Bay Area Planners Get Greenhouse “Guidelines”

The San Francisco Bay Area is among the first metropolitan areas in the nation to set up local developer guidelines for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Craig Miller

Photo: Craig Miller

The new rules, passed Wednesday by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, mean that developers planning anything that will produce GHG emissions above certain thresholds will face an environmental impact review. For “stationary” sources, projected emissions above 10,000 metric tons (tonnes) per year will now trigger an EIR under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). For other, “non-stationary” projects, the trigger is set at 1,100 tons per year or 4.6 tonnes per person affected, such as residents or workers.

The GHG thresholds are coupled with similar triggers for local pollutants such as particulates and for some emissions that play a role in both local air quality and warming, such as nitrous oxides (NOX). Air District spokesman Aaron Richardson couldn’t confirm that the first-in-the-nation status applied to the GHG guidelines, but that it placed the Bay Area “among the first.”

District chief Jack Broadbent said, in a release, that they “provide a blueprint for local agencies to use in making smart development decisions that protect residents from harmful air emissions and greenhouse gases.” Broadbent said the rules will be “especially protective of communities that already have significant air quality concerns.”

Exactly how they’ll be applied is something that even Air District staffers had a tough time explaining. Abby Young, an environmental planner at the District, who worked on the guidelines, explained that 10,000 tonnes per year is a benchmark that might be associated with a major expansion of an oil refinery. She said 1,100 tonnes per year is more or less the level of GHG emissions associated with a typical 50-home suburban housing development, but that vehicle trips in and out of the neighborhood would also be counted toward the threshold. “It’s a very complex, multi-layered thing,” she said.

The complete guidelines are available as a PDF download from the Air District’s website.

Planning Questions Persist Over Sea Level Rise

Heavy surf along the Monterey Peninsula. Photo: Craig Miller

Heavy surf along the Monterey Peninsula. Photo: Craig Miller

Speakers at this week’s sea level planning conference in Oakland cited everybody from H. L. Mencken to Yogi Berra (“You can observe a lot just by watching”). But the primary insight from the event may have been courtesy of Robert Frost: “…miles to go before (we) sleep.”

About 225 representatives from industry, government and academia gathered at the behest of the non-profit Bay Planning Coalition.  The effort was to push forward a planning agenda to help prepare the Bay Area and coastal California for rising sea levels due to the changing climate. There is considerable uncertainty surrounding how much sea level rise we should expect in the decades to come. There were indications at the conference that planners were starting to coalesce around predictions of 16 inches by 2050, and 55 inches by 2100, projections embraced by the state’s formal climate adaptation plan.

Greater still is the uncertainty surrounding how governments, businesses and public agencies will respond to the challenge. Estimates are that rising seas threaten $100 billion of “economic assets” statewide, half of which are in the Bay Area. While most speakers seemed to agree on the urgency of mobilizing a coordinated planning effort, few seemed certain where to start.

The palpable frustration in the room was voiced  by, among others, Calla Rose Ostrander, Climate Action Coordinator with the City and County of San Francisco. “I think we’ve set ourselves up to need certainty, to make decisions,” she told me, saying that public agencies in charge of roads and development feel paralyzed. “When we apply for funding for these things,” explained Ostrander, they (potential funders) say ‘How are you planning for it?’ And we haven’t been advised yet on how to plan for it.” That dilemma was echoed by Paul Thayer of the California State Lands Commission: “You can’t engineer for a range of sea level rise,” he said. And yet that would appear to be the task.

Oakland Int'l Airport, like much of the Bay Area's critical infrustructure, lies barely above sea level. Photo: Craig Miller

Oakland Int'l Airport, like much of the Bay Area's critical infrastructure, lies barely above sea level. Photo: Craig Miller

Funding is another area that remains fuzzy, amid all the inter-agency discussions, and one that was not substantively addressed at the conference. It is expected that rising seas will require billions of dollars in infrastructure upgrades. The Port of Oakland, for example, is awaiting the outcome of a study to determine what “perimeter defenses” will be needed to keep runways at Oakland International Airport above water.

Several speakers raised concern about rallying public support to confront a threat that is so diffuse. Will Travis, who heads the San Francisco-based Bay Conservation & Development Commission, predicted that “bringing it home” to households with more immediate worries will be the biggest challenge. And yet we can’t wait, warned Travis. “The longer we wait, the worse the problem becomes.”

