National and International Efforts to Promote Hydrogen Energy

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Publication date: 
26 June 2003

"Like many of the nations represented here, the United States has made hydrogen research and development a top priority." - Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham

The idea of using hydrogen as an energy carrier is quickly gaining traction with many in the federal government. President Bush highlighted a hydrogen energy initiative in his State of the Union address, and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham called for international cooperation in hydrogen research and development at a recent European Union Conference on Hydrogen. In addition, Senators approved several amendments to the energy bill (S. 14) which would promote hydrogen.

On June 9 the Senate approved an amendment by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) that would require DOE to report to Congress every three years on possibilities for increasing the use of hydrogen and its impacts on natural gas production. The following day, an amendment by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) was approved that would establish a target of 100,000 hydrogen-powered cars on the road by 2010 and 2.5 million by 2020. Dorgan's amendment would also call for development of a national hydrogen fuel infrastructure. However, it is worth keeping in mind the remarks of MIT professor (and AIP Governing Board chair) Mildred Dresselhaus, who commented, at a recent meeting of a DOE advisory panel, that the challenges of hydrogen production, storage, and distribution "won't be solved by legislating a timetable." (See FYI #71).

The hydrogen energy option is receiving substantial interest overseas. On June 16, Abraham described a proposed international hydrogen partnership to formalize cooperative R&D efforts. Selected portions of Abraham's speech to the European Union Conference on Hydrogen follow. Some paragraphs have been combined in the interests of space:

"I commend President Prodi [of the European Commission] and the European Commission [EC] for convening this important conference. Your commitment to overcoming the challenges to a hydrogen energy future is an encouraging sign that we can, and will, transform this world from one overly dependent on fossil fuels, to one powered in large part by clean and abundant hydrogen.... Our ultimate success will depend, for the most part, on our ability to devise 21st century technologies to overcome these challenges. In America, we have embarked on a multi-faceted, aggressive set of initiatives to accomplish these goals.... While these initiatives are all very important, what is the most exciting and perhaps the most promising initiative is the one we are here to discuss today - hydrogen. Like many of the nations represented here, the United States has made hydrogen research and development a top priority. We do this for a variety of reasons: to reduce the health impacts of pollution, to increase energy security, as well as to address the long-term potential challenge of climate change.

"Because of hydrogen's promise for addressing climate change, the US and EU [European Union]identified it last February as an area for cooperation under our climate change bilateral dialogue. The US and EU also worked together closely to place cooperation on the hydrogen economy at the center of the G-8 Action Plan on Science and Technology, which our Leaders adopted earlier this month in Evian.

"Early last year we introduced our FreedomCAR program, which is intended to develop automotive systems that would use hydrogen as fuel. This past January, President Bush announced his Hydrogen Fuel Initiative to concurrently develop the fuel production and distribution infrastructure necessary for the mass deployment of hydrogen-powered vehicles. With these two project lines on track, we believe that the first car of a child born this year could be hydrogen powered and pollution free.

"We are optimistic about the prospects for hydrogen, not just as the transportation fuel of the future, but also for its potential to generate electricity to heat and power our homes and businesses. We are so confident and committed that over the next five years the Department of Energy will invest $1.7 billion in research and development of hydrogen vehicles and hydrogen infrastructure technologies. As you know, hydrogen can be produced using renewable, fossil, and nuclear energy. We are looking at all of these options. But we intend that all our hydrogen will eventually be produced using emissions-free technologies. In our most recent budget, we propose spending roughly 50 percent on hydrogen production from renewable resources."

"Later this morning, Commissioner Busquin [of the European Research Commission] and I will sign a Fuel Cell Annex to the US-EU Non-Nuclear Energy Cooperation Agreement. This Annex will help unify our approaches to hydrogen research and highlight the importance of international cooperation in the development of hydrogen energy technologies. We believe our work on hydrogen and the work being done elsewhere around the world is perhaps the most significant game-changing endeavor the energy sector will see in our lifetimes. And working together with international partners, we can leverage scarce resources and advance the schedule for research, development, and deployment of hydrogen production, storage, transport, and end-use technologies. Moreover...I believe that international collaboration can help us develop the uniform codes and standards necessary for the development of hydrogen vehicles and the infrastructure to support them."

"Clearly, the US-EU fuel cell joint effort is an important element in advancing the hydrogen revolution. However, I see it as just the beginning of an international approach to achieving our collective hydrogen vision. That's why, a few weeks ago at the International Energy Agency conference in Paris, I proposed the concept of an international hydrogen partnership to formalize cooperative efforts to advance the research, development, and deployment of hydrogen fuel cell and infrastructure technologies.... Today, I'd like to ask the EC as an organization and the countries represented here individually, to join with me in a ministerial-level conference this fall to formally define and establish the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy. Such a Partnership would, in my view, provide the best mechanism to efficiently organize, evaluate, and coordinate multinational research and development programs that advance the transition to a global hydrogen economy. Our Department is prepared to host this session. And we are prepared to move quickly to make such a conference a reality.

"We have great challenges ahead of us. We know that this task will be difficult and that it will require a substantial devotion of financial resources. But the promise of hydrogen is too great to forego investing in its potential.... The question before us is this: will we move forward, each of us, alone, in a manner that likely leads to duplication and the inefficient use of resources? Or will we band together to significantly increase our chance of realizing the full potential of hydrogen?... We look forward to working with you to achieve that goal."

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