REPORT: Slow Road to UK Hydrogen Economy

UK report sees use of renewables to replace fossil fuel power plants as making more sense to the environment than fuel cell cars.

Published: 31-Jan-2003

London, England - January 30, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] A report written by experts from three of the UK's leading environmental transport organizations has called for Britain to use most of its renewable electricity to displace fossil fuel power stations rather than use it to produce hydrogen to drive vehicles.

The report was issued just days before U.S. President George W. Bush called for a US$1.2 billion program to support the continued development of hydrogen fueled cars.

This will have bigger benefits for climate change, according to the report, "Fuelling Road Transport," launched recently at the Cleaner Transport Forum in Westminster City Hall, London, a premature 'dash for hydrogen from electricity' to power road transport could have an environmental downside and preclude the development of other comparatively beneficial technologies.

Producing hydrogen from natural gas to power vehicles is cheaper and offers some environmental benefits if used in high efficiency fuel cell vehicles. And other technologies such as hybrid vehicles have the potential to halve carbon dioxide emissions in the short term, and can provide significant air quality and noise benefits as well.

In the short term, road fuel gases and biofuels can also play a role in reducing emissions. But the most interesting use of biofuels may well be in producing hydrogen or methanol from high yield crops, such as wood. These biofuels are a better option than renewable electricity for this purpose in the medium term.

The report says that in the absence of a carbon reduction benefit, there is no case for accelerating the introduction of a large-scale fuel cell vehicle fleet, fuelled by hydrogen from electricity ahead of the availability of surplus renewable electricity. From the perspective of both the environment and security of energy supply, the most promising way ahead is to aggressively promote more energy efficient vehicles while gradually developing hydrogen fuel cell technology using hydrogen produced from natural gas and biofuels.

"This is a very important year for the environment, with future energy and transport policy to be mapped out in the upcoming Energy White Paper," said Nick Eyre, policy director at the Energy Saving Trust, one of the report's co-authors. "Setting appropriate greenhouse gas reduction targets is a vital part of the process, but backing these targets up with a coherent and effective policy framework for energy and transport will determine whether we achieve them."

The report has been co-written by Malcolm Fergusson of the Institute for European Environmental Policy and Richard Mills of the National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection.

For Further Information:

The Report

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