Scientists as well as policymakers are pondering how to respond to rising sea levels. Nicole Heller of our content partner Climate Central recently attended a conference aimed at that end of the issue, and wrote about it in the Climate Central blog.

The Air Quality-Carbon Connection

I-80Here’s a news flash: California has an air pollution problem.  According to the American Lung Association’s 2009 State of the Air Report, 38 of California’s 52 counties get failing grades for either high ozone or particle pollution days.  (You can see your own county’s grades for ozone and air particle pollution at the State of the Air website.)

In fact, last month the federal EPA’s new director for San Francisco-based Region 9 made an astonishing claim on KQED’s Forum program. Jared Blumenfeld said that more Californians die from air pollution than from car wrecks. When a caller asked him to back up the claim, Blumenfeld provided the following statistics:

– Traffic-related fatalities: 3,949 deaths per year from 3,535 fatal collisions (average for 1999-2008)
– Deaths associated with PM2.5 exposure above 5 ug/m3 in California : 18,000 deaths per year

Cars are doing double duty in these statistics, since passenger vehicles are a large source of air pollution. Over the decades the state has addressed this fact with landmark efforts to regulate vehicle emissions, in efforts initially to improve local air quality and more recently, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In a new study released this week by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC),  researchers looked at two state priorities: reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming and improving air quality to benefit public health, and evaluated the effectiveness of four potential transportation strategies to address both.

What they found is something that policymakers have known all along: there are no easy answers.  And everything involves a trade-off.

PPIC research fellow Louise Bedworth compared the cost, public health benefits, and GHG reduction potential for various alternative-fuel vehicles; battery-electrics, fuel cell, ethanol, and for reducing overall vehicle miles.  What she found is that transforming California’s vehicle fleet to battery-electric vehicles provides the greatest public health benefit, but that high costs and technological uncertainty make this option far from ideal.

On the flip side, said Bedsworth, while we have the technology for vehicles to run on corn-based ethanol, research shows that when indirect land-use costs are considered, corn-based biofuels provide no significant public health or climate change benefit.

But while the PPIC looks at local health and global warming effects separately, a new study out of Stanford has found that the two are directly linked. It’s well established that carbon dioxide contributes to global warming and that increased temperatures can exacerbate air pollution, but the new study shows that CO2 “domes” that develop over urban areas are, in fact, causing health problems for city-dwellers.  The study, conducted by civil and environmental engineering professor Mark Jacobsen, looked at models for the contiguous 48 states, for California and for the Los Angeles area. Results showed an increased death rate in all three areas compared to what the rate would be if no local carbon dioxide were being emitted.

Neither current regulations, nor the federal cap-and-trade bill passed by the House address the local effects of CO2 emissions on health.  Jacobsen says that this study provides evidence that they should.  He estimated an increase in premature mortality of 50-to-100 deaths per year from local CO2 emissions in California.

Jacobsen talks about his study in the video, below.

The New Streamliners: Big Rigs Save Fuel, CO2

A big rig in the wind tunnel at NASA Ames Research Center. Photo: Gretchen Weber

Not exactly the Space Shuttle: A big rig in the wind tunnel at NASA Ames Research Center. Photo: Gretchen Weber

A companion radio piece to this post aired on The California Report.

The wind tunnel at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View is the largest in the world. According to Ames deputy director Lou Braxton, at various times it has housed a Boeing 747 and an America’s Cup racing yacht. But parked inside this week was a relatively diminutive semi-truck with a 53-foot trailer. The truck is called the ProStar, and according to its manufacturer, Navistar, it’s the most aerodynamic truck on the road.

The wind tunnel was open to the media because Ames, Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL), Navistar, and the Air Force (which manages the tunnel) were showcasing their ongoing project designed to identify, develop, and test devices that reduce the aerodynamic drag of “big rigs.” The wind tunnel wasn’t activated for the press event but the media gathered inside the cavernous space could envision how the tests might work.

At highway speeds, more than 50 percent of the energy produced by a truck’s engine is used to overcome aerodynamic drag. Therefore, reducing that drag can produce significant fuel savings. In fact, testing thus far has determined that existing aerodynamic design adjustments and attachments can increase fuel efficiency by 12 percent, which, when applied to the US trucking fleet, could save more than three billion gallons of diesel fuel per year, a cost savings of more than $10 billion at current prices. This savings in diesel translates to a reduction of 36 million metric tons of CO2 per year.

