Bush’s Hydrogen-Economy Pipe Dreams Bump Into Reality

The hydrogen-powered cars and “hydrogen economy” touted by President Bush in last year’s State of the Union address are several decades from viability, says a report released Wednesday by the National Academy of Sciences. Until hydrogen lives up to its promise, “the government should keep a balanced portfolio of research and development efforts to enhance U.S. energy efficiency and develop alternative-energy sources,” said Michael Ramage, chair of the panel that produced the report. The least-expensive methods of creating hydrogen use coal or natural gas, but those methods cause pollution, according to the report. In addition, hydrogen has a “chicken and egg” problem, in that there’s no profit to be had creating hydrogen fuel cells until a hydrogen economy exists to consume them. Until hydrogen becomes viable, say enviros, the administration should concentrate on raising fuel-efficiency standards for SUVs and promoting gas-electric hybrid cars.