US and Europe in Fuel Cell Pact

While EU favors renewable energy for hydrogen production, Bush Administration supports experimental coal technology.

Published: 07-Mar-2003

art of the Bush administration's recent high-profile push to develop hydrogen as the fuel of the future, the Energy Department and the European Union agreed yesterday to start a cooperative effort aimed at bringing hydrogen-powered cars and electricity generated from fuel cells to market over the next two decades.

But important differences emerged in their approaches to the energy technology, largely driven by a much greater urgency in Europe than in the United States to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases scientists say contribute to global warming. The European Union, for instance, plans to derive significant quantities of hydrogen from water using renewable energy sources, while the Bush administration is focusing on experimental coal technology.

More significant, the European Union has set aggressive goals, including a plan to replace 20 percent of the fuel now used to run vehicles with alternative energy sources by 2020, while the Bush administration has not. The European Union also plans to develop the hydrogen technology while trying to reduce gasoline consumption now by sharply tightening vehicle fuel efficiency standards, an effort that has stagnated for more than a decade in the United States.

The agreement was announced in Brussels yesterday after a meeting between Romano Prodi, the president of the European Commission, and Spencer Abraham, the United States Energy Secretary. The agreement had sat unsigned for several years, a senior energy department official said, but was dusted off after President Bush announced the government's renewed interest in supporting hydrogen technology during his State of the Union address this year.

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