Schwarzenegger Renews Promise of Hydrogen Highways

By Published On: January 10, 2004

In his “state of the state” address this week, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger renewed his campaign promise to create hydrogen highways in California to help free the state from dependence on imported oil and clean up air pollution. The plan?which seeks to jump-start hydrogen production by quickly moving to burn the gas in internal combustion engine vehicles until fuel cell cars are developed?also could create a market for off-peak power to make hydrogen from water, though most scientists believe that the elemental gas will be derived from natural gas at first. ?I am going to encourage the building of a hydrogen highway to take us to the environmental future,? said Schwarzenegger. ?I intend to show the world that economic growth and the environment can coexist.? Environmentalists greeted the plan with optimism, as long as the hydrogen is produced from renewable energy. In his campaign, Schwarzenegger embraced a plan developed by Environment Now to spend up to $500 million to create a hydrogen fuel infrastructure in the state developed by the group?s former executive director and now secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency Terry Tamminen. Daniel Emmett, director of the energy independence project at Environment Now, said Tamminen will put together a hydrogen highway task force to help carry out the plan that will include representatives of the governor?s office, the California Energy Commission, Cal-EPA, the Office of Technology and Planning, and several auto, oil, and hydrogen companies, such as Praxair, Stuart, and Proton Energy. Emmett has just been appointed by the Schwarzenegger administration to coordinate the new ?green buildings? program. Environmental consultant Arthur Purcell has estimated that statewide excess power from baseload units could make enough hydrogen to power 2.5 million internal combustion engine vehicles. Electrolysis units eventually could be shifted to run off renewable energy. ?It?s the end-game plan,? said Jim Heffel, principal research engineer at the University of California at Riverside?s College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology. Meanwhile, said Heffel, who also serves as chief technical officer for David Freeman?s Hydrogen Car Co., producing hydrogen from natural gas and burning it instead of waiting for fuel cell cars will get rid of the ?chicken and egg? problem of how to create a fuel before there are cars to use it.

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