TodayJanuary 26, 2022

Dear Pres Obama, Sec Chu and 100 Senators

Dear President Obama, Secretary Chu, and all 100 Senators

I suppose I should be applauding the fourteen Senators that signed the letter to Secretary Chu asking him to keep the funding for the fuel cell and hydrogen programs alive.

I understand that having fourteen senators sign any initiative is a coup de grace.  But really, how much of a no-brainer is it to sign a request to keep the funding for alternative energy? Yes, we all know Secretary Chu is gaga over electricity, but really do we really want only one source of energy again? Why can’t we have a competition instead of monopolies?

I talked with Bob Tippee, the editor of the oil and gas journal, and some folks from the census bureau. In 2010 we spent about $270 billion importing oil. From that oil, we make paraffin and all types of oil by-products. We also refine that oil into motor refined gasoline, the stuff we put in our cars. Tippee helped me extrapolate our import trade deficit number for refined motorized gasoline. Of that $270 billion dollars, $138 billion dollars account for refined motorized gasoline!

So, you can see why it chaps my hide to think that the government, and the administration, are playing games with $130 million that could help us keep any part of that $138 billion – with a B – in the United States. You’re talking about 1/10 of one percent of what we spend on imported gasoline deficit to make an advanced technology. A technology that gets $3 from private industry for every dollar that the government spends.

I know there are people out there that think we should produce more cars that run on natural gas. I prefer to think we should produce more electricity in homes from natural gas instead of coal. I also know, from speaking with many scientists and engineers, that many of the advanced technology results that are in electric cars were found while creating fuel cell vehicles. There is a direct correlation, a synergy if you will, of technology that goes into producing electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles.

The engineers I have talked to have said that Natural gas is also more efficient to turn into hydrogen than to burn in an engine. And natural gas is cleaner than coal.

I also don’t understand why the Government should give T. Boone Pickens a $50 million loan from the DOE budget to produce a natural gas SUV, and not be able to appropriate funds to continue fuel cell technology.

It was California, and our government, that gave the car companies a Zero Emission Vehicle mandate with the criteria that needed to be met. The auto companies rose to the challenge. Back in the nineties, they realized that batteries weren’t advanced enough to create ZEV vehicles that would have a mass appeal to the consumer.

The auto companies have worked with the government to try to create alternative energies. States, such as California, have told car companies and industries that they will create a hydrogen highway. California is way behind on its promise of a hydrogen highway. California Senator Feinstein is conspicuous by her signature’s absence in the letter.

But times get tough and states pull funding. Times get tougher, and administrations change and funding gets “repurposed” or cut.
And it’s supposed to be a big deal that fourteen of our esteemed Senators could find it relevant to their constituency that alternative energy that has been expanded from vehicle diversification to military installations, universities, and hospitals should be kept afloat. The big deal is that all the Senators don’t think it’s a big deal.

The death of intellectual property

It’s bad enough that the President has killed the manned space program,  that the United States will not be the primary contractor of manned space ships. That we will be at the mercy of other countries, and how much ever they demand in cash for us to use their facilities. We are already behind in other technologies, such as nuclear, that we used to be at the forefront of. Does fuel cell vehicle technology have to go by the wayside as well?

It is pennies on the dollar that we spend on fuel cell technology. Fuel cell vehicles may not be the car of the future, but fuel cell technology is already in place in stationary applications. We are already saving oil, and/or gasoline, on just the fuel cell technology we use today.

President Obama, back in January in your State of the Union address you said you wanted 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. In September 2009 the European Union and G8 leaders (that includes the United States) agreed that CO2 emissions must be cut by 80% by2050 for global warming to stay below the level of 2°C.

Studies from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and McKinsey have concluded that the United States, EU, and Asia cannot meet stated energy and GHG reduction goals without FCEVs in the mix.

If everyone knows that you cannot meet the stated energy goals without fuel cells, and everyone is on board with the stated energy goal, then having fourteen Senators sign a letter isn’t good enough.

In reality, the number of Senators that sign the bill isn’t important. The bill has to pass. It only needs one Senator to stop the bill. It’s the reason the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Administration (FCHEA) needs you to write your Senator and tell them that this bill is relevant to you, and to them.  Because you vote.

Lou Ann Hammond

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and board member of the Women in Automotive.