This month, the Obama Administration proposed cutting more than $130 million for hydrogen and fuel cells, and a total elimination of funds for the fuel cell vehicle program. This unfortunate position is short-sighted, and could prove disastrous. Abandoning these programs now will drive technology and innovation overseas and obstruct private investment. It will also waste state and federal dollars, stifle a burgeoning industry and limit options to fight climate change.

LIMITING TECHNOLOGY OPTIONS WILL BE BAD FOR ENVIRONMENT

Bud DeFlaviis

EarthToys Renewable Energy Article
This month, the Obama Administration proposed cutting more than $130 million for hydrogen and fuel cells, and a total elimination of funds for the fuel cell vehicle program.  This unfortunate position is short-sighted, and could prove disastrous.  Abandoning these programs now will drive technology and innovation overseas and obstruct private investment.  It will also waste state and federal dollars, stifle a burgeoning industry and limit options to fight climate change. 
Limiting Technology Options will be Bad for Environment; Jobs

By Bud DeFlaviis, Director of Government Affairs, U.S. Fuel Cell Council
Tell Congress to Restore Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Funding


In 2003, the United States embarked on a 10-year program to develop hydrogen fuel cell technologies to move the United States away from foreign oil, create energy security and eliminate smog and greenhouse gas emissions. 

Despite the success of this program, Energy Secretary Steven Chu justified the decision to cut these programs by arguing that the Department would be better served funding technologies with greater short-run impact. 
However, the notion that hydrogen fuel cells for vehicles are some distant, future technology isn’t supported by the facts.  Fuel cells for portable, stationary and transportation applications are quietly providing energy solutions for a number of early adopters.  Light-duty vehicles and buses have logged several million miles in road tests, and more than 100 are in the hands of average Americans participating in real-world demonstrations and leases.  Hydrogen infrastructure is also being installed for vehicles, buses, forklifts and other backup power applications.  Add to the fact that battery electric, plug-in hybrid and other alternative options face similar commercialization uncertainties, and one has to wonder why we are limiting our technological options. 

The administration’s decision also ignores long-term viability plans crafted by the automakers who see hydrogen fuel cells as a vital component to electrify vehicles.   

The message that automakers and fuel cell companies are sending to lawmakers: delay begets more delay. Walking away from these technologies now will be the real reason why we'll have to wait another 10-20 years for full scale commercialization.  

The fight to restore a balanced DOE program isn’t just about ensuring the government doesn’t pick winners.  These technologies are vital to meet greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets.  The DOE’s own budget documents state that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have the greatest potential for reducing CO₂ emissions by 2020 of any advanced vehicle technology – including advanced internal combustion engines, hybrid vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles 1.  Simply put, we cannot meet GHG reduction goals without fuel cell vehicles.

Realizing a low-carbon future (80% CO2 reduction by 2050 2) depends on near zero emission technologies.  Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles reduce GHGs at least 50% compared to gasoline vehicles - even when hydrogen fuel is made from natural gas.3

Maintaining these programs will also keep America competitive.  The United States invested heavily in advanced battery research, and hybrid vehicle research, only to abandon these efforts on the verge of commercialization.  Now, we are buying batteries and hybrid vehicles back from Asia. We can avoid that fate with fuel cell vehicles and other products, but only if we stay on course.
 
Automotive fuel cell commercialization will also create jobs.  A report for the Department of Energy concludes that commercializing fuel cells and shifting from gasoline to hydrogen could create more than 675,000 jobs in manufacturing and assembly, fuel production, repair, recycling, and construction and at auto shops and dealerships across the country.  The hard-hit Upper Midwest could see more than 100,000 new jobs in 41 industries.4

During these difficult economic times, the federal government, working with the states, is taking bold steps to change the way we use and produce energy to create jobs, reduce pollution and keep America competitive.  Through their own reports, studies and rhetoric, they acknowledge that hydrogen fuel cells are a critical pathway that needs to be supported.  A budget that supports these noble tasks is in order.   


1. Page 83 of 3rd Volume of the FY 2010 Budget http://www.cfo.doe.gov/budget/10budget/Content/Volumes/Volume3.pdf

2. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-at-the-National-Academy-of-Sciences-Annual-Meeting/

3. CARB Low Carbon Fuel Standard, http://www.arb.ca.gov/regact/2009/lcfs09/lcfsisor1.pdf 

4. Effects of a Transition to a Hydrogen Economy on Employment in the United States Report to Congress, July 2008

Authors Bio

Bud DeFlaviis is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University. He holds a Bachelors of Arts in Economics and completed a minor in Political Science. Following a brief stint with SEI Investments, Bud went to work for Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA). Beginning as District Representative, Bud was promoted to Press Secretary, a position he held for three years. After leaving Capitol Hill, Bud joined the U.S. Fuel Cell Council in March of 2004 as the trade association's first lobbyist.


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