Sunday, Feb. 5, 2006
toward hydrogen economy
SC Statehouse Report
5, 2006 - - Imagine if you had a bunch of yellowish rocks
in your yard that kept turning up anytime you were planting
tomatoes or new bushes. For years, you thought they were of
little use - - just some yellow rocks.
Then one day, a geologist stopped by your house, saw the
rocks and said, "Eureka. Gold!"
What once was of little value to you suddenly would be worth
The state of South Carolina is in the midst of a "Eureka"
moment. More than 50 years of research at the Savannah River
Site has generated piles of research and loads of scientists
with expertise in using hydrogen, mostly radioactive tritium,
for defense purposes.
But with world's depleting petroleum supply that fuels an
increasing thirst for energy, experts say the very thing being
used and studied for years in South Carolina gives it a huge
competitive advantage in the quest for future energy solutions.
Over the next 20 years, researchers around the world will
be working to develop new energy systems that can meet power
needs around the world - - from fueling vehicles to heating
homes to powering industrial plants.
"Hydrogen has the potential to be used more efficiently
than fossil fuels, and its applications are seemingly endless,"
according to a September 2005 report called "South Carolina
Next Energy Initiative."
But today, use of hydrogen as an cost-effective energy source
faces challenges, such as how to produce it safely and efficiently
on a large scale, as well as how to store and distribute energy
South Carolina has big advantages. In addition to a world-class
hydrogen fuel cell laboratory (a key component in storage)
at the University of South Carolina and automotive and transportation
hubs at Clemson and SC State, the newest U.S. Department of
Energy national laboratory is the Savannah River National
Laboratory, started in 2004. "It has a $139 million annual
budget from the federal government and a concentration of
hydrogen researchers (90) that may be the largest in the US
and even the world," the report said.
In fact, the state ranks 12th nationally in DOE hydrogen
projects, fourth in hydrogen storage projects and third in
hydrogen delivery projects, according to the 2005 Hydrogen
But so far, the state has been slow to move toward taking
advantage of these assets and turning them into jobs and opportunity.
But it is getting its act together.
Just last month, the state announced formation of a team
of the state's top hydrogen researchers as the SC Hydrogen
and Fuel Cell Alliance (www.schydrogen.org)
to figure out a statewide plan for how to collaborate and
streamline efforts to take advantage of the state's hydrogen
assets. On Feb. 13, a new Center for Hydrogen Research in
Aiken is set to open as a place to work on commercializing
Also last month, Gov. Mark Sanford's budget proposed $448,000
in new spending at the state Department of Commerce to enhance
hydrogen and fuel cell collaboration efforts through administrative
support and planning. Another $2 million is proposed for the
Clemson ICAR automotive research center.
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"You've got to crawl before you walk," said Commerce
chief of staff Tim Dangerfield. "Once you start crawling,
you'll soon be walking to create opportunities."
Fred Humes of the Center for Hydrogen Research projects spin-off
applications could lead to 40,000 new jobs over the next 20
But to get those jobs here, the state and hydrogen research
collaborators need to get a move on if South Carolina is to
become a real hydrogen player. There's a concern that while
South Carolina continues to plan, other states will grab opportunities
and take them away, particularly the private investment that's
needed to commercialize research.
"It's extremely important for us to identify a major
project with major opportunities," said Garry Powers
of Concurrent Technologies Corporation in Columbia, which
offered another state hydrogen report in July 2005.
If state lawmakers want to make an impact on the process,
they can put pressure on Commerce officials and the Alliance
to prioritize the state's hydrogen agenda in short order.
But then they have to be prepared in a year or so when there's
a request for $10 million or even $50 million to invest in
promising opportunities that can create jobs across the state.
Hydrogen and fuel cells have the potential to be a huge economic
engine for the state - - just as rice production was in the
18th century. But if we don't move quickly, it could go the
way of rice - - to other places.
2/5: State of
Union looks like rerun
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
best way to get South Carolina news is to augment your morning
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for business subscribers. More: SC
Boost cigarette tax or else
To the editor:
Why does this state, while looking for needed revenues, continue
to maintain absurdly low tax (lowest in the nation!!!) on
cigarettes which contribute to our rising health costs????
If this current legislature does not increase the tax to
at least the national average, we intend to cast our votes
against all incumbents.
-- Mr. and Mrs. A.C. Haff, Hilton Head Island, SC
1/30: Toll is a use tax
To the editor:
True, but a half truth. [Commentary,
1/29] A toll is a use tax, I get a direct personal
benefit from paying for a service/privilege.
A tax may well be, and seems to me usually, for the benefit
of others all the time, me only (rarely) some of the time.
That is, food stamps, police activity, medical care, etc etc.
Not that most of these entitlements are not worthy, they just
don't apply to me.
-- Buck Pridgen, North Augusta, SC
1/29: Toll article stinks
To the editor:
I think you got it way wrong. [Commentary,
1/29] Pee Dee residents will not be required to take
I-73. They can take the roads that they travel NOW. the locals
will have that choice. The people that use it should pay for
it. It will also bring in business, industry and jobs (as
the politicians like to say).
The majority of the tolls will probably be paid for by tourists
and in the Carolinas , those living in the Rock Hill/Charlotte
area. Unless they choose to use existing roads. You complain
about a tax (tolls) but one of your solutions is a tax (gasoline),
doesn't make sense. They are basically the same: you use it,
you pay it.
The tax the legislators need the guts to pass is a cigarette
tax. But, their first order of business is being reelected,
not what is best for their state or country. Not all of your
articles stink like this one, most of them are pretty good.
-- Dow Hammond, Florence, SC
Editor's note: We replied to Mr. Hammond
that we're not opposed to the construction of the Interstate,
but to using tolling as the funding mechanism. Better alternatives
would have the whole state share the burden, not just tourists
and Pee Dee residents.
rid of property taxes,
Linda C. Guerry, Charleston, SC
board funding is devious, Bob
Logan, Little River, SC
- 1/1: Stop
public smoking, Name withheld, Elgin, SC
cigarette tax or else, Mr. and Mrs. A.C. Haff, Hilton
Head Island, SC
is a use tax, Buck Pridgen, North Augusta, SC
article stinks, Dow Hammond, Florence, SC
rid of property taxes,
Linda C. Guerry, Charleston, SC
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political news items from the past week:
Hollings. Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, now retired after
39 years in the US Senate, was inducted this week into the
SC Hall of Fame in Myrtle Beach.
Ott, Merrill. First, House Minority Leader Harry Ott,
D-Calhoun, threw in the towel and didn't even offer token
opposition to property tax reform measures in the Ways and
Means Committee, which floored us. Then he and House Majority
Leader Jim Merrill, R-Berkeley, got in a tussle over the measures
on the House floor....Dems need to be tougher and fight for
their beliefs in committee, not just on the floor.
Sanford. A bucket of mud goes to the governor for
saying he'll go ahead with a pilot Medicaid privatization
program despite some grumbling by the General Assembly over
the last year. A few days after the session last year, Sanford
proposed the program, which caused lawmakers to squeal they
hadn't been consulted. While Sanford and his cadre subsequently
made some changes to the program, the arrogance in going forward
without deference to lawmakers is just short of amazing.
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