Natural gas may lead to the success of hydrogen fuel cells

Natural gas may lead to the success of hydrogen fuel cells

May 31, 2012 0 By Stephen Vagus

Fuel Cell

Inexpensive fossil-fuel could bring more support to hydrogen fuel

The price of natural gas has been dropping, creating a promising scenario for hydrogen fuel cells. In the U.S., natural gas has been growing in popularity. Though it is not clean burning, natural gas is being considered a viable alternative to more polluting fuels such as oil and coal. The Department of Energy estimates that approximately 95% of the country’s hydrogen gas is produced through the burning of natural gas – often used as a power source for hydrogen fuel cells. The agency has been quite stubborn in its views concerning hydrogen fuel cells, but the inexpensive nature of natural gas may be enough to change its opinion.

Steven Chu meets with DOE hydrogen experts to discuss the future of fuel cells

Earlier this month, Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu met with the agency’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technical Advisory Committee (HTAC) to discuss the matter of the viability of hydrogen fuel cell technology. Chu has garnered some degree of notoriety due to his views concerning fuel cell technology. Within the alternative energy community, Chu’s views have been the subject of controversy, especially because he may hold the future of the research and development of the energy systems in his hands. Though Chu has been outspoken in his opposition against hydrogen fuel cells, the Department of Energy has recently shown more support for the alternative energy.

Renewed interest in fuel cells may be inspired by auto industry

Hydrogen fuel cells have been gaining a great deal of support from the auto industry. Automakers have begun developing new vehicles that are powered by hydrogen fuel. The Department of Energy has taken notice of this and has chosen to funnel more funding into the research and development of hydrogen fuel cells and a working fuel infrastructure. The price of natural gas has been highlighted by the agency as a viable way to make the energy systems more economically viable.

Increased support seen as an encouraging sign from industry

Secretary Chu’s meeting with HTAC is being considered a promising sign from the fuel cell and auto industries. Edward Cohen, vice president for government and industry relations with Honda North America, notes that the Department of Energy’s changing views on hydrogen fuel cells have been “very encouraging.” With natural gas beginning to be touted as a economical tool, fuel cells may be able to gain the foothold they need with the federal government.