By on May 11, 2009

President Bush’s imaginatively-named “Freedom Fuel Initiative” has been slashed by President Obama, cutting $100 million per year from hydrogen research funding according to DailyTech. Government spending on hydrogen fuel cell technology will drop from about $169 million per year to about $69 million, as a natural and healthy skepticism grows about hydrogen’s short-term potential. “The probability of deploying hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles in the next 10 to 20 years is low,” say Department of Energy spokesfolks, taking an early lead for understatement of the week.

Bush’s $1.2 billion hydrogen initiative was supposed to to make fuel cell cars cost-competitive with conventional gasoline-powered vehicles by 2010, a feat it has clearly failed to acomplish. Bush’s initiative had been widely criticized by environmental groups, typically for making too small of an investment. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu’s presentation (PDF) of the DOE’s $26.4 billion budget indicates a “moving away from funding vehicular hydrogen fuel cells to technologies with more immediate promise.” Of course the obvious beneficiary of this move is ethanol, which is only environmentally friendly in cellulosic, or biomass-derived form. Which still hasn’t been commercially produced, and will only make up half the bioethanol mandate by 2020.

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24 Comments on “Obama Cuts Hydrogen Research Funds...”


  • avatar
    shaker

    Good, let the oil companies spend their own GD money on something they intended to monopolize.

  • avatar

    Smart move. Electric vehicles are what’s going to be moving in anyway. While electric vehicles at least have a charging station in everybody’s home (via electrical outlets) and we already know what we have to do to make way for them (i.e. build more power stations/solar cells on roofs/wind power/etc.) hydrogen doesn’t even have that.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    Cut $100 million for hydrogen, add another $780 million for ethanol from “stimulus” money. Trading one boondoggle for another one is not a real bargain.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Finally. Why not go all-the-way to $0 though? Even the Hydrogen obsessed Germans have just about thrown in the towel after 100 years of trying.

    Stephen Chu is an impressive individual, who must frighten the crap out of the boondogglers.

  • avatar
    fitisgo

    While electric vehicles at least have a charging station in everybody’s home (via electrical outlets) …

    Maybe true in the suburbs, but in cities (where EVs are theoretically the most practical), on-street parking is also common, meaning that not “everyone” can plug in their car overnight to charge without a potentially ridiculously long extension cord. This is no small infrastructural problem.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    One small step for a government …

    Pete Moran: Don’t get your hopes up. He wants to re-start the “clean-coal” boondoggle that the previous administration had canceled because its costs were out of control. Does this have anything to do with the proposed location in Illinois?

  • avatar
    Kurt.

    No body (except the consumer) wants hydrogen because it breaks the cycle of having to actually pay someone for a product (ie. paying big oil for gas, paying big energy (big oil) for electricity). {God, Alah, Obama} forbid we move mankind further in the evolutionary process to be able to focus on societies other problems. No, lets just entrench us into another waste of time product like ethanol. Just to appease you cronies…

    Makes me sick.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    So why not use windmills on the coast to generate hydrogen from water? Instead of converting farmland from food to fuel we could do that. And hydrogen is a better fuel all around than ethanol.

    I thought Obama was all about taking in ideas from all over? I guess not.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Hydrogen is hard to transport and store being that it is the lightest (and smallest) element and will leak through all but the best seals.

  • avatar
    montgomery burns

    GS650G :
    So why not use windmills on the coast to generate hydrogen from water?

    Because you use more energy to create hydrogen from water than you get. You’re better of using windmills to recharge EVs.

    Hydrogen is a dead end unless/until there is a major breakthrough in the production of hydrogen. There is ongoing research into this which I think should be funded (you never know) but it would be many decades before a payoff I believe.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    Good. Electric power cars are a much smarter solution.

    And yea, coal powered electrical plans are going be part of the system too. Not all of them, but some of them. It has problems, but everything does. It is just a matter of managing them.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    And hydrogen is a better fuel all around than ethanol.

    No, it isn’t. Hydrogen has serious problems with scale, storage and transport that will require a dramatic shift in technology to solve. It’s not easy to find or make, even if you leverage nuclear fission to make it (wind? pah!); it doesn’t transport well and it’s so energy-sparse that storing it in volumes that are commercially viable is nearly impossible.

