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California Tries to Reboot Hydrogen Highway

A couple of weeks ago I read where the West Coast Electric Highway was now open for business, starting in Oregon and the plans are for it to reach all the way to the southern tip of California. This got me to thinking about whatever happened to the West Coast Hydrogen Highway.

For a while, under Governor Schwarzenegger the state of California was building hydrogen fueling station right and left. Then of course, there was the over-regulation that slowed down the growth of the stations. The California legislature decided in their infinite wisdom that one third of the power consumed by hydrogen fueling stations had to come from renewable resources, a burden placed on the manufacturing of no other kinds of fuel.

Gasoline, Diesel, LPG, Ethanol, nor CNG have this kind of restriction placed upon them. And of course the electric chargers for the West Coast Electric Highway also do not have this restriction placed upon them.

However, here comes the good part. California Governor Jerry Brown has decided to revive the hydrogen fueling station program. And, here’s the kicker. He wants the big oil companies to pay for it.

According to the Mercury News, “Oil companies also insist that they simply don’t want to be in the hydrogen business.

“In a recent letter to the air board, John Braeutigam, vice president for strategic development of Valero, said the rule would force refiners to ‘directly compete with their own core business. He added: ‘As the nation’s largest independent refiner, and second-largest producer of corn ethanol, Valero objects to being forced to fund its own demise.’”

So, there you have it. After all of the dog and pony shows and half-assed efforts from the oil companies trying to do a little PR that they are indeed interested in selling hydrogen, comes a direct admission. The oil companies don’t want to be in the hydrogen business as it would contribute to their own demise.

At least now, all cards are on the table.

About Hydro Kevin Kantola

Hydro Kevin Kantola
I'm a hydrogen car blogger, editor and publisher interested in documenting the history and the progression of hydrogen cars, vehicles and infrastructure worldwide.

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4 comments

  1. “And of course the electric chargers for the West Coast Electric Highway also do not have this restriction placed upon them.”

    “Established in 2002 under Senate Bill 1078, accelerated in 2006 under Senate Bill 107 and expanded in 2011 under Senate Bill 2, California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) is one of the most ambitious renewable energy standards in the country. The RPS program requires investor-owned utilities, electric service providers, and community choice aggregators to increase procurement from eligible renewable energy resources to 33% of total procurement by 2020.” –

  2. admin

    And of course this law applies to all 3 electric companies in California right now which are anywhere from 11.9 percent to 19.1 compliant. They have until 2020 to become compliant with the 33-percent mandate. For the past 5 years, new hydrogen fueling station installations were immediately forced into this 33-percent renewable energy mandate which is why many contracts were cancelled and many more companies decided it wasn’t worth it to apply. If the electric companies were told right now that 1/3 of the public chargers getting power from the grid had to use renewable energy, do you think they would be able to comply or would this be a setback for public electric car chargers? My guess is that this would put a damper on this industry as well.

  3. I get your point. And this is an unfortunate impediment to FCEV adoption.

    But, in truth, if the electric companies in CA are between 11.9 percent compliant and 19.1 percent compliant, then nearly 100% of their new generation placed online between now and 2020 will need to be renewable in order to meet the 33% mandate.

    So, in a way, electricity production projects are actually held to a higher standard.

    I just hope that there is a way to average the renewables among the hydrogen stations so, for example, a company could build a 100% renewable station and then be able to build two nonrenewable stations.

  4. admin

    I think of the bunch of power companies in California SoCal Edison has the best chance of meeting that 33-percent goal but I’m skeptical even they are going to make it. You see less that 5 miles away from me is a traditional SoCal power plant not one using solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, wind or hydro for power. About 50 miles away they operate the San Onofre nuclear power plant. So, even though, they are making strides in bringing renewable energy to the grid, they are the frontrunners and its doubtful even they will make their goal.

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