The House of Representatives has enthusiastically passed a bill to
encourage advances in hydrogen fuel research and development, and a
companion bill has been introduced in the Senate. On May 10, the House
passed the H-Prize Act of 2006 (H.R. 5143) by a vote of 416 to 6. The
legislation, sponsored by House Research Subcommittee Chairman Bob Inglis
(R-SC), would authorize a national award program to recognize progress
toward a hydrogen economy.
"The H-Prize Act is designed to provide results-based financial
incentives to harness the creative, can-do spirit of Americans in the
quest to propel us over some of the technological barriers currently
standing in the way of a hydrogen economy," explained Inglis in
a press release. His legislation is modeled after the Ansari X Prize
to promote privately funded suborbital human spaceflight. The H-Prize
bill would authorize the Secretary of Energy to establish a program
to award competitive prizes in three categories, as follows:
Technological Advancements: Over the fiscal years 2007 through 2016,
a total of $20 million would be authorized. Four prizes of up to $1
million each would be awarded biennially for advances in hydrogen production,
storage, distribution and use.
Prototypes: Over the fiscal years 2007 through 2016, a total of $20
million would be authorized. One prize of up to $4 million would be
awarded biennially for working hydrogen vehicle prototypes that meet
certain performance goals. The awards for Technological Advancements
and Prototypes would be alternated from year to year.
Transformational Technologies: Over the fiscal years 2007 through 2016,
a total of $10 million would be authorized. One $10 million grand prize
would be awarded in this category during the ten-year period.
The Secretary of Energy would be required to contract with a non-profit
entity for criteria development and administration of the awards. Participation
by individuals, universities (including minority serving institutions),
and large and small businesses would be encouraged. The full text of
the legislation (H.R. 5143) can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov/.
On May 12, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced a companion bill,
S. 2796, in the Senate, with Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) as cosponsor.
This bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources
"Hydrogen may be the Holy Grail of transportation fuels,"
Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) remarked at the
passage of the House bill. "If we are able to overcome the technical
barriers that currently block its wide-spread, practical use, the potential
payoff will be huge: cleaner air, less global warming, and most importantly,
an economy that is not held hostage by foreign regimes or volatile oil
markets. There's no guarantee we'll get there, but by summoning our
nation's best and brightest to the challenge, the H-Prize will greatly
increase our chances of success."