Thursday, January 22, 2004

Missing H2?
Several colleagues have remarked that in his State of the Union Address, the President made no reference to Hydrogen, something he has pushed in previous speeches. While it might not quickly resolve our concerns about energy security and excessive dependence on the Middle East , an aggressive and wisely managed hydrogen program could generate jobs, economic growth and renewed competitive advantage for the US. The latter would be particularly beneficial at a time when so much of the traditional economy seems to be at risk of "offshoring."

So was the omission deliberate, inadvertent, or simply the result of a speech already overcrowded with issues and programs? In any case, the real issue is not hydrogen, per se, but how federal energy spending should strike the balance between creating new options around promising avenues such as hydrogen, and fine-tuning the existing energy networks of electricity and oil & gas.

There is surely a need to put more emphasis on electric reliability, though it's not clear that this requires large amounts of technology, unless it is in the area of storage. We've seen how a badly planned and executed deregulation can destroy not only reliability but also market integrity, but we haven't seen a national initiative to streamline markets while providing practical and "trader-proof" safeguards. Nor have we seen the right incentives for businesses and communities to reduce their dependence on the grid via distributed power, i.e. small, local generators using a variety of new and old tech. That could also do a great deal for economic growth and jobs in the US.

Without critiquing each and every program, I share the concern of many that we ought to be getting a lot more future alternatives for our federal energy dollars. Tomorrow I'll talk about some practical things we could be doing to enhance the conventional oil and gas side of this picture, at relatively low cost.

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