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Norway Inaugurates Hydrogen Highway, Obama Quits the Plan

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I was glad when I read an article last night describing how Norway opened up a 560 km “hydrogen highway”, and inaugurated it with a hydrogen car rally between Oslo and a North Sea oil hub, Stavanger. The cars were regular Ford Focuses, Priuses, and other well-known, converted either into burning hydrogen directly in their classic internal combustion engine, or using fuel cells to convert hydrogen to electricity (probably the case of the Prius).

Despite the Europeans’ optimism, the Obama administration, on the other hand, announced that they are now quitting Bush’s hydrogen $1.2 billion fuel cell plan, and saving $100 million a year with that. That’s it, people: the recession now told us we should not invest in hydrogen anymore. Not because it wouldn’t be a good technology, hydrogen being the cleanest fuel on Earth, but because the Americans don’t have enough money, or it isn’t profitable enough for them to build the infrastructure and make the technology cheap and reliable.

There have already been innovations in fuel cells sector that could give them a boost, and make them more cheap and reliable, but it seems Obama doesn’t read the news. Instead, observing the trend for electric cars powered by batteries and battery technology evolving quicker than fuel cells (we already have lots of expertise in battery making), Obama is now rather pursuing battery-powered cars. Of course, batteries have their drawbacks: the energy density is smaller, directly affecting weight, and they also pollute a lot in their fabrication process.

So, mr. Obama, if you ever read this, know I have the deepest respect for those who pursue clean technologies, but isn’t the US spending a lot of capital on other non-productive businesses (more than $100 million a year)? Why should we quit researching something just because it’s too expensive, at the price of our children’s lives? Wouldn’t it be safer for us to have as many options as possible for alternative energy? In this case, hydrogen becomes an alternative to the alternative, doesn’t it? Bush had many weak points in promoting green technology, but what he already started and invested in should not have been quit, even if it costed more in the beginning.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. As for Obama’s decisions the US govt.should be stopped from any more decisions as we all see it suppresses good development and engages in only lineing the pockets of the politicans and their friends and families ,and no taxes should be rewarded to the US govt.for any hydrogen or any other green technology including electric.. Why did we elect this ja*k*ss and why isn’t he already impeached.

  2. You are right Ovidiu. Sorry Cyril, you just don’t get it. This is the problem in the United States, Corporate Monopolies and profit over service to humanity…Obama was the best choice of two, but he is no enlightened being. He surrounds himself with dogmatic counsel. The world is just turning the corner, coming out of the dark ages, technology has to benefit the many, not just the few.

  3. Wrong. Obama made the right call, based on physics and realistic thinking. The point that hydrogen is the cleanest fuel is debatable, but irrelevant because there is no hydrogen on earth in mineable quantities. You have to make it, it’s an artificial energy carrier. Can’t use electricity because that’s better put to use in batteries. The fundamental problem pops up: entropy. Hydrogen electrolysis-fuel cell is inherently inefficient even if storage and distribution don’t impose significant energy losses.

    There is some hope for alternative hydrogen production pathways (non-electric) and that’s where the focus should be. But most of the development and deployment money should go to battery electric plugin hybrids, Chevrolet Volt style. Hydrogen fuel cell transportation sucks compared to that, whether you consider time to implement or costs or practicality of use, infrastructural requirements etc etc.

    • Yeah, Cyril, I get your point, but batteries made out of lithium are not clean at all, if we take into account the vast lithium mines and the damage they do to the local environment. Plus, that lithium is limited, so we’ll eventually end up changing our fuel again in a few decades, like we’re trying to do now. Hydrogen, even if not the most energy efficient carrier, is good because it only produces water, and it’s totally renewable. Batteries are good in the short run, but, again, like in hydrogen’s case, we have to find different materials that we make them of. More energy efficient hydrogen generation methods have been discovered, but I don’t know why they’re not implemented and tried more extensively. Beyond all these, one idea remains constant: we’ll use electric cars anyway.

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