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As part of my series about alternative fuel, I will focus on hydrogen today.

Hydrogen is the simplest and most abundant element in the universe, as it can be produced from fossil fuels and biomass and even by electrolyzing water. Producing hydrogen with renewable energy and using it in fuel cell vehicles holds the promise of virtually pollution-free transportation and independence from imported petroleum.

Very little hydrogen gas is present in Earth's atmosphere. Hydrogen is locked up in enormous quantities in water (H2O) and other organic matter. Efficiently producing hydrogen from these compounds is one of the challenges of using hydrogen as a fuel. Steam reforming of methane (natural gas) accounts for about 95% of the hydrogen produced in the United States.

The interest in hydrogen as an alternative transportation fuel stems from its clean-burning qualities, its potential for domestic production, and the fuel cell vehicle's potential for high efficiency (two to three times more efficient than gasoline vehicles). Hydrogen can be used to fuel internal combustion engines and fuel cells, both of which can power low- or zero-emissions vehicles such as fuel cell vehicles. Hydrogen can also be blended with natural gas to create a transportation fuel that can be used in today's natural gas vehicles, with significant decreases in nitrogen oxides emissions.

Hydrogen can be produced from diverse domestic resources, with the potential for near-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Once produced, it generates power without exhaust emissions in fuel cells. It holds promise for economic growth in both the stationary and transportation energy sectors.
The environmental and health benefits are even greater when hydrogen is produced from low- or zero-emission sources such as solar, wind, and nuclear energy and fossil fuels with advanced emission controls and carbon sequestration.

The potential market for hydrogen vehicles is enormous. Hydrogen and fuel cells can power stationary applications such as backup generators, and grid electricity production.

The United States stands to profit from hydrogen technologies. A recent study projected global annual demand for stationary and transportation fuel cell products to reach $46 billion by 2011 and more than $2.5 trillion by 2021. Government and industry investment in hydrogen and fuel cell technologies has positioned the United States as a leader in this rapidly growing market.

US department of energy

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