S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Feb. 5, 2006
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/06.0205.h2.htm

Start moving toward hydrogen economy
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

FEB. 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 a lot.

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.


Take a look at the two studies about how South Carolina can be competitive and a leader in the hydrogen economy:

CTC's "The South Carolina Hydrogen Economy: Capitalizing on the State's R&D Assets," July 2005

ICF Consulting's "South Carolina Next Energy Initiative," September 2005

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 throughout society.

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 Program Review.

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 hydrogen products.

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 years.

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.

lighter side
2/5: State of Union looks like rerun

Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:


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1/30: 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.

Recent feedback:

1/30: Boost cigarette tax or else, Mr. and Mrs. A.C. Haff, Hilton Head Island, SC

1/30: Toll is a use tax, Buck Pridgen, North Augusta, SC

1/29: Toll article stinks, Dow Hammond, Florence, SC

1/25: Get 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:

Thumbs up

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.

Thumbs down

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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Just a quick note to let you know how you missed out this week. If you were a subscriber to the paid edition of Statehouse Report, you would have received the information below on Friday AND you would have gotten other special features:

  • NUMBER OF THE WEEK: 25 percent
  • HOT ISSUE: Editor Jerry Ausband on how tech schools change, but lead
  • LEGISLATIVE AGENDA: Property taxes hit floor
  • RADAR SCREEN: Approps may not be last
  • PALMETTO POLITICS: Dems throw a monkey wrench
  • BLOGROLL: From this week's blogs
  • TALLY SHEET: The state snack food
  • MEGAPHONE: A new kind of home rule

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