedomCAR program is too narrow, and that a national effort to produce, distribute, and supply hydrogen as a transportation fuel must engage not only automakers, but also energy companies, small innovative technology firms, and universities.

Sperling identifies the main obstacles to widespread use of fuel cells in automobiles as the prohibitive cost of fuel cells -- up to ten times the amount of today's automobile -- and the lack of a nationwide hydrogen network to fuel them. To accelerate the hydrogen transportation future, he proposes a seven-point plan that includes: funding efforts to reduce fuel cell vehicle cost; building infrastructure to supply and deliver hydrogen; training future engineers, autoworkers, and technicians; keep FreedomCar focused on technologies down the road; and link FreedomCar with policies to promote a clean energy future.

"Policies to promote a clean energy future are particularly critical, not just to assure a timely transition to fuel cells and hydrogen, but also to accelerate the commercialization and adoption of cleaner, more efficient technologies on the road today," writes Sperling.

The Progressive Policy Institute's Center for Innovation & the Environment is dedicated to developing a second generation of environmental and natural resource policies that create incentives to drive continuous and efficient improvement in environmental quality. For additional information, Web users may access The Progressive Policy Institute Online, at www.ppionline.org, or contact PPI's communications office at (202) 547-0001.

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