Opinion: Bad Element

Robert F. Kennedy speaks out on Bush hydrogen fuel proposal.

Published: 16-Feb-2003

's why the environmental community isn't ecstatic over President Bush's call to spend more than $1 billion over five years to develop a hydrogen-powered car to wean us from our addiction to Middle East oil.

Certainly, fuel cells that use renewable resources like wind and solar power to extract hydrogen from water promise America a safe, clean energy solution. However, in a sop to the energy industry, the White House wants to extract hydrogen instead from coal and natural gas (without controlling carbon emissions), thereby increasing global warming and fouling our landscape. Worse, the president wants to build a new generation of nuclear power plants specifically for hydrogen production.

The president's hydrogen plan will further reduce our national commitment to renewables by cutting our already anemic financing for research into wind, solar and other energy-saving technologies.

Fuel cells offer bright prospects but it will be 10 to 20 years before economical hydrogen vehicles are on the road. Meanwhile, Americans are buying 17 million new cars, trucks and S.U.V.'s a year — vehicles that could be much more fuel efficient. It's no secret that right now we have the technology to make cars that get better mileage and pollute less. But the administration has repeatedly scuttled efforts to put these innovations in place, fighting tougher fuel economy standards for all vehicles, refusing to compel S.U.V.'s to meet the same mileage standards as cars and creating tax incentives for Americans to buy the largest gas guzzlers. Last week, in an astonishing move, government lawyers joined General Motors and DaimlerChrysler in a federal lawsuit challenging a California law that rewards carmakers for selling low-emission, gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles.

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