U.S. legislation would promote ethanol to hydrogen

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced legislation to help turn ethanol into hydrogen for use as fuel in a new generation of hybrid electric vehicles. Harkin’s bill authorizes U.S. $5 million over three years to demonstrate the cost-effective production of hydrogen from ethanol and other farm-based fuels [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] .

“We have to think creatively in preparing for our energy future; hydrogen offers us that opportunity.”—U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin.

The hydrogen would be used by a fleet of at least 10 hybrid electric vehicles, which would be converted to run on hydrogen. Last spring, Harkin met with representatives of General Motors to test-drive their hydrogen-powered demonstration vehicle, the HydroGen3.

“We must start relying more heavily on renewable energy as part of our comprehensive energy solution in this country,” Harkin said. “Part of that solution includes using more renewable fuels like ethanol. And another part of the solution is developing hydrogen-powered vehicles and the systems to support them. This project moves us closer to the use of hydrogen as a viable fuel for the future.”

Ultimately, it is believed that hydrogen from ethanol and other renewable sources can form the backbone of a reliable transportation system based on existing fueling stations. Expanded use of this technology would dramatically reduce smog-producing pollutants, lessen our dependence on foreign oil, and provide an economic boost to rural America by adding value to agricultural output.

“Converting ethanol into hydrogen is a smart step for the environment, for our energy security, and for America’s farmers,” Harkin said. “We have to think creatively in preparing for our energy future; hydrogen offers us that opportunity.”

Representatives of the ethanol industry agree.

“We believe ethanol can play an important role in fueling the future hydrogen economy,” said Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen. “Ethanol has been proven to be more efficient and easier to reform into hydrogen than gasoline. And as a domestic, renewable fuel, ethanol used for hydrogen will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance energy security compared to fossil fuels.”

Harkin’s bill would seek to accomplish the following goals within three years of enactment of the legislation:

Within the first year, build and install an ethanol-to-hydrogen fueling system and convert 10 internal combustion hybrid electric vehicles to run on hydrogen;

Fund the continued operation of the hybrid electric vehicles for the subsequent two years, fueled at the ethanol-to-hydrogen reformer;

Collect emissions and fuel economy data under a variety of operating and weather conditions.

From the April 6-12, 2005, issue

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