Science Dems: Hydrogen Economy Must be Coordinated Effort
(Washington, DC) The Subcommittees on Energy and Research of the House Science Committee teamed up today to hear from experts on the potential of a "hydrogen economy."
In a time of rising gasoline prices and increasing fuel demands, the joint subcommittee hearing convened to assess progress of Federal research and industry advances into the use of hydrogen as a primary transportation fuel – specifically, whether the Administration’s R&D investment portfolio in this area is reasonable.
"We must remember that hydrogen is not an energy source, it is an energy carrier," stated Energy Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA). "We cannot just look at the hydrogen piece of the equation, assuming that an infinite supply of fuel will be available for vehicles if only we can make those vehicles. Where is the energy going to come from to produce hydrogen? Converting natural gas is one option, but supplies of that fuel are already limited. Barring that, a switch to hydrogen vehicles looks like it will also require a commensurate increase in electricity generating capacity to supply the fuel."
Witnesses today reiterated this need to pay careful attention to the method and source of hydrogen generation in context with scientific challenges that must be met to realize a vibrant and competitive hydrogen economy.
Over the course of the past two years, both subcommittees have held numerous hearings to receive testimony from the Department of Energy and outside witnesses on various aspects of this issue. At a Full Committee hearing held earlier this year, testimony regarding two reports on hydrogen research suggested that resources should be directed away from demonstration projects and towards more basic R&D because there are significant technical barriers to surmount.
But as Rep. Honda notes, demonstration projects can help to overcome such obstacles. "I fear that we might miss more obstacles until after we have made significant investments of time and resources if we stop working on demonstration projects. For example, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s Zero Emission Bus program is funded by a transit sales tax, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the California Energy Commission (CEC), and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. It will be useful to know whether DOE is able to work with programs like this to gain knowledge about infrastructure needs and identify potential technical obstacles that we will need to overcome."
Democrats stressed that research priorities and resources must be aligned and coordinated if real progress is to be made. Major hurdles toward a hydrogen economy remain, but Democrats agreed the benefits could be substantial. As witness Dr. David Bodde, Director of Innovation and Public Policy at Clemson University stated today, the hydrogen economy is "a road I believe we must travel if we are to ensure a world well supplied with clean, affordable energy derived from secure sources."
"Right now, transportation accounts for two thirds of America’s daily oil consumption and we import 55% of our oil needs. The supply and demand pressures for oil aren’t going to go down," stated Research Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-OR). "As an alternative, hydrogen is attractive but it presents challenges we should work to address."