Building the nation's rail and highway infrastructures were not easy tasks. It took decades of commitment and investment by government and the private sector. As summarized in figure 1.1, the nation's railroad system took over three decades of active Federal investment through land grants. The national road system took three decades of Federal planning and three decades of Federal investment. The first automobile was manufactured in the United States in 1893. Through strictly private investment, it took more than 25 years to establish a national network of fueling stations.
The national interest in creating a hydrogen infrastructure reflects the potential role hydrogen could play in meeting the goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by mid-century. Without hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cells helping to power transportation, the Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that attaining this goal will slip from mid-century to about 2075 or later.
As shown in figure 1.2, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) estimates 63 percent of GHG come from fuel combustion and 98 percent of transportation fuel is fossil-based. For 2008, the Energy Information Administration estimates the total for fossil-based transportation fuel at 99 percent.
In figure 1.3 below, the State of California relies on super ultra low carbon vehicles and hydrogen to improve its air quality.
A clearer view of hydrogen's potential contribution is shown in figures 1.4 and 1.5. In figure 1.4, the National Research Council (NRC) chart shows the role hydrogen fuel cell vehicles potentially could play between 2025 and 2050 in reducing GHG emissions. In this optimistic scenario, NRC sees hydrogen fueled vehicles having greater VMT than hybrids after 2040 and being the predominant vehicle fuel by 2060. In figure 1.5, DOE shows the results of its best case scenario modeling for the adoption of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. NRC and DOE estimate about 200 million to 220 million hydrogen vehicles in operation by 2050.
During its Summit on America's Energy Future in Fall 2008, NRC described the nation as being at a critical juncture for planning how we will meet the mobility needs of this and future generations. As one conference participant illustrated in figure 1.6, the country is at the beginning of a 30-year planning window (from 2010 through 2040) for putting in place the policies, technologies and infrastructures needed to meet the nation's mobility needs through the 22nd century