This has happened every year that the current Administration has been in office. Every Spring the President along with DOE Secretary Steven Chu has cut the hydrogen research budget. And every year, including this year, the Senate has restored that budget.
Now, it seems though President Obama’s stance on hydrogen fuel cell cars and vehicles is evolving. From recent rhetoric is sounds like within the President’s “All of the Above” energy policy that he is no longer discriminating against hydrogen cars in favor of battery electric cars.
In fact, two things happened recently to give hydrogen car advocates some hope that they may indeed have the full backing of the Executive Branch. The first was the announcement by the DOE that, “In support of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, the Energy Department today announced that more than one thousand fuel cells were deployed through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Over the last three years, nearly 1,200 fuel cells have been deployed in emergency backup power units and material handling equipment, such as forklift trucks. This investment is a part of the Department’s commitment to U.S. leadership in innovative fuel cell technologies to give American businesses more options to cut energy costs and reduce petroleum use.”
The second event was Dr. Steven Chu speaking at a recent closed meeting. According to Slate, “Industry and Department of Energy officials say that Chu seems to have softened his early rejection of hydrogen fuel cells. John Hofmeister, the former president of Shell USA and the incoming chairman of the Energy Department’s technical advisory committee on fuel cell vehicles, said Chu made supportive remarks about the potential for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles while speaking at a recent, closed event.”
Slate goes on to say about the lack of hydrogen fueling infrastructure, “The lack of fueling stations is a major obstacle to the rollout of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. A mature fleet will require 11,000 stations coast to coast at a cost of $20 billion to $25 billion, according to General Motors. Unless forced by Washington, oil companies, which generally do not produce hydrogen, have no motivation to add rival hydrogen fueling to their gasoline stations. So the industry’s calculus is that by and large hydrogen must be sold at new, dedicated fueling stations.”
Now, let’s just take the high number of $25 billion and compare this to the cost of the Iraq War. According to costofwar.com, the Iraq War has cost the American people $807.4 billion. This means by not going to war in the first place we could have paid for the necessary hydrogen refueling infrastructure 32 times over. What is wrong with this picture?
If this current Presidential election is about the economy, then why not invest money at home rather than overseas? Building a national hydrogen fueling infrastructure will create jobs, jobs, jobs not only for those building the infrastructure, but for those building hydrogen cars, part suppliers, fueling station operators, hydrogen gas suppliers and many other people.
If President Obama really is evolving on his stance regarding hydrogen cars and vehicles, then John Lennon if he were alive today may have sung it best, “All we are saying, is give FCVs a chance.”