msnbc.com
updated 5/23/2007 6:12:09 PM ET 2007-05-23T22:12:09

The U.S. Department of Energy on Wednesday strongly refuted a top university researcher's claim that department "egos" were hindering a breakthrough towards clean energy transportation based on hydrogen.

"A statement that DOE is ignoring a solution because of 'egos' goes against all the facts," DOE spokesman Jonathan Shrader told MSNBC.com in an e-mailed response to the allegations last week by Purdue University engineer Jerry Woodall.

"The department takes stewardship of U.S. tax dollars and the nation's energy problems very seriously," Shrader said, adding that the Purdue requests for funding were not as good as other proposals. "All submitted applications are rigorously peer reviewed and only the top rated proposals are selected for funding," he said.

"Among the 502 pre-applications and pre-proposals" submitted for 2007, "only 249 submissions were encouraged, based on technical merit, to submit full proposals," he said. "In both reviews, the technical merit of Purdue University’s pre-proposal was judged insufficient to warrant the submission of a full proposal."

Shrader said that "a drawback in the (Purdue) concept is that in addition to hydrogen, alumina (aluminum oxide) is produced. The regeneration of alumina back to aluminum is extremely energy intensive and cannot be accomplished on-board a vehicle.

"For the concept to work," he added, "in addition to delivering the aluminum fuel to the fueling station and 'pumping' it into the vehicle, the alumina waste would need to be removed from the vehicle and then transported to a site for regeneration back to aluminum."

Woodall's proposal of taking the alumina waste for recycling to a power plant is less energy efficient than the standard set by the department, Shrader said.

"So while alternative sources of electricity, such as wind or nuclear, could be used," Shrader said, "the question is what are the best and most practical uses of this electricity for optimum implementation of hydrogen technologies."

Shrader noted that every funded hydrogen project includes a 4-8 page paper that is published online at www.hydrogen.energy.gov.

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