Yesterday, the U. S. House of Representatives voted 416-6 to begin a $50 million awards program for researchers in hydrogen technology. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, prizes of $1 – $4 million would be handed out for breakthrough technology along with a $10 million grand prize to be awarded to any research team that comes up with “transformational technology.”
The Associated Press quotes Science Committee chairman Sherwood Boehlert as saying, ‘”Prizes can draw out new ideas from scientists and engineers who may not be willing or able to participate in traditional government research and development programs, while encouraging them, rather than the taxpayer, to assume the risk.”
The U. S. government has offered these kinds of prizes before in order to encourage new technology and with positive results. In 2004, the government awarded the $10 million Ansari X-Prize to a group who developed a private space vehicle that flew three people 66 miles above the earth. Charles Lindbergh collected the $25,000 Orteig Prize when he flew from New York to Paris non-stop. Abraham Lincoln, in the 1860’s wanted the Transcontinental Railroad built in a timely fashion so he subsidized the railroad companies with grants until the project was completed.
It’s good to see our government jumping aboard the hydrogen train in such a big way. By handing out huge monetary prizes, this gives incentives and validation to those who are building hydrogen cars, components and infrastructure that what they are doing is indeed important and will be financially rewarded. Like Lincoln in the 1860’s, it’s these kind of government incentives that will make sure that we have a transcontinental hydrogen highway system in a future that is closer than we think.