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FYI Number 69: May 24, 2006

House Passes Bill to Encourage Hydrogen Fuel Breakthroughs

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 Committee.

"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."

Audrey T. Leath
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
301-209-3094

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