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.