Inside the wind tunnel, the truck’s trailer was outfitted with various attachments designed to reduce drag at critical points such as the trailer base, the under body, and the gap between the tractor and trailer. Some, such as the TrailerTail, are already commercially available, while others are still in development. For the next three weeks, scientists will test various devices and combinations. The best ones will be track tested and then road tested over the next year.

Currently, semi-trucks make up about 12 percent of US petroleum consumption; about 21 million barrels a day, according to LLNL.

The TrailerTail (Photo: Gretchen Weber)

The TrailerTail (Photo: Gretchen Weber)

Outside the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex (NFAC) at Ames, where the wind tunnel is located (Photo: Gretchen Weber)

Outside the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex (NFAC) at Ames, where the wind tunnel is located (Photo: Gretchen Weber)

Invasion of the Electrics

If the electric car was indeed “killed,” as a popular documentary suggested not long ago, the floor at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week would suggest a mass resurrection not seen since Night of the Living Dead. Climate Watch contributor Alison Hawkes reports on some implications for the power grid. Her radio report airs Friday on The California Report.

By Alison Hawkes

Electric vehicles may be few in number over the next few years, despite the hype around the release of off-the-assembly line EV models in 2010. It takes several decades to flip the American vehicle fleet.

Robert Susich offsets his charging with rooftop solar.  "This is the way of the future," he says. Photo: Alison Hawkes

Robert Susich offsets his charging with rooftop solar. "This is the way of the future," he says. Photo: Alison Hawkes

But there’s little doubt that EVs are coming, pushed on by anxiety over foreign oil and unexpected spikes in gas prices, growing environmental awareness, and government incentives. Starting at the end of December, EV buyers get a federal tax credit of between $2,500-to-$7,500 per vehicle, depending on the battery size. There are other tax credits for plug-in conversions and even electric motorcycles and electric three-wheelers. Now who doesn’t like a tax credit?

All this may sound promising but energy planners have some serious head-scratching to do as Americans begin switching their transportation fuel from gasoline to electricity.

For starters, how do you avoid building extra power plants? Who pays for infrastructure upgrades to electrical substations and transformers? How do you get EV drivers to charge during off-peak hours when the energy supply is now wasted?

Pacific Gas & Electric’s smart grid director Andrew Tang says utilities have faced similar problems before with the advent of air conditioners in the 1970s and plasma screen TVs in the 1990s. New technologies add to the demand on an already tight energy market. “It’s a form of load growth and we’ve managed to deal with it without having sudden power outages,” says Tang.

But, Tang admits, EVs could bring a heavier strain on the grid than any seen before. One EV can draw as much energy as a house. Put another way, that’s doubling a household’s demand for power. Fortunately, it sounds like the utilities have some time, and capacity, to see how the EV market develops.

PG&E is expecting to support some 250,000 vehicles by 2020, which may not seem like much for a 70,000 square-mile service territory. But they won’t be spread out evenly. The northern California utility is expecting EV drivers to congregate in certain neighborhoods, potentially sending substations and transformers into overload (read: blackouts) if not properly managed. Tang said PG&E did a study of hybrid electric vehicle registration over the last four years and found that Fresno’s portion of hybrids was 2.4 percent, while Berkeley’s was 18 percent. “That’s much more concentration,” says Tang. “We think that’s a fair proxy of what we could have with electric vehicles.”

So the California Public Utilities Commission is now exploring ways to regulate EV’s. The basic question is how to influence consumer behavior so EVs do not add to peak energy demand. No one wants blackouts, and no one wants to build more power plants. One idea bandied about is a differentiated rate system that encourages EV drivers to charge during off-peak hours at deeply discounted prices, called a “time of use rate.” Another idea promoted by the PUC’s independent Division of Ratepayer Advocates is a five-dollar monthly fee on EV drivers that would go into upgrading grid infrastructure, like adding or upgrading local transformers, as needed.

“If electric vehicles need (additional) infrastructure, they should pay for it and not spread the cost across all ratepayers,” says DRA’s deputy director Dave Ashuckian.

EV drivers may bristle at being treated differently than other power users, especially when they feel they’re doing society a favor by switching to a cleaner fuel source. Early adopters may be happy to help optimize the grid. But if EVs go mainstream, energy planners know the public is going to want a more convenient system.

