South Carolina hopes for a bright hydrogen future

Image by Flickr user DRB62Image by 20080803hydrogentrees.jpg The sun represents a proof-of-concept for the power of hydrogen. But if it can be used in cars in a practical fashion that is cheaper and more convenient than plug-ing electric cars remains to be seen. Either way, the Palmetto State wants in on the research.

The Post and Courier has done an extensive write-up on hydrogen research in South Carolina and how our state is poised to be a major player in the new hydrogen economy. I like the notion, but am not sold. Here's why.

The paper spends much of their time discussing hydrogen and fuel cells, and talking about research, applications, if the tech is viable and how they work. (I'll skip over all that as the video to the right does an excellent job of explaining.) The paper spends significantly less time talking about South Carolina's small efforts to get hydrogen research going here.

Skipping over the heated debate about the chances for hydrogen to be a real alternative energy for automobiles, there are two real opportunities in the emergence of fuel cells:

The first is to be come a leader in hydrogen production. To be blunt, that seems really unlikely here. To make it you need lots of cheap energy, and Iceland's got it pretty locked up and could be, if hydrogen takes off, the Saudi Arabia of hydrogen. Seeing as we're still loving coal plants in the Palmetto State, we seem an unlikely contender.
The second is to become a leader in hydrogen research. If we ignore efforts in other countries, we've got a chance in the U.S. market to get a foothold and go go go. And this is where The Post and Courier's article shows some interest.

The paper talks about several new and old efforts in the realm of hydrogen research in South Carolina. And while there's not too much activity in the Lowcountry, Aiken has spent a few million dollars to get research going in its back yard, and then we have the Savannah River Site which has thought about hydrogen ever since the hydrogen bomb, and we have some floundering state efforts.

So, not too bad, right? Well chew on this, South Carolina's dropping $2.5 million on backing hydrogen projects this year, California is spending about $100 million annually. We're making efforts, for sure. But they seem pretty paltry to think they could be the main act.

Hydrogen station
No oil spill here. Back in 2004 Shell opened it's first hydrogen fuel station.Though, The National Hydrogen Association lists more initiatives in our state than any other. But if we want to get serious about it, we'll need to see more leadership from out governments.

If you're intrigued, The Post and Courier's article on hydrogen is good, if a bit wordy, so read it.

And maybe check out the Department of Energy's page on hydrogen.