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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Hydrogen as an Energy Carrier: Outlook for 2010, 2030, and 2050


Proceedings of "The 10-50 Solution: Techonologies and Policies for a Low-Carbon-Future" Workshop, The Pew Center on Global Climate Change, and the National Commission on Energy Policy

Hydrogen is potentially very important for our nation's energy future. Hydrogen is one of the few widely available, long-term fuel options for simultaneously addressing energy security and environmental quality (including both deep reductions of greenhouse gases and pollutants). Use of hydrogen could transform the ways we produce and use energy. But is future large-scale use of hydrogen a foregone conclusion? Although the potential is tremendous, in the author's view, it is still too early to tell exactly how large hydrogen's role will become over the next 50 years. While a large scale hydrogen economy by 2050 cannot be considered inevitable at this point, a vigorous program of RD&D on hydrogen can be considered a prudent insurance policy against the need to begin radical decarbonization of the fuel sector within a few decades, while simultaneously addressing energy security and pollution problems. Given the promise of hydrogen, the long lead time in accomplishing transitions in the energy system, and the challenges posed by hydrogen, it is important to provide significant support now, so that hydrogen technologies and strategies will be ready when needed.

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