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.