Hell and High Water in Buffalo News

On the problem with hydrogen cars:

A June 30 letter stating that we should consider using hydrogen fuel as an alternative to ethanol is misleading. My opinion on hydrogen fuel car is based on the book “Hell and High Water” by Joseph Romm, an MIT-trained physicist who managed energy-efficiency programs in the U.S. Department of Energy during President Clinton’s administration.

According to Romm’s analysis, the math for hydrogen cars simply doesn’t work out. There are two ways to create hydrogen, extract it directly from fossil fuels or split water molecules using electricity. For cars, the latter is the better approach.

A vehicle needs about one megawatthour of electricity to produce enough hydrogen fuel to travel about 1,000 miles. In order to produce the electricity needed, it will burn coal and as a result, will produce about 2,100 pounds of carbon dioxide. Driving the most efficient car (40 mpg) for 1,000 miles will produce an additional 485 pounds of carbon dioxide.


A vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells would indirectly create four times the carbon dioxide emissions of today’s most efficient gasoline cars. We need to invest in cleaner energy technologies and energy-efficient programs such as hybrid cars, wind and solar plants.