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Hydrogen Now: A Special Report by Roger Billings

02-28-2011 12:22 PM CET | Science & Education

Press release from: Roger Billings

In the midst of rising oil prices and international instabilities, I am receiving numerous inquiries regarding hydrogen energy and why we are not doing anything to push it forward as part of our national energy policy.

Those who have followed my career know I have been a serious student of this question for over four decades. I have driven hydrogen cars, lived in a hydrogen house, operated hydrogen buses, supported hydrogen mail delivery and much more. (More information is available on the website: )

In recent years, I have devoted my hydrogen research efforts to developing a reliable hydrogen fuel cell with enough endurance to outlast the life of three cars, have been perfecting a safe method of storing hydrogen on board the vehicle, and most importantly, have been developing a commercially viable strategy for integrating hydrogen into the commercial energy "mix". Solving this last problem has ended up being the most challenging, but I finally can see how we can get it all started.

My next problem is that my carefully developed master plan has a start-up price tag of just under 3 billion dollars. In terms of the overall impact on our energy future and national security that amount is nothing, but in terms of my personal resources, it is out of reach.

I think we could get industrial or even governmental support for such a program, but many of the scientific community are more interested in funding for their own research and less in really getting a viable energy program under way, and as a result, torpedo anyone’s efforts to get things started.

Several months ago, I had my first real break. I was contacted very formally, and at the highest level, by a party that announced they were ready to put up one billion dollars to support commercialization of my research. They explained that a technical scientific team had been assembled to figure out the best way to get hydrogen energy underway, and what they had decided was "if anyone can do it, I was the one". I am not sure they were right, but was flattered none the less.

When I explained the only way I could see to really start something with commercial viability, that would reach critical mass, and at least have the potential to expand and roll forward, a minimum of three billion dollars would be required. I was more than surprised ten days later when they returned claiming that the additional funds had been arranged for.

Now I do not want to mislead anyone into thinking that this was all studied out and they were standing before me with a check for 3 billion dollars, because it did not get that far. The fact that the source of funding was a foreign oil concern wanting to have some control over whatever comes after oil was a hurdle I was not able to overcome emotionally. I sincerely believe that one day hydrogen will be the energy vector of our society. It will be produced from many different sources in different parts of the world, and it will go a long ways towards solving our energy crisis – our dependency on foreign oil, the output of greenhouse gases, urban air pollution, and even have a major positive impact on our national trade deficit. Eventually, it could be a major factor to maintaining our national security. Perhaps my blood is just too red, white, and blue to turn this project over to foreign hands. It is just too important to the future of this great country. I decided to hold out for the next opportunity. Besides, I was still working out some of the details of the implementation scenario.

Getting back then to the original question, why is this not happening, I think that the following three elements need to be put into place before the Hydrogen Age will get underway:

1. We somehow need to be able to quit fighting among ourselves about if, how, who, when, and how much. Especially the scientific community needs to come together in their thinking in support of this effort. It is not possible that such a vast and biased community could ever agree on any "best solution", but we at least need to agree that the problem is so serious that we should pursue every possible option for success including this one. We need to separate out the experts on theory from the people that have experience in real commercialization.

2. Government needs to step up and do their part. For over five years I have participated on the US delegation to the International Standards Organization that has been working on the safety standards for the hydrogen energy economy. The legislation and regulations needed to open up this energy option need to be fast tracked and put in place. Appropriate tax and other incentives also need to be enacted into legislation to provide the necessary impetus to get the ball rolling. A type of "Hydrogen Energy Czar" needs to be appointed, someone with the capability to steer the government effort and to marshal the support of the oil, gas, and automotive industries, who I believe are standing by, ready, but waiting for clear leadership on how to proceed.

3. Finally, three billion dollars of high-risk seed money needs to be allocated for the purpose of priming the pump. I estimate it will take nearly 3 to 5 trillion dollars to get this industry to the point it will really make an impact, but I believe that the 3 billion seed money will be sufficient to demonstrate the economic viability and the rest of the funding will be forthcoming from the existing and established industries and sources.

I have spent a lot of time thinking, working, testing and dreaming about this technology. I have watched a lot of money be wasted during the last decade on some pretty frivolous and expensive demonstration projects which have done little, if anything, to move the cause forward and in some cases, has even moved us away from the goal. The technologies we need to do the job are discovered. A lot of engineering work remains, but we already have solid answers to the good questions people are asking on how it can be done. I can only pray the pieces will come together while there is still time...Rog Billings


Roger Billings

26900 East Pink Hill Road, Independence, MO 64057

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