The Bush administration wants to enlist European support for an international partnership to develop hydrogen energy, but differences over fossil fuels and nuclear power are complicating the talks, Associated Press (AP) reported.

Energy secretary Spencer Abraham, who will outline the administration's hydrogen policy at a conference on Monday in Belgium, planned to emphasise that the United States is committed to developing renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. But the United States also is determined to find ways to build pollution-free coal-burning plants and use nuclear reactors to produce hydrogen, AP said.

The Europeans will hear that the United States is looking at all these options and that half of the research money into hydrogen sources, part of a $US1.7 billion programme proposed by President Bush, involves renewables, AP added.

But, Associated Press said, some European leaders believe the administration is far less committed than Europe to research into renewable energy, which they want to make the cornerstone of a hydrogen energy economy.

AP said the vision held by both the Europeans and Americans is for hydrogen fuel cells to replace polluting coal-burning power plants and to end the need for petrol and pollution-spewing cars. Fuel cells use hydrogen and oxygen to produce power, with only water as a by-product.

According to AP, environmentalists argue that, for a truly pollution-free system, the hydrogen must come from a source that does not pollute. They contend that a push for renewable energy technology such as wind and solar power -- and not fossil fuels -- is the answer.

Many Europeans have embraced the argument, AP noted. The European Union, for example, has committed to a benchmark of having 22% of its electricity and 12% of its energy come from renewables by 2010. The Bush administration has resisted any such commitments for domestic utilities.

According to Associated Press, quoting Jeremy Rifkin, an adviser to EU leaders on the hydrogen issues, some of Europeans fear that an international research effort, following the US lead, might give short shrift to research into renewable energy sources.

He has characterised the administration's hydrogen initiative as "a Trojan horse" for the nuclear and fossil fuel industries, AP added.