Automated smart metering (you’re not in charge of your charging) may help. The hybrid plug-in Chevy Volt coming next year is supposed to come with a smart meter.  But planners eventually foresee public charging stations that will allow EV drivers to juice up quickly (through high-wattage charging equipment) and when they need to, during daytime peak hours. Already some California companies that want in on the emerging charging station business are fighting the idea of PUC regulation of their potential market.

A California PUC staff white paper reported that the benefits of lowered greenhouse gas emissions with an electrified transportation system are realized only when some 76 percent of EV drivers charge off-peak. And only if any extra power demand is met by renewable energy sources – not coal or oil. That’s a tall order.

Ed. Note: One thing EV’s already have going for them: a lobby. This week it was announced that after 16 years, deputy director Eileen Tutt is leaving CalEPA to become executive director of the California Electric Transportation Coalition.

Notebook Lost, Work Ethic Found

Rob Schmitz continues his dispatches from Japan, where he’s reporting on that country’s aggressive approach to energy efficiency–and what lessons we might take from them. Rob returns to KQED’s Los Angeles Bureau in October–with his notebook.

Today I left my notebook on the train to Ota. In it were notes of all the interviews I had conducted since arriving in Japan. Throughout my day of reporting, I repeatedly asked to borrow my interpreter’s notebook, and by the end of the day, I was depressed with the thought of having to listen to hours of tape that I had meticulously transcribed over weeks of interviews. When we returned to the station, my interpreter, Chiaki, took me to the station master’s office. That’s where I met Mr. Aiba.

My Travelling Notebook

My Travelling Notebook

Aiba-san was in his 50s, tall, thin, graying hair, glasses, and, like most Japanese in his position, incredibly polite. He wore a blue uniform and a green band around his arm with ‘security’ written on it in Kanji. Aiba-san listened intently to Chiaki’s every word describing the notebook, where I left it, and how important it was to me. He asked follow-up questions: “What are the approximate dimensions of the notebook? Is your name on the notebook?” and so on. As Chiaki answered, he took notes.

When he was finished, he offered us a seat, briskly walked to his desk, and picked up the phone. He called other stations, he called cleaning companies, and he consulted timetables. In between calls, he updated us: “The train you were on has made three round trips from Tokyo to Akagi today. Cleaning crews in many cities have cleaned the train several times.” Aiba-san briefly left the room while he waited to hear from the cleaning crews. He returned with some tea for us. A minute later, he received a call from the cleaning crew in Akagi, a city in the mountains at the end of the line: they found my notebook. Nobody had claimed it, so it had been tossed into a recycling bin. It was waiting for me on the platform there.

Aiba-san, getting the job done.

Aiba-san, going the extra kilometer.

“But you’ll have to hurry,” said Aiba-san, looking at his watch. “The train to Akagi leaves in less than one minute.” He escorted us, running frantically in the lead, to the platform. We barely made the train. I had a few seconds to reach into my bag to give him a box of See’s chocolates that I had brought as a gift for my interviewees. He sternly declined the gift, but I insisted.

When we arrived to the tiny Akagi station, two elderly custodians with brooms in their hands were waiting for us on the platform. They bowed in unison to me and handed me my notebook. They had neatly wrapped it in a copy of the train’s timetable. This is just one of many examples of the generosity and commitment to service that I’ve experienced in my short time in Japan. Had I lost my notebook on a train or a bus back home, would anyone care? They probably would’ve laughed me out of the station at the thought of tracking it down.

Now, take this behavior to a macro level and you start to see why Japan, an island nation with no fossil fuels and few resources of any kind, has become the second largest economy in the world. When Japan puts its collective mind to something, it not only gets the job done, but it oftentimes excels at it. From my conversations with government officials, business leaders, and those in the non-profit sector here, it’s obvious that Japan is not only committed to reducing greenhouse gases, but perhaps more importantly, it wants to make a lot of money from doing so.

In short, it wants to ensure that its companies own and make as much of the technology that goes towards this global effort as is possible, and it’s got a head start. Japan leads the world by a long shot in registered patents in the green technology sector, according to a report from CERNA, the Centre d’Economie Industrielle. Check out the final pages of that report, which compare countries, and you’ll see Japan leads in every patent category except one. Japan is getting the job done, just like Aiba-san stepped up to do his job when I sought his help. It’s a spirit that’s refreshing to be around. We could use a few more Aiba-sans back home.

Plugged In, in Long Beach

Rob Schmitz heads KQED’s Los Angeles Bureau and is a frequent contributor to Climate Watch.

A Chevy that gets 230 miles to the gallon. A Hummer that gets 100.

Plug-in 2009, the 2nd annual industry conference in Long Beach, was wall-to-wall with such apparent oxymora. Just roving around the exhibition floor on Tuesday, I got the sense that our electric vehicle future is closer than I had originally suspected. I spoke to conference-goers who are already investing millions in what is assured to be an enormous infrastructure that’ll be built around these new cars.

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations that are sold by Coulomb Technologies out of the Silicon Valley. Photo: Rob Schmitz

Electric vehicle charging stations from Campbell-based Coulomb Technologies. Photo: Rob Schmitz

I met Tom Tormey, Vice President of Technology at the Silicon Valley-based Coulomb Technologies. He raised a lot of important questions about where we’d charge these vehicles when we’re not at home. Of course, the answer came in the form of something he could sell you: car-charging stations. His company manufactures automated posts where you can use a credit card to charge up your car when you’re away from home or at work. He’s already sold dozens of these to cities across Europe. The stations will even help calculate taxes for the government through a network that hooks up to Coulomb’s servers here in California: a potentially big business for an electric future.

Speaking of big, check out the electric Hummer. If you thought this beast was nearing extinction (with the sale of Hummer to the Chinese and all), think again. With a new electric version that allegedly gets a 100 miles to the gallon, you may continue to see this American icon on our freeways.

Jim Spellman of Raser Technologies, standing in front of the 100-mpg Electric Hummer. Photo: Rob Schmitz

Jim Spellman of Raser Technologies, standing in front of the 100-mpg electric Hummer. Photo: Rob Schmitz

Jim Spellman of Raser Technologies showed off the Hummer to me, complete with his company’s power train and electric generation system. He says they took it out for a test drive a few weeks ago and it ran 50 miles on electric power with 30% of the battery left to go.

With momentum building among the plug-in players, it’s not surprising that Mike Howard of the Electric Power Research Institute predicts there will be 16 million electric vehicles on the nation’s roads by 2030.

Plan Moves Climate Adaptation to Front Burner

A one-fifth reduction in per capita water use by 2020 is among the goals outlined in a new state report on adapting to climate change.

Released by the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) as a “discussion draft,”  the 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy is being billed as the nation’s first comprehensive game plan for adaptation to climate change.

Reed Galin

Photo: Reed Galin

Most of the state’s high-profile climate initiatives (and battles) have been about mitigation; how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to slow down warming. This report swings the spotlight over to adaptation; what needs to be done to accommodate the climate change effects that are already “in the pipeline.”

While the California’s centerpiece climate law was passed three years ago, this week’s CNRA report concedes that “adaptation is a relatively new concept in California policy.” The 161-page white paper comes in response to an executive order from the Governor last fall, calling for a statewide adaptation strategy.

The draft divides the strategy into seven “sectors:” Public health, biodiversity and habitat, ocean and coastal resources, water, agriculture, and forestry.

Tony Brunello, Deputy Secretary for Climate Change and Energy at CNRA, says “This is the first report that really looks at how climate change is going to impact the state and what we need to do about it.”

But Brunello stopped short of conceding that mitigation is a lost cause. “You only have half a deck if you’re only focused on mitigation,” he said. “You need to focus on both mitigation and adaptation to truly be prepared.”

Some strategies attack both. Brunello points to water conservation measures, which save both water and energy (20% of the energy used in the state is deployed moving water around).

The plan is designed to work in consort with the California Air Resources Board’s implementation plan for AB-32, the state’s multifaceted attack on greenhouse gas emissions. CNRA says one of its goals is to “enhance” existing efforts, rather than create new programs and offices that need funding.

CNRA also promises to use the “best available science in identifying climate change risks and adaptation strategies.” Andrew Revkin has a useful overview of the mounting challenges to climate scientists, published this week in the New York Times.

One planned product from the adaptation plan is an interactive website devoted to climate adaptation, with maps and data to assist local planners. CNRA hopes to have that in place by early next year. The draft plan now enters a 45-day period for public comment.

California’s EPA Waiver: Does it Still Matter?

Deja vu all over again. Photo: Craig Miller

Deja vu all over again. Photo: Craig Miller

Today the federal Environmental Protection Agency formally granted the waiver that California has sought since 2002, allowing the state to set its own standards for greenhouse gas emissions from cars.

But wait–didn’t this already happen for practical purposes, last month? That’s when the Obama administration announced its intent to essentially put California’s proposed standards in place nationwide.

Well, yes–and no. Bernadette Del Chiaro, who represents the group Environment California, says that having the waiver is more than a legal technicality. She says it means that the state can get started sooner, cleaning up tailpipe emissions. Del Chiaro explains that: “California’s standards kick in now, through 2016. The federal program that President Obama has extended throughout the entire country, starts in 2013 (also through 2016).”

That gives the states, in effect, a three-year jump-start. In 2013, everybody should be on the same page.

California’s chief air regulator,  Mary Nichols said, in a written statement:
“The waiver affirms California’s authority to set the standards for the cleanest cars in the nation and recognizes the ability of forward-thinking states to continue to adopt them. Now we can begin to work with the manufacturers to make a new generation of cars that deliver all the comfort and power we have come to expect but with improved efficiency and far fewer greenhouse gas emissions. ”

Thirteen other states had also pursued the waiver and can now proceed with their own programs.

While automakers have long argued that the tighter regs will make cars more expensive, Environment California calculates that they’ll “save consumers $36 billion at the pump by 2020.” That projection assumed that gasoline would would average about $2 per gallon over that period. Higher pump prices (which seem a lot more likely) would in turn, increase expected savings, as the underlying premise is that we’ll be driving cars that get better gas mileage.

But of course those cars will cost more than the clunkers we’re wheeling around in now. The state Air Resources Board estimates that the clean car regulations will tack an average of $1,000 onto the price of a new car by 2016. Obviously that would offset some of the pump savings.

Speed Bumps on the “Hydrogen Highway”

Seems like the Governor is spending a lot of time looking at cars lately. If the rest of us spent as much time cruising Auto Row, the recession might already be fading in the rear-view mirror.

Governor Schwarzenegger tries out the Volkswagen Passat Lingyu. Photo: Governor's Office

Governor Schwarzenegger at the wheel of a Volkswagen Passat Lingyu. Photo: Governor's Office

But California’s chief executive isn’t interested in run-of-the-mill rolling stock (he will, of course, happily take credit for inventing the Hummer). He’s into exotics: the alternative-fuel cars of the future–and in some cases, present.

At least five times in the last three weeks, the Governor’s Office has created photo ops with alt-fuel autos, prototypes or refueling stations; from a fuel-cell Volkswagen (June 3) to the Mutt-&-Jeff of electrics, Hummer and Peapod (May 28 & June 10, respectively), he’s kicked the tires on a whole generation of not-widely-available wheels–not to mention the home ethanol refinery (June 4) or the hydrogen refueling station in Santa Monica (May 27).

All of which got us to wondering: “Dude, where’s our Hydrogen Highway?” You may recall the Governor’s promise five years ago, that California would by now be coming down the home stretch on a whole new infrastructure for the coming swarm of cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Monday morning on KQED’s weekly Quest radio feature, David Gorn reports that we’ve apparently hit a few speed bumps:

“The technology clearly has promise, but it’s behind schedule. Schwarzenegger’s original plan called for 100 to 150 hydrogen fuel stations by next year, and so far there are only about two dozen. He also wanted 2,000 hydrogen-powered cars on the road, yet fewer than 200 are being road-tested today. The lack of progress has prompted California’s non-partisan state legislative analyst to recommend scrapping state funding for the hydrogen program. And on the federal level, Energy Secretary Steven Chu has asked Congress to cut about half of the national hydrogen-research budget. Chu said hydrogen technology is too far from fruition.”

None of these details stopped Governor  Schwarzenegger from hyping the 2009 Hydrogen Road Tour, a recently concluded San Diego-to-Vancouver rally, designed to highlight fuel-cell technology:

“We will keep pushing, and thanks to our public-private partnerships and the commitment of these automakers and energy companies, the era of pollution-free transportation is dawning.”

The Governor’s statement went on to say that “Auto manufacturers expect the number of hydrogen vehicles to increase to 4,300 by 2014 and more than 40,000 vehicles by 2017.” Of course, that was before Energy Secretary Steve Chu announced that R&D funding for hydrogen fuel cells on the road didn’t quite make the cut for the next DOE budget. Plug-in hydrid, anyone?