W. Bush today has the opportunity to usher in the Hydrogen
Age--the coming era of non-polluting, limitless hydrogen fuel
cell power--as John F. Kennedy did the Space Age. In so doing,
he would be remembered as one of our nation’s greatest
advantages of hydrogen fuel cell power over conventional fossil
fuels are innumerable. Fuel cells emit no “Greenhouse Gases”
or pollution of any kind. A fuel cell’s only emission is water
vapor--water so pure that scientists routinely gather it in a
glass and drink it. And the supply of hydrogen, the most
abundant element in our world, is inexhaustible, and new and
efficient ways of recovering it are being developed.
nearly 200 fuel cell generators help power office buildings,
hospitals, schools, utility power plants, and airports.
Soon fuel cell generators large enough to power strip
malls will go on the market, as will systems the size of a
central air conditioning unit, which will meet an entire
household's energy needs.
fuel cells, which have powered our rockets, spaceships, and
space stations for decades, are not a fantasy of
environmentalists and techno geeks.
In fact, many of the leaders of the oil, auto, and power
generation industries--including executives at Ford, Texaco,
Honda and General Motors--have voiced strong support for fuel
only significant problem with electricity from fuel cell
generators is its cost, which is roughly two to three times that
of conventional power. Yet even this obstacle is not inherent to
fuel cell production, but is instead largely the result of a
lack of an economy of scale.
a business executive, who must focus on profits, the added cost
of fuel cell power is usually prohibitive.
But for America as a whole, and indeed humanity as a
whole, the cost difference is relatively small.
Why? Because price comparisons don’t account for the massive
secondary cost of fossil fuels: air pollution, global warming,
and the fact that our oil supply is finite.
addition to fuel cell power plants, hydrogen and fuel cell
powered automobiles are also feasible. For example, the
hydrogen-powered luxury car recently unveiled by BMW, the 750hL
sedan, can travel 200 miles at top speeds on one tank of fuel
while emitting 1/200th of the emissions of a conventional car. Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota are working on similar
what Bush should do:
Kennedy did with the race to the moon, Bush should announce that
the U.S. will be the first nation to reach the Hydrogen Age. His
initiative would feature:
Subsidies to make fuel cell power plants and business and
home-sized fuel cell generators substantially less expensive
than conventional power sources;
Research funds to resolve the hydrogen‑powered car's
remaining technological kinks, which include fuel distribution
and on-board fuel storage;
An executive order mandating that, as of January 1, 2009, the
U.S. government will only purchase fuel cell vehicles.
Creating this large, protected market would give
automakers a tremendous incentive to mass produce fuel cell
cars. Bush’s plan
would also include federal fiscal incentives for state and local
governments to follow suit;
A generous, long-term tax deduction for consumers and businesses
who purchase fuel cell cars and power generators;
Funds to find and perfect the optimum method of hydrogen fuel
this plan work politically?
Yes, because it has something for everybody. For
liberals, environmentalists, and world leaders angry over
Bush’s rejection of the Kyoto treaty, Bush’s bold plan would
immediately vault the U.S. far ahead of any other nation in
solving environmental problems. Today Bush is scolded by foreign
leaders and burned in effigy in European cities. With this plan,
in six months he could be the one doing the scolding.
national-security hawks, the fuel cell would free America from
its dangerous dependence on foreign oil, while providing the US
with permanent energy self-sufficiency.
the average citizen, air pollution would be dramatically
reduced, as would the anxiety that our grandchildren and
great-grandchildren might face environmental disaster because of
the business community, the Bush plan would give American
companies the opportunity to leap ahead of foreign companies and
be the first to perfect and internationally market fuel cell
for Bush’s harshest critics--who deride him as a lucky but
visionless mediocrity in the pocket of big business and big
oil--the Hydrogen Age plan would create the boldest, most vital
presidency in decades.
took Nixon to go to China.
Maybe it will take a Texas oil man to end our dependency
upon fossil fuels and open up a new era of plentiful,
non-polluting energy--the Hydrogen Age.
This column first appeared in the
Sacramento Business Journal (8/24/01) and others.
Sacks' columns on men's and fathers' issues have appeared in dozens of America's
largest newspapers. Glenn can be reached via his website at
via email at Glenn@GlennSacks.com.