Coming Down The Pipeline

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A recent Financial Times story discussed how the major car makers are planning for propulsion systems of the future. Mostly the article summarized things TreeHugger readers have long known of. Buried inside was a wonderful insight from a GM Executive. "Larry Burns, GM vice-president for research, development and planning, says: "We have surveyed how hydrogen can be conveniently available to customers in the US. We have worked out that you would need 11,700 hydrogen stations in the l00 largest cities in the US such that a person is never more than two miles from one and also had them located every 25 miles on the freeway system. "Whether it's a natural gas reformer at a station that already has natural gas coming through it or natural gas converted to liquid hydrogen at a central site and then trucked, we estimate it will cost around Dollars 1m per station.""To put this Dollars 12bn or so into perspective, the Alaskan pipeline cost Dollars 8bn to install in the mid-70s which equates to Dollars 25bn today. So for half the cost of the Alaskan pipeline you can have hydrogen conveniently available to 70 to 80 per cent of the population of the United States....The numbers came in pretty similar to Europe as well."

We think this cost estimate is far too liberal. If you first invested in networks of car-safe bicycle trails, such that no home was ever more than two miles from an access point, the hydrogen station numbers could be far fewer, significantly lowering the overall cost of a national hydrogen infrastructure. As with so many other technology dreams, our viewpoints, values, and the lobbyists control the future.