    Ethanol, by comparison, is a cakewalk. There are commercially sustainable ethanol implementations outside of the US. Hydrogen is decades away from this, and many believe that we’re more likely to develop commercially viable fusion or hot superconductors first.

    I’m a greenie and a lefty and don’t like either option, but hydrogen is by a long shot the greater boondoggle.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “No body (except the consumer) wants hydrogen because it breaks the cycle of having to actually pay someone for a product”

    What makes you think hydrogen would be cheap? It requires enormous quantities of natural gas or electricity to make and it is an absolute bear to compress, or liquefy, store, and transport. Liquid Hydrogen has a temperature of 423 degrees below zero.

  • avatar
    Kevin

    The Obamunist cut funding for Liberty Gas? Say it isn’t so! That’s what those hydrogen research scientists & engineers get for not unionizing.

  • avatar
    mel23

    Now let’s whack the manned space program. Boondoggle of boondoggles.

  • avatar

    Build 4th gen fission reactors, fund the Polywell Fusion reactor, and run our combustion engines on coal via methanol.

  • avatar
    285exp

    @yankinwaoz

    Good. Electric power cars are a much smarter solution.

    Perhaps, if you are talking about urban commuter cars that never go further than about half the vehicle’s range from home. A trip I can easily drive in a day would take 2-3 days if I have to stop and charge the car for 3-4 hours every couple of hundred miles. All they’d have to do to accomodate fuel cell cars is add a hydrogen “pump” to existing gas stations.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Irvine

    Would it ever be possible for me to install solar panels at home and use electrolysis to extract my own hydrogen from water and top up fuel cells in my garage? That would avoid the need to have the car there (plugged in) and would have very little running cost.

  • avatar
    285exp

    @ Spike

    Would it ever be possible for me to install solar panels at home and use electrolysis to extract my own hydrogen from water and top up fuel cells in my garage? That would avoid the need to have the car there (plugged in) and would have very little running cost.

    Sure, you might be able to make enough to drive a Barbie Corvette to the end of the driveway.

  • avatar
    Eric Bryant

    Let’s see – the cost of a fuel cell is about $4000/kW (which already represents a reduction in cost of about 150:1 from their first use in the 1960s). A vehicle the size of a sedan (Clarity) or small SUV (Equinox) has a stack size of 90-100kW. The math is pretty easy, and says everything about why fuel cells are not our near-term salvation.

  • avatar
    benders

    Perhaps, if you are talking about urban commuter cars that never go further than about half the vehicle’s range from home. A trip I can easily drive in a day would take 2-3 days if I have to stop and charge the car for 3-4 hours every couple of hundred miles. All they’d have to do to accomodate fuel cell cars is add a hydrogen “pump” to existing gas stations.

    Problem is you’d need a huge tank to store enough energy in the form of hydrogen to make it 300-400 miles (I’m ignoring any potential advancements in metal hydride tech). And the hydrogen BMW 7 series runs out of fuel in a week. Without driving it. The hydrogen heats up, expands, and needs to be vented.

  • avatar
    buzzliteyear

    I am convinced that hydrogen-powered vehicles were the alternative energy equivalent of a Blue Ribbon Commission (look like you’re doing something without actually doing it).

    The two probable outcomes were:

    1) It doesn’t work, so the status quo is preserved.

    2) It does work, which means that coal, nuclear and natural gas industries benefit from all of the additional electrical demand, and oil refineries stay in the game because they have have already built the infrastructure to strip hydrogen off of methane molecules.

    We might just as well have spent the money on Stephen Colbert’s mesquite-powered car

    http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0501-30.htm

  • avatar
    charly

    A fuel cell powered car is an electric car. It needs a battery (for opening the door with your wireless key etc.). regenerate braking is “trivial” with an electric so the question is only how big the battery will be. As fuel cell cost a lot so my quess is Prius big.

    ps. Is the Clarity a hybrid?

  • avatar

    Sad day indeed for us all. Looks like someone got to Chu with a payoff already, just like with everyone else in government when it comes to funding energy alternatives. Dropping funding on hydrogen will prove to be the biggest mistake Obama will make in first year. In fact, when hydrogen does prove itself by years end, Obama will end up with mud on his face along with Chu. lol


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