Originally created 02/11/02

Historic fuel cell pact



While Augusta has been making cutting edge plans to build a biomedical research complex centered at the Medical College of Georgia and to become a key player in Gov. Roy Barnes' statewide Cancer Coalition, they haven't exactly been twiddling their thumbs on the South Carolina side of the river.

On the heels of Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham's announcement last month that the Bush administration seeks to spur the growth of hydrogen fuel cells to power the next generation of motor vehicles, the University of South Carolina and Westinghouse Savannah River Co. signed a historic agreement to make the state the nation's leader in hydrogen and fuel cell technology.

USC President John Palms and Dr. Susan Wood, WSRC vice president for the Savannah River Technology Center, signed the pact. The Tech Center is the applied research and development lab for Savannah River Site.

The collaborative effort calls for research and development in the area of hydrogen technology, including energy applications and hydrogen fuel cell technologies for transportation, electrical power and portable power.

Hydrogen is one of the fuels of the future because it is inexhaustible, universally available and harmless to the environment. This is why hydrogen fuel technology has powerful bipartisan support in Congress.

It is a key part of the government's energy strategy to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil and to move toward a cleaner environment by reducing carbon dioxide emissions and other tailpipe pollutions.

The White House has even given the program a name - "Freedom Car." Prototypes already get 70 miles to the gallon. With research efforts, like those being undertaken by USC and the SRS technology lab, miles per gallon should get even better and the prototypes more practical to drive.

To be on the cutting edge of this exciting program, says Palms, will benefit business and industry throughout the state and nation - and especially in the Central Savannah River Area. With hydrogen fuel cell technology gaining Washington's support, the WSRC-USC collaboration should have little trouble finding funding sources to expand the kind of research and development that will draw fuel cell manufacturers and hydrogen-storage developers to the state, generating hundreds, if not thousands, of high-tech jobs throughout the region.

Remember that successful economic development initiatives on one side of the river reverberates strongly on the other. Though we reside on different sides of the state line, our economy is regionwide and largely seamless.