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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

David Garman
David Garman

March 12, 2004

David Garman
Welcome. Great to be here. Let's talk about the future of energy and personal transportation.

John, from So. California writes:
Has hydrogen become less expensive to produce now than, say, twenty years ago? And would it be practical to combine desalination of our polluted waterways with the production of hydrogen? It is a lot safer to use as fuel than gasoline or methanol because it normally just burns, doesn't explode, or am I wrong?

Thank you very much, John Moeller

David Garman
Hydrogen is far less expensive than in the past. In fact, we produce about 9 million metric tons of hydrogen each year... we have hundreds of miles of hydrogen pipelines... and we believe we can produce competitively priced hydrogen in the future. In fact, our 2010 target is $1.50 per gallon of gas equivalent.

As with all fuels, there are safety issues... but we are working on them. In some ways, hydrogen is safer than liquid fuels, because it is lighter than air and dissipates rapidly into the atmosphere.

Daniel, from Vila Velha Brazil writes:
Hello Sir Secretary I wish to ask when will the hydrogen tecnology will become cheaper and all will be able to use?

David Garman
We are working to make hydrogen fuels and applications competitive in the 2015-2020 time frame. There are significant technical challenges to overcome, but that is why the President launched the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative in the 2003 State of the Union Address. Click here to read more about it.

Mark, from Santa Fe writes:
Is it hard to be taken seriously about renewable energy with an administration that is bought and paid for by "old" energy special interests?

Bush, Cheney, Rice, all came from oil companies that have no benefit from having clean air and water so why in the world would they support clean energy when they believe that cutting off mountain tops, drilling in nature preserves and rolling back pollution laws is the real way to get cheap energy?

David Garman
Hydrogen is precisely the answer to these kinds of conflicts. Hydrogen can remove personal transportation from the environmental equation. Hydrogen can eliminate our need to import a growing percentage of oil from abroad. Hydrogen, when converted to energy in a fuel cell, results in zero emissions.

With respect to the Administration's perspective, keep these facts in mind. We spend more at the Department of Energy on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy than we do on fossil and nuclear energy combined. And 54 of the 105 recommendations in the President's National energy plan pertain to energy efficiency and renewable energy. I think that record speaks for itself. We have a balanced approach.

Chris, from Seattle, WA writes:
The real hydrogen economy will be ushered in only when we have tapped the true power of hydrogen through nuclear fusion.

Will you please aggressively pursue the fusion future?

David Garman
We are. We have rejoined the international effort to develop fusion energy, which is the same energy process that powers the sun. It could provide limitless energy. Again, this is a long term effort, fraught with technical challenges, but the successful result would be well worth the effort.

John, from Boulder, Colorado writes:
Why doesn't the administration raise the CAFE standards, and stop exempting SUVs? My 1999 Chevy Metro gets 46 to 52 MPG and it's out of production. The technology is clearly at hand even without exotic gaselectric or fuel cell technology.

David Garman
The Bush Administration (the Department of Transportation) has, in fact, raised CAFÉ standards for light trucks… the first increase since 1996, and the largest increase in the past 20 years.

Efficiency standards are important, but they cannot deliver the promise of emissions-free, petroleum-free personal transportation. The President’s Hydrogen Initiative and FreedomCAR eventually can.

In the interim, gasoline-electric hybrids show great promise. I drive a hybrid vehicle, which EPA has rated at 60 MPG city, 51 highway. I love it. But hybrids are more expensive, and some consumers have different needs.

Chris, from Long Beach, CA writes:
How long will it take before a commercially viable hydrogen powered car is released?

David Garman
The President, in his 2003 State of the Union Address, said that a child born today should be able to purchase a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle as their first car. We are focused on overcoming the technical obstacles that would allow affordable hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the 2015-2020 time frame. There are hydrogen fuel cell cars today... but they are too expensive.

BARBARA, from WISC writes:
Is it true that fossil fuel must be used to eventually produce hydrogen power?

David Garman
No. You can produce hydrogen from fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal, but you can also produce it using renewable energy such as wind, solar, biomass and hydropower. That is the central benefit of hydrogen... a common energy carrier (or fuel) produced from a variety of primary energy resources.

Wayne, from Herndon, Virginia writes:
The United States does not have a comprehensive energy policy, because most of the energy is monopolized by the oil industry.

1.When will the United States have a energy policy that is conducive to utilizing renewable and alternative energies?

2.Instead of subsidizing the oil industry, when will the alternative technologies for energy be adequately supported?

3 Instead of more vehicles, when will the government espouse more mass transportation?

David Garman
We hope Congress will soon pass a comprehensive energy bill that contains some of the elements the President has asked for, including: 1) Production Tax Credits for renewable energy such as wind and biomass; 2) tax credits for hybrid vehicle purchases; 3) a residential solar energy tax credit; 4) progressive regulatory treatment for combined heat and power; and many of the other features in the President's plan.

Also, the President's budget for renewable energy is up 4.8% this year over last year's appropriation.

Devin, from appelton WI valley new school writes:
we are from Valley New School in Appelton Wisconsin, a charter school and we are doing a project on presidents. can we ask you some questions?

-why do we still use gasoline?

-are you holding aliens in the government?

-why can't you skateboard on sidewalks and streets?

David Garman
We use gasoline because unfortunately, we don't have many good alternatives. That's why the President directed us to pursue hydrogen.

Aliens? I haven't seen any. Yet.

Skateboards? I think that's great petroleum-free, emissions-free transportation. Count me in favor of skateboards. But be careful.

Ranja, from Portland writes:
Do they make a hybrid Hummer yet?

David Garman
Ford will offer a hybrid Escape (mid-size SUV) later this year. Toyota will offer a hybrid Hilander (mid-size SUV) and Lexus will also offer a hybrid SUV later this year. All major car companies have new hybrid models in the works.

Madeline, from Washington, DC writes:
Can you explain how does futuregen work?

David Garman
FutureGEN will be an emissions-free demonstration powerplant, fueled by coal, producing electricity and hydrogen. For more information, see the FutureGEN website at

Larry, from Wichita, Kansas writes:
Why are we not pursuing the hydrogen alternative more aggressively? It seems like we could lighten our demand for oil and I know BMW and the German government are way ahead of us on this project. Do we not want to get away from oil?

David Garman
We are working together with the Germans through the new International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy (IPHE) which U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham launched to promote international cooperation on hydrogen.

(By the way, the US is spending far more on hydrogen technology than the German government.)

Ryan, from Bloomington, IN writes:
Please comment on the potential for carbon nanotubes as a hydrogen storage material. What research initiatives are in place to support the application of nanostructures to the development of novel energy sources?

David Garman
We have put in place a $150 million effort focused on hydrogen storage. Among other possibilities, we are looking at carbon nanotubes, along with chemical and metal hydrides.

David Garman
This has been great. Hope we can do this again.