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A Hydrogen Future?

Wednesday, January 29th, 2003 · No Comments

For me, the most shocking part of Bush’s State of the Union speech last night was not the constant look of the undead in his eyes, his plastered hair, or his determination to go to war with Iraq — those things are all expected — but his proposal of $1.2 billion in federal funding to research hydrogen-powered automobiles. I just about fell out of my chair as he said these words:

    In this century, the greatest environmental progress will come about not through endless lawsuits or command-and-control regulations, but through technology and innovation. Tonight I’m proposing $1.2 billion in research funding so that America can lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles. (Applause.)

    A single chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen generates energy, which can be used to power a car — producing only water, not exhaust fumes. With a new national commitment, our scientists and engineers will overcome obstacles to taking these cars from laboratory to showroom, so that the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free. (Applause.)

What? Was this Bush the oil man speaking? Was this the same Bush who, along with his VP and entire cabinet, has oil-is-thicker-than-blood-and-innocent-lives ties to the oil industry? I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Of course, it all sounds good, but the reality of hydrogen-powered vehicles is a far cry from where we stand today — espeically with a measly $1.2B, which sounds like a lot, but really isn’t.

Consider this: $1.2B is just 3.6% of the 2001 profits of General Motors, just one of the many car makers. If you want to compare this proposed research amount against GM’s 2001 earnings, it’s even more depressing: 0.68% of 1 year of earnings of 1 car company. In other words, it’s jack squat.

But hey, at least it’s a start, right?

Except for this little detail: In order to split hydrogen from oxygen you need one thing. Take a guess at what that is. Yup, you got it: Energy. BBC has a good analysis of this point:

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | The long road for hydrogen

And here we are back to Bush’s obsession with controlling the oil supply in Iraq. Either that or burning lots of super-polluting coal to power the processes that split hydrogen from oxygen.

Or wait, here’s an idea: Solar and wind energy! Why is it that every new house built — especially here in the Golden State — is not equipped with solar panels on the roof to make it self-sufficient? Oh yeah, here’s why: money.

And then there’s that tax cut that benefits only the super-rich who make more than 300 grand per year. But I digress…

Tags: rants