The US Senate has reinstated the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Caucus, a group of Senators led by a bipartisan quartet with the goal of conferring regularly about the technology and its place in the US infrastructure.
Led by Senators Richard Blumenthal, Chris Coons, Lindsey Graham, and John Hoeven, the committee heard testimony recently at a luncheon designed to explore new applications for the technology. Use of fuel cells, which convert hydrogen gas into electricity through hydrolysis, producing only heat, water, and electricity, has been explored for vehicle use in the past but storage and transportation of hydrogen (both on-board vehicles and at refueling stations) has been problematic.
The luncheon was attended by the auto industry only in the form of General Motors' Joe Guzzo, who reiterated the automaker's claim that it will produce a fuel-cell powered vehicle by 2015 for mass production.
Significance: Fuel cells for vehicles are just about ready for prime time, given that the technology has been worked out well enough to make FCEVs usable. The problem was and remains fuel infrastructure and on-board storage. The committee explored many uses however, with more attention on stationary fuel cells to power buildings and commercial fuel cells to power things like forklifts.
The renewed attention is being driven by the glut of natural gas production in the US, which has now become a readily available, cheaply produced source of fuel--it can be reformed into hydrogen gas readily enough, and used to power fuel cells like the several large units that are slated to provide 4.8mW of electricity for New York City's new Freedom Tower, the replacement for the World Trade Center buildings destroyed on 9/11. Smaller home fuel cells that can reform natural gas piped through existing infrastructure could also provide residential or commercial electricity on-demand as well.
The idea is receiving bipartisan support as it satisfied left-leaning green initiatives, while satisfying right-leaning national security hawks.
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