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March 12, 2003

COMMENT: Fuel cells: EU and US to co-operate

An agreement between the European High Commission and the US government's Department of Energy will push the development of hydrogen fuel cell power at a trans-Atlantic level. Paradoxically, the US may well rely upon coal-fired power stations to generate the energy needed to isolate environmentally friendly hydrogen in a fuel form.

By bcusack

An agreement between the European High Commission and the US government’s Department of Energy will push the development of hydrogen fuel cell power at a trans-Atlantic level. Paradoxically, the US may well rely upon coal-fired power stations to generate the energy needed to isolate environmentally friendly hydrogen in a fuel form.

Governments and vehicle manufacturers are increasingly seeing fuel cell technology as a practical and workable way of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. Fuel cells produce nothing more harmful than water as a by-product of the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, which produces electrical power within the fuel cells themselves.

In the aftermath of the Kyoto accords and increasingly stringent vehicle emissions regulations in US states such as California, this technology could offer a solution for vehicle manufacturers struggling to find ways to develop cleaner, more environmentally friendly vehicles for a market that is less tolerant of pollution.

Regional governments and those in the EU in particular, are also especially anxious to reduce emissions and are looking at fuel cells to provide the ideal solution for a range of applications.

The agreement will see an EU investment of $2.4 billion and a US input of $1.7 billion over the next five years. The newly allocated money will be primarily used to fund research into the commercial development of fuel cell technology for vehicle manufacturers.

In addition, funds will go to utilities and oil companies for research and development into wider applications and also into the development of an infrastructure of hydrogen refuelling stations. Commercial viability and practicality for fuel cells are generally thought to be only readily achievable through broad-based industry partnerships and government funding.

However it is worth remembering that the US, with its abundant reserves of cheap coal, is likely to rely upon coal-fired, carbon dioxide emitting, power stations to generate the energy needed to isolate hydrogen in a fuel form. With the Bush administration’s pledge to develop hydrogen as a clean fuel for the future and efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal use, this contradictory situation will hopefully be addressed.

SOURCE: DATAMONITOR COMMENTWIRE (c) 2003 Datamonitor. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without prior written consent. Datamonitor shall not be liable for errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

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