Groups Pan Fossil-Fuel-Based Hydrogen

By Published On: October 9, 2004

Just as California environmental regulators put the finishing touches on a plan to turn Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger?s stratagem of hydrogen highways into a reality, a coalition of environmentalists warns that unless renewable energy is used to make hydrogen, the program could become little more than an environmental dead end. The report came just as the California Environmental Protection Agency is preparing recommendations on how to establish by 2010 a network of 250 hydrogen fueling stations capable of powering up to 20,000 hydrogen-run vehicles. State officials see hydrogen highways as integral to meeting the greenhouse gas emissions standards that the California Air Resources Board set last month for automobiles. In a report issued late this week, the National Association of State Public Interest Research Groups warned that making hydrogen with conventional electricity from the power grid will do little to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to global warming. The groups also said that making hydrogen from natural gas is likely to merely replace dependence on foreign oil with dependence on liquefied natural gas. ?The governor appears to have the right intentions of creating a renewable hydrogen program,? said Bernadette Del Chiaro, energy advocate for Environment California. However, she urged the state to establish a clear path that will make natural gas only a stepping stone to renewable hydrogen. She and others called for a sustainable approach in which hydrogen would be made out of water in electrolyzers powered by solar, wind, and other renewable energy resources. ?If we?re not careful, the hydrogen economy will be a vessel for the energy policies of today and we?ll have a fossil-fuel-driven hydrogen economy,? added Rob Sargent, senior energy policy analyst for the public interest association. An agency panel preparing the recommendations is aware that hydrogen made with renewable energy would be optimal but is contemplating a mix of hydrogen production facilities, including fossil-fuel options, to jump-start the program, according to Michael Jackson, a member of the panel and a consultant for TIAX. The California EPA?s hydrogen highway recommendations are due later this fall.

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