class=story>Among the unexpected but welcome nuggets in the State of the Union address, President Bush announced support for $1.2 billion in federal funds for research to develop "clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles." The president's enthusiasm for research into pollution-free cars comes as a surprise, particularly in light of his strong support for more expansive oil exploration and auto industry lawsuits against California's zero emissions vehicle mandate.
"A simple chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen," the president told the nation last week, "can be used to power a car producing only water, not exhaust fumes." Environmentalists are still wary, and understandly so. Most experts believe any commercially viable hydrogen-powered car is at least a decade away. If the president's goal is to clean the air and make the country more energy independent, he need not wait that long. He has the power to make significant progress immediately.
The president's commitment to developing a new generation of nonpolluting cars is good news. It would be even better news to learn that the administration plans to do more to reduce pollution from the gasoline-powered vehicles that Americans drive now and will drive for the foreseeable future.