A Hydrogen-Powered Boondoggle

Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Motorists From: Jude Wanniski Re: Detroit and Those Darned Arabs

One of the easiest ways to get some money out of Uncle Sam is to cook up another idea on how to reduce u201Cdependence on Arab oil.u201D The environmentalists have used this many a time to shake down the taxpayers. Most of the folks in Washington know Global Warming is a hoax, but still every year the President asks for and Congress ponies up megabucks to u201Cstudy the problem.u201D This means wooing scientists and engineers away from their productive work with fancy stipends to take temperatures and run them through computers, a process that never ends. When he was running for President last year, Howard Dean screamed about how we had to ratify the Kyoto Treaty, which would shut down parts of the economy, because u201Cit will reduce the dependence on Arab oil.u201D The NYTimes is forever plugging away for a $1 per gallon tax on gasoline, to reduce dependence on Arab oil, and to also stop the earth from warming.

Now we are making great strides along those lines, it seems, because the Big Guys in Detroit are u201Con a fast tracku201D to put hydrogen in our autos, which is what I learned by reading the Washington Post on Sunday. Greg Schneider reported that General Motors over the weekend unveiled the u201CSequel,u201D an experimental hydrogen-powered auto at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The car that not only reduces dependence on those dratted fossil fuels, but also only emits water vapor. Holy smokes! I should say, u201CHoly Water!u201D

There are still a few wrinkles to be worked out, says Schneider: u201CHydrogen is still years away from reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. No one has yet figured out how to generate large amounts of hydrogen without causing as much pollution as internal-combustion engines now create, or how to pay for a nationwide distribution network. And the vehicles are prohibitively expensive; if GM’s Sequel were for sale, it would cost as much as a warehouse full of Corvettes.u201D

You can read the whole story at Boondoggle. You will also learn where the moolah is coming from: u201CThe Bush administration has pledged $1.2 billion over five years to sustain a government-industry research partnership on hydrogen power, with many auto and energy companies cooperating to develop the technology.u201D

But before you do that, our old friend Gordon Prather was on to this boondoggle two years ago, when he wrote it up in his weekend column at worldnetdaily, March 22, 2003:

Last year, to placate the eco-wackos, President Bush launched FreedomCAR, a $1.2 billion partnership to produce practical, affordable hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles as soon as possible. Now he has launched a companion $720 million Hydrogen Fuel Initiative to develop, over the next five years, the technologies and infrastructure needed to produce, store and distribute hydrogen for use in those fuel-cell vehicles. Why hydrogen? Well, according to the eco-wackos, hydrogen is the “ultimate fuel.” When you “burn” it, you get water vapor, but no carbon-dioxide.

But hydrogen is not really a fuel at all. There aren’t any underground reservoirs of hydrogen you can tap into. You have to produce it, spending more energy producing it than you get back when you burn it. Worse, the cheapest way to produce hydrogen is to steam-reform methane, and that produces lots of carbon-dioxide. The high cost of producing hydrogen is just the beginning of your problems. How are you going to store it on board your vehicle? As a solid? As a liquid? As a gas? Hydrogen gas is dangerous stuff. Remember the Hindenburg? Safely storing hydrogen, yet still having it available on demand, is a big, big problem.

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