From X to H

X Prize founder Peter Diamandis will be in Capitol Hill today, but he won’t be there primarily to talk about commercial spaceflight or space tourism. Instead, he will be one of the witnesses of a House Science Committee hearing this morning on “H-Prize Act of 2006″ (HR 5143), legislation recently introduced by Congressman Bob Inglis (R-SC) to establish a series of prizes to encourage development of “transformational technologies that can lead to commercialization of hydrogen.” Diamandis’ X Prize Foundation is now moving beyond its origins as a space prize, with plans to run prizes in various other disciplines, including alternative energies.

3 comments to From X to H

  • Whenever politicians hype the “hydrogen economy”, it’s clear and simple proof that their techno-boosterism is worthless. Either they don’t know good from bad, or they don’t care, or they don’t care to know.

    Guess how President Bush spent Earth Day. Inferences may be drawn about the VSE as well.

  • Huh? What’s so automatically wrong with the hydrogen economy?

    True, hydrogen is only a storage medium, and the energy has to be generated elsewhere. True, the same is true of “electric cars,” and most politicians who should know better don’t understand the difference between gasoline (which you dig up and is a net energy source, albeit after refinement), and hydrogen and electricity (both of which have to be made and thus only store energy).

    Nonetheless, hydrogen is probably an excellent storage medium, although it would require investment in an entirely new infrastructure for manufacture and distribution. If automobiles have a long-term future post-petroleum, hydrogen is probably as good an energy storage medium as any, and far better than most.

    (And on a personal note, please, Greg, it would be nice if you ever once had anything positive to say about anything. It is easy to tear apart other people’s ideas; proposing realistic solutions is harder but a lot more useful.)

    — Donald

  • What’s so automatically wrong with the hydrogen economy?

    What’s wrong is that Bush, and a lot of people following his lead, are piling certitude on top of a lot of wild conjectures. Saying that hydrogen is the “fuel of the future”, as Bush calls it, or saying that it’s “probably an excellent storage medium”, as you say, is like saying that Las Vegas would probably win the Super Bowl, if they had a team. There is no “probably” about it. Hydrogen is a “maybe”, and for the forseeable future it’s not even a very good “maybe”.

    It would be nice if you ever once had anything positive to say about anything.

    Well, sure! I saw industrial-scale wind turbines in Denmark and I was impressed. That really is a practical energy source, not only in the future, but right now.

    Or do you mean positives about spaceflight? Well, WMAP is fantastic. It’s one of the best things that NASA has done in a long time.

    Okay, WMAP is a science project, and I don’t want to suggest that science the only good purpose of spaceflight. QuickBird, which is one of the commercial mapping satellites, is also fantastic.