Is a hydrogen economy wishful thinking?

Converting every vehicle in the United States to hydrogen power would require enough wind turbines to cover land half the size of California – or 1,000 more nuclear power stations, says Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom.

Oswald, a British economist, and his brother Jim, used their calculations, published in Accountancy magazine, to show just how difficult achieving a clean hydrogen economy would be. Moreover:

  • While hydrogen produces only water as a by-product, to produce hydrogen would require the burning of fossil fuels unless wind turbines or nuclear power were viable alternatives.

  • Land is already scarce in Great Britain, which would require 100,000 wind turbines.

  • Land issues would also be difficult in the United States we well, as the nation's hydrogen production would require a million wind turbines.

    Oswald's brother, Jim, concludes "It is unlikely that enough turbines could ever be built," not to mention the fact that nuclear power plants face great public opposition.

    Paul Ekins of the Policy Studies Institute in London points out that a technological breakthrough in hydrogen production will need to occur before it becomes a near-term solution.

    Source: Mark Peplow, Hydrogen Economy Looks out of Reach,, October 7, 2004.

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    For more on Energy and the Environment

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 14 December 2004
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