Renewable Energy News | Bush Plan for Hydrogen Is Just Hot Air: “President Bush hopes to reverse his dismal record on energy and the environment with what the administration trumpets as an alternative plan to address global warming and guarantee energy independence. But the proposal is only a Trojan horse to promote the interests of the coal, oil, gas and nuclear industries. ”
The environmental community is up in arms over the Bush hydrogen agenda. Why? Hydrogen has a Janus face. Though it is found everywhere on Earth, it rarely exists free-floating in nature. Hydrogen has to be extracted from fossil fuels or water or biomass.
In other words, there is “black” hydrogen and “green” hydrogen. And it is this critical difference that separates Bush’s vision of a hydrogen future from the vision many of us hold in the environmental movement.
Bush and Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham say hydrogen can free us from dependence on foreign oil. What they leave unsaid is that their plan calls for extracting hydrogen from all of the old energy sources – oil, natural gas and coal – and by harnessing nuclear power. Bush would like to take us into a hydrogen future without ever leaving the fossil fuels and nuclear past.
Today, most commercial hydrogen is extracted from natural gas via a steam reforming process. Although natural gas emits less carbon dioxide than other fossil fuels in producing hydrogen, it is a finite resource and in relatively short supply.
Hydrogen can also be extracted from coal, and enthusiasts point out that the U.S. enjoys ample coal reserves. The problem is that coal produces twice as much carbon dioxide as natural gas, which means a dramatic increase in global warming.
The coal industry counters that it might be possible to safely store the carbon dioxide emissions underground or in the ocean depths for thousands of years and has convinced the White House to subsidize further research into this. For many environmentalists, the issue of storing carbon dioxide seems eerily reminiscent of the arguments used by the nuclear industry about nuclear waste.
The nuclear industry would like to produce hydrogen, but there are still unresolved issues surrounding the safe storage of nuclear waste, the skyrocketing costs of building new reactors and the vulnerability of nuclear power plants to terrorist attacks.