In 2003, President George Bush, in his State of the Union address, announced a $1.2 billion hydrogen fuel initiative with the express intention to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and to provide the fuel we need to reduce gasoline consumption in our vehicles. That financial commitment enabled scientists to direct more energy into developing the technology for commercially viable hydrogen-powered fuel cells to power cars, trucks, homes and businesses – with no pollution or greenhouse gases.
Since then, there have been increasing levels of funding provided to develop hydrogen fuel as an alternative to gasoline and we are now seeing many more vehicles being powered by hydrogen fuel than ever before. One method of using Hydrogen to power a vehicle is with Hydrogen fuel cells, which store and process the gas that will power a vehicle. Fuel cell technology has developed so much over the years that General Motors now boasts a one hundred percent hydrogen fuel powered vehicle (see image).
However, Hydrogen fuel doesn’t come without its own problems. Hydrogen is around four times more expensive to produce than gasoline (when produced from its most affordable source, natural gas). The hydrogen fuel initiative hopes to lower that cost enough to make fuel cell cars cost-competitive with conventional gasoline-powered vehicles by 2010; and to further advance the methods of producing hydrogen from renewable resources, nuclear energy, coal and even water.
By using hydrogen fuel instead of gasoline, we could actually become energy independent, ie. we wouldn’t have to depend on other countries for our energy resources. Hydrogen is domestically available in abundant quantities as a component of natural gas, coal, biomass, and water. The Department of Energy estimates that the hydrogen fuel initiative may reduce our demand for petroleum by over 11 million barrels per day by 2040 – approximately equal to the amount of oil America imports today.
Vehicles are a significant source of air pollution in America’s cities and urban areas. Hydrogen fuel cells create electricity to power cars without any pollution, and the hydrogen fuel initiative could reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions from transportation alone by more than 500 million metric tons of carbon equivalent each year by 2040. Additional emissions reductions could also be achieved by using fuel cells in applications such as the generation of electricity for residential or commercial uses.
Hydrogen fuel is one of the main keys to a clean energy future. It has the highest energy content per unit weight of any known fuel. When it is burned in an engine, it produces no emissions, in fact, the only emission given off by hydrogen fuel when ignited is water vapor.
The newest, biggest thing in the alternative fuel industry is hydrogen fuel. President Bush knew that and now the American people know that as well and with all the new fuel cell technologies appearing, owning a vehicle that is powered by hydrogen fuel alone is now a reality. And it’s just the beginning!