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Hydrogen Car Funding: Another Bush Administration Ruse

Feb. 3, 2003

Hydrogen Car Funding: Another Bush Administration Ruse

Statement by Wenonah Hauter, Director, Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program, and Alice Slater, President, Global Resource Action Center for the Environment

In his State of the Union address, President Bush pledged $240 million a year to develop hydrogen fuel cell technology. While developing fuel cells is a laudable objective, it is another ruse by the Bush administration. In fact, the money is slated to supplement Bush’s existing FreedomCar program, which is a joint partnership with the U.S. Council for Automotive Research, an entity run by Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. This is just more corporate welfare – the latest version of the 1990s Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, which handed $250 million a year to the auto industry to develop new technologies and which Bush stopped just before it was slated to end to avoid acknowledging failure.

Once again, the administration is claiming to undertake a pro-environment initiative when in fact it is giving a handout to a powerful industry and doing absolutely nothing for the environment. If Bush truly wanted to clean the air, he could meaningfully improve fuel economy standards, sign the Kyoto treaty and crack down on big energy plants that spew pollutants. Instead, he is giving his buddies a chunk of money to play with.

As more proof that Bush’s announcement is merely window dressing, both Toyota and Honda have hydrogen fuel cell automobiles on the road today, so the technology the auto companies are supposed to be developing with this money already exists.

Unfortunately, this is just another example of Bush kowtowing to the transportation and energy industries. This year, Bush will spend $675 million in direct subsidies to the oil, gas and nuclear industries – nearly triple what he has proposed spending on hydrogen fuel cells. The Bush administration is giving $326 million this year to the coal industry for research. Bush also will spend $251 million this year on “nuclear energy research and development,” and another $100 million for oil and gas development.

Clearly, Bush’s allegiance continues to lie with his largest campaign contributors. The coal, oil, nuclear and auto manufacturing industries gave Bush and his party three-quarters of the $103 million they have handed out in campaign contributions since 1999. As long as Bush’s financial support for fossil fuels and nuclear power continues to dwarf assistance for hydrogen fuel cells, America’s energy future will be bleak.

We must embrace safe, sustainable and affordable energy sources. We should decrease corporate welfare to the oil, gas and nuclear industries and significantly boost financing for new energy sources.