Hydrogen is a big distraction

Talking to Peter Lehman can be a real turn-off.

If authors like Jeremy Rifkin, who wrote The Hydrogen Economy, have convinced you that hydrogen will one day rocket the planet to a new era of abundant, clean energy, Lehman will point out that hydrogen is a very expensive way to store energy, not an energy source at all.

If you think fuel cell vehicles running on hydrogen will ease up the accelerator pedal on global warming, Lehman will tell you that after 10 years of research and development, Honda, General Motors and other car makers have managed to produce only prototypes with short life expectancies and million-dollar price tags.

He might add that most hydrogen is made by refining natural gas, a process that emits carbon dioxide, the culprit of global warming.

Such opinions may seem odd coming from Lehman, who sits on the board of the National Hydrogen Association, and who directs the Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State University which produced both the first street-legal hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and the first solar-powered hydrogen energy system in the United States.

As Lehman sees it, however, the myths about hydrogen energy are big distractions from the real energy challenges facing the planet, America in particular.

“The biggest misconception people have is that hydrogen energy technology is a silver bullet technology that will save our butts and enable us to have business as usual and not have to deal with dwindling energy supplies and global climate change.”, Lehman said recently.