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Challenging Chu on Hydrogen Fuel Cells

The chairman of the California Air Resources Board responds to the energy secretary’s anti-hydrogen-fuel-cell stance.
June 19, 2009

Our recent interview with Steven Chu, the U.S. secretary of energy, seems to have raised the hackles of hydrogen-fuel-cell supporters. In the interview, Chu said that there are four “miracles” that need to happen before hydrogen fuel cells can be practical. Basically, he says, we need better ways to produce, distribute, and store hydrogen, and we need better, cheaper fuel cells. “If you need four miracles, that’s unlikely: saints only need three miracles,” he said.

Mary Nichols, the chairman of the California Air Resources Board, noticed his remarks and has sent a letter in response, as Green Car Congress reports:

In her letter to Secretary Chu, Nichols attached a summary response from ARB technical staff responding to each of the Four Miracles.

All promising low-carbon non-petroleum transportation options, including hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, battery electric vehicles, and advanced liquid biofuels in combustion engines, face significant technical, resource, and market challenges. Hydrogen and fuel cells show great potential and have met or exceeded nearly all of the technical milestones set out by US DOE. Several major automakers are pursuing early market testing with consumers beginning this year and are expected to ramp up production to nearly 50,000 vehicles in california by 2017. Ultimately the market will decide which technologies are the winners, but given the critical importance to our long term climate and energy security goals, the best approach is to pursue and invest in a portfolio of the most promising options.

See more details of Nichols’s response to Chu here.

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