This commentary is from Greg Pierce of St. Albans, a civil engineer who served as a reserve officer in the US Army Corps of Engineers. He is now retired and has written five novels.
Recently, California Governor Gavin Newsom said that no fossil fuel motor vehicles would be allowed to be sold in California after the year 2035. Clarifying press releases indicate that California will only allow the sale rechargeable electric and hydrogen vehicles. fuel cell electric vehicles.
Readers following the Vermont government’s confusing struggle over how to approach Vermont’s Global Warming Solutions Act 2020 will recall that in 2021 and 2022 (to date), Vermont lawmakers and appointees the executive branch behaved like blindfolded contestants on a hypothetical game show in which they surround a large live animal and, by touch alone, attempt to identify the animal they are dealing with.
Among the fumbling attempts by Vermont government apparatchiks to find realistic answers to the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2020 is their refusal to mention what is by far the cheapest, cleanest, the safest, the most abundant and the easiest to obtain on Earth: hydrogen. The closest they’ve come so far is showing a modest lip service to following the California energy model by developing a Vermont energy model, except that by disregarding the California model, they scrupulously avoided mentioning hydrogen by name.
Simple arithmetic. 2035 minus 2022 equals 13 years to take a realistic and easily achievable energy solution seriously.
First, forget plug-in electric vehicles. Electric vehicles are an annoying distraction that will never be acclaimed by the general public. Batteries too heavy, too dangerous to fire and explosion, too destructive to the environment in terms of source materials, too expensive to purchase, replace and dispose of, too wasteful of valuable personal time for citizens to recharge, too wasteful of public funds to build new charging stations where gas stations already exist – ready to be adapted and converted from fossil fuel facilities to hydrogen refueling facilities.
Hydrogen will soon be available, nearby. Plug Power is midway through new construction of a green hydrogen production plant in Alabama City, Genesee County, upstate New York. This plant will use hydroelectric energy from the New York State Power Authority to electrolyze water and release green hydrogen.
Hydrogen can be supercooled in liquid form for safe storage and transportation. Currently, Vermont imports most fossil fuels by tank truck. Future importation of hydrogen could also be by tank truck from upstate New York.
Note that in the event of a road accident in which a tank truck is broken up and fuel is spilled, one of two possible scenarios will likely occur. If it is a fossil fuel tanker, there will likely be a fiery explosion with major property damage, as well as environmental damage from the fossil fuel seeping into the ground to contaminate groundwater. If it is a hydrogen tanker, the liquid hydrogen will not burn; instead, it will slowly turn into gas and quickly rise in the atmosphere to join with oxygen molecules and form pure water vapor.
So what can the Vermont government do to arrive at an optimal clean energy solution that meets the goals of the Global Warming Solutions Act 2020? As stated earlier, forget electric vehicles and focus on hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.
In California, there are already more than 12,000 FCEVs on the road served by 48 hydrogen fueling stations. That’s a lot of existing experience that Vermont can easily tap into. California already has extensive and detailed regulations regarding the design, construction and operation of hydrogen fueling stations. Vermont doesn’t have to reinvent that wheel.
What we can do is pass legislation governing the creation and funding of a Vermont state/public corporation to initiate a steady transition from fossil fuels to hydrogen over the next 13 years.
The Vermont state/public corporation would first seek federal funding – seed capital made possible by recently passed congressional legislation. New money will soon be available to drive new clean energy solutions.
Public awareness and support for early Vermont can be gained in several ways through a new Vermont Crown/Public Corporation:
1) Offer grants to existing fossil fuel stations interested in adding hydrogen fuel dispensers.
2) Provide grants to existing motor vehicle sales groups to carry hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles in their line of vehicles for sale and to add technical staff to service FCEVs.
3) Provide individuals with generous subsidies to help purchase new hydrogen vehicles.
4) Have Vermont agencies, such as the State Police and the Transportation Agency, use federal grant money to purchase new hydrogen vehicles.
5) Provide Vermont cities with generous grants to help purchase new hydrogen vehicles.
6) Provide grants to Vermont power companies to build new energy storage systems through which the current glut of solar power can be temporarily stored as liquid hydrogen. This step would ultimately allow Vermont to access all microgrids and get rid of the precarious and unstable regional/national power grid.
7) Offer subsidies to existing and possibly new heating gas suppliers to convert to pure hydrogen for home heating and cooling.
8) Together with Habitat for Humanity, provide funds to build many new hydrogen homes throughout Vermont, following the example of Mike Strizki’s New Jersey Hydrogen House.
9) Fund Vermont television, radio and print advertisements informing the public of the benefits of hydrogen.
Finally, all of the above can be accomplished with federal funds, which should help avoid the usual and customary antipathy of naysayers who will surely come out of the woodwork to challenge and denounce any proposed state-funded approach to meeting the demands of Global WarmingSolutions. Law 2020.