“We asked ourselves, ‘Is it likely in the next 10 or 15, 20 years that we will covert to a hydrogen car economy?’ The answer, we felt, was ‘no,’” Chu said in a briefing today. He cited several barriers, including infrastructure, development of long-lasting portable fuel cells and other problems.

For years now, I have been urging the Department of Energy to slash the bloated hydrogen budget and redirect the funds toward clean energy technology development and deployment programs that could actually achieve significant benefits for the American public in the foreseeable future (see “California Hydrogen Highway R.I.P.” and “DOE flushes $15 million down the hydrogen toilet“).

Well, finally, we have somebody running the Department of Energy who gets how unproductive this whole effort has proven to be.  Nobelist Steven Chu has rolled out a FY2010 budget that cuts $100 million from the program.  Indeed, the budget (see page 4 here) zeroes out the “hydrogen” program and shifts all the money to “fuel cell technologies.”

I’ll blog on the rest of the remarkable FY2010 budget for clean energy shortly.  Here is how E&E News PM (subs. req’d) reports Chu’s remarks today on hydrogen and transportation in his budget:

Energy Secretary Steven Chu today said he sees little promise in hydrogen-powered cars in the coming decades as DOE released a proposed fiscal 2010 budget that slashes programs for developing the transportation technologies.

“We asked ourselves, ‘Is it likely in the next 10 or 15, 20 years that we will covert to a hydrogen car economy?’ The answer, we felt, was ‘no,’” Chu said in a briefing today. He cited several barriers, including infrastructure, development of long-lasting portable fuel cells and other problems.

The budget proposal would trim more than $100 million from the hydrogen program in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, cutting it to $68 million for fuel cell research and development and steering the program away from areas related to transportation.

But the budget increases funding for other vehicle technology programs, including electric vehicles, lightweight materials and biofuels. “We are shifting resources,” Chu said. “We are saying in the next 10 or 20 years, what is the most likely thing that will happen, what will actually get us on a lower-carbon emissions path.”

President George W. Bush called developing hydrogen-powered cars a priority, touting it heavily during his first-term as a way to curb pollution and reduce oil import reliance.

Another technology head-fake by Bush bites the dust (see Bush wanted to destroy the future of coal as much as the industry did, Futuregen was “nothing more than a public relations ploy,” House study finds).

Kudos to Chu for not just accepting the big increase in technology funding he was given — but for shifting resources and making the best use of all the taxpayer’s money.

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