New Report Finds Fuel Cell Forecasts Cloudier Than Expected

National Academy of Sciences Spotlights Hydrogen Hurdles, Encourages Other Solutions for Oil Security, Global Warming

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 4, 2004) - Hopes for the speedy emergence of a pollution-free hydrogen economy are being tempered by a major new report released today by the National Academy of Sciences which concludes that it will be "many decades" at best before the technology can contribute significantly to fixing America's oil import and global warming problems. The report warns policymakers not to ignore other solutions, many of which are already available.

Dr. Antonia Herzog of NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council) is a co-author of the report, which was prepared by leading experts from government, industry and the academic sector. The authors agree it will be at least 25 years before hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can yield significant oil savings or cuts in heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution. That means other solutions are necessary in the meantime, and also to hedge against the risk that mass production hurdles can't be overcome.

That finding has important implications for U.S. energy security and global warming strategies.

For instance, General Motors and other U.S. automakers aggressively promote a hydrogen future while resisting fuel economy standards that would encourage use of existing solutions like hybrid drive systems and improved power train design. Meanwhile, President Bush -- who opposes tough fuel economy rules and favors only voluntary global warming pollution measures -- is also bullish on fuel cells, proposing $1.2 billion in hydrogen research in last year's State of the Union address.

"We simply can't bank on hydrogen alone to cut our dependence on Middle East oil or fix the global warming problem. We need to make full use of the technologies already available to start saving oil and cutting emissions," said Herzog. "Americans will buy 450 million new cars and trucks over the next 25 years. Every one of them should be using the cleanest, most efficient technology possible."

Along with stronger standards to improve conventional technologies and reduce carbon dioxide pollution, NRDC supports continued research in a diverse set of technologies that can cut pollution and reduce our oil dependence, along with demonstration efforts in order to overcome technical and cost hurdles as quickly as possible.

"Voluntary programs won't cut it," Herzog said. "We need strong leadership and sensible standards."

One model is California, which has led the world in clean car solutions for more than 30 years. While the state experiments with a variety of vehicle research efforts, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has also promised to defend a landmark global warming pollution law signed by his predecessor. California's advanced technology vehicle law (known as ZEV) is widely credited with getting hybrid technology out of the lab and onto the road.

A copy of the report can be found at after 4 PM, EST.