Car Talk

Easterbrook, Gregg
February 2003
New Republic;2/24/2003, Vol. 228 Issue 7, p13
U.S. President George W. Bush promised research into fuel-cell engines for cars during his State of the Union address, introducing the FreedomFUEL proposal. The president wants to spend $1.2 billion over the next five years to research the production of hydrogen as a replacement for gasoline in automobiles. The attraction of hydrogen is great, since hydrogen-based transportation would both be environmentally benign and reduce the need for the U.S. to import petroleum. But Bush's proposal skips over the small matter of where we get the hydrogen. Worse, the White House plan offers a long-term distraction from a short-term need: While the administration dreams big about our hydrogen-powered future, it does little to improve fuel-economy standards today. Environmentalists rhapsodize about making hydrogen from seawater. But there's a catch: Making hydrogen from water requires loads of electricity, far more electricity than the energy value of the hydrogen that is obtained, and something--be it a coal-fired power plant or an atomic reactor--must provide the electricity.


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