NRC Reports on Bush Administration's Hydrogen Efforts

Report recommends DOE focus its research on distributed natural gas and wind-electrolysis to enable a transition to a hydrogen economy within the next two decades.

Published: 05-Feb-2004

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 -- President Bush's vision of a hydrogen energy economy would have fundamental and dramatic benefits for our energy security and the environment, according to a new National Research Council (NRC) Report.

As the report notes, "A transition to hydrogen as a major fuel in the next 50 years could fundamentally transform the U.S. energy system, creating opportunities to increase energy security through the use of a variety of domestic energy sources for hydrogen production while reducing environmental impacts, including atmospheric CO2 emissions and criteria pollutants."(1)

"The Department of Energy appreciates the work of the committee," Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham said. "The NRC has validated the achievability of President Bush's vision that 'the first car driven by a child born today could be fueled by hydrogen and pollution free.' This report confirms that the President's Hydrogen Initiative has the long-term potential to deliver greater energy independence for America and tremendous environmental benefits for the world."

The report, "The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barriers and R&D Needs," also indicated that the Department of Energy's broad approach to produce hydrogen from abundant, domestic coal resources as well as renewable energy was important for the emergence of a viable transportation system. The NRC recommended that the Department more fully coordinate its hydrogen programs in its renewable energy, fossil energy, science and nuclear energy offices.

"Based on the NRC's interim report, we are already adopting many of their recommendations," Secretary Abraham said. "Following the NRC's recommendation that DOE devote more resources for exploratory research, the President's 2005 budget contains new funding for basic research in DOE's Office of Science, and we are probably ahead of where the Academy thinks we are in integrating our hydrogen work across DOE's programs."

Recommendations in the report also suggest that DOE focus its research on distributed natural gas and wind-electrolysis to enable a transition to a hydrogen economy within the next two decades. The report recommends that the Department more closely coordinate its carbon capture and sequestration activities with the hydrogen research program. The committee further encourages the Department to rapidly move ahead with its FutureGen Project to demonstrate co-production of power and hydrogen in conjunction with the successful capture and sequestration of the carbon dioxide generated.

The report stressed that there are challenges to the achievement of a hydrogen economy, and indicated that the DOE Hydrogen program was probably underfunded, "particularly because a significant fraction of appropriated funds is already earmarked (by Congress)."(2)

Of the $78 million appropriated in the FY 2004 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, over $37 million was earmarked for congressionally directed projects.

The NRC study, done jointly with the National Academy of Engineering, originated at the request of the Department in order to receive feedback on its R&D planning and recommendations on priorities and strategies to develop a hydrogen economy.

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(1) "The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barriers, and R&D Needs." Committee on Alternatives and Strategies for Future Hydrogen Production and Use, National Research Council, National Academy of Engineering of the National Academies. Page ES-2.

(2) Ibid., page 9-16.

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