My laptop died halfway through writing this