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Bush pumps up idea of hydrogen future

President Bush touted his hydrogen plan and energy bill by visiting the nation's first retail hydrogen station Wednesday.
US President George W. Bush (2nd-L) spea
President Bush finishes filling up a GM fuel cell minivan Wednesday at a hydrogen station operated by Shell in Washington, D.C.Paul J.richards / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: staff and news service reports

President Bush stared inquisitively down into the nozzle of a hydrogen fuel hose on Wednesday, then pumped the fuel into a blue minivan that runs on a stack of fuel cells instead of an internal combustion engine.

But with the cost of hydrogen double that of premium gasoline, even the president acknowledged that seeing today’s children take their driver’s tests in pollution-free cars is a long-term goal.

“This is the beginning of fantastic technology,” Bush said at a Shell station in northeast Washington, the first retail hydrogen and gasoline fueling station in North America. “Hydrogen is the wave of the future. We’re too dependent on foreign sources of energy.”

Fuel cells 25 percent cheaper
The White House, in a fact sheet issued ahead of the visit, said that "new technology has contributed to a reduction in the cost of natural gas-based hydrogen production from $5 per gallon in 2003 to $3.60 today."

And the cost of a fuel cell stack, which is roughly 10 times that of an internal combustion engine, has come down "by more than 25 percent over just the past three years," the White House stated. "Though more work is needed, this brings America closer to its goal of making fuel cells cost-competitive."

Rick Scott, operations and safety coordinator at the Shell station, helped Bush pump 1.83 kilograms into the four-door parked at the pump. Scott said the hydrogen cost $4.75 a kilogram, which is about equal to a gallon of gas, but noted that the 1.83 kilograms would power the car twice as far — about 100 miles.

Energy bill pitch
Bush urged lawmakers to support the hydrogen work by passing an energy bill that he supports.

“Congress has been talking too long about the energy bill,” said Bush. “I think the American people are tired of waiting. I’m getting a little tired of waiting on the energy bill. ... I want to see the bill to my desk.”

Most automakers are road testing fuel cell vehicles, which mix hydrogen with oxygen to create electricity that powers a stack of fuel cells.

The president has also promoted a $1.7 billion hydrogen research program over five years, but Congress has not committed the entire amount. Administration officials have said it’s possible fuel cell cars could be mass marketed in 15 years.