President Bush chose the California Fuel Cell partnership as the venue for an Earth Day address on advanced transportation, during which he emphasized hydrogen as the future solution, but referenced hybrids, plug-in hybrids and ethanol as being important transition technologies in the short-term.
Before touching on the solutions for the future, the President talked about rising oil and gasoline prices, and some sporadic shortages. The President attributed the rising price of gasoline to three factors: rising demand with constrained supply, lack of refinery capacity in the US, and the switch from MTBE to ethanol as an oxygenating additive.
We’re going to have a tough summer because people are beginning to drive now during tight supply. The Energy Department predicts gas prices are going to go up...And all these factors remind us that we got to do something about our dependence on oil. That’s what the lessons at the pump say today.
The solution to oil dependency and high prices, according to the President, is “to promote hydrogen and hybrid vehicles and ethanol.”
I strongly believe hydrogen is the fuel of the future. That’s what we’re talking about. Hydrogen is clean; hydrogen is domestically produced; and hydrogen is the wave of the future. And the people here at the California Fuel Cell Partnership understand that.
One of the reasons I have come here is because I want the American people to understand that their tax dollars are yielding important results, that we are making progress, that the idea of having a hydrogen-powered automobile is not a foolish dream. It’s a reality that is going to come to be.
With hydrogen as the long-term solution, the President made a case for the immediate use of hybrids—and especially plug-in hybrids—as “a good way to reduce our oil consumption right now.”
We can affect our dependence on oil by encouraging people to purchase hybrid vehicles. And that’s why the federal government passed a law that says you get a tax credit of up to $3,400 for a hybrid vehicle purchase.
What’s really going to be interesting, however, is what’s called plug-in hybrid vehicles. And we’re spending $31 million annually to speed up research into these battery technologies.
...We’re trying to develop a battery that will power your vehicle, where you plug it in at night and you drive the first 40 miles on electricity alone...A lot of people don’t drive more than 40 miles a day in big cities. So all of a sudden...we’re developing a technology that says you’ll drive by the use of electricity, and you won’t use gasoline at all.
And one way to affect consumption is to speed up the development of these plug-in hybrids, and we’re doing just that at the federal level. It’s a promising technology that will help people change the way they drive. It’ll be a transition to the hydrogen fuel cell batteries.
The President also described himself as “a big proponent of ethanol”—pervasive E10 blends in any vehicle with a transition to E85 flex-fuel vehicles. And he once again noted the importance of cellulosic ethanol, and the production of the fuel from “wood chips and stalks and switchgrass.”
Catherine [Dunwoody, the executive director of the California Fuel Cell Partnership] reminded me, however, in my discussions with her that switchgrass can also be used to manufacture hydrogen. She wanted me to make sure that in my description of what is possible in the United States that we make sure one technology does not pirate money for another technology.
And it’s not going to happen. What’s going to happen is we’ll have research on all fronts to achieve a grand national objective. And there’s no doubt in my mind we’ll be able to achieve this objective.
Transcript of speech to California Fuel Cell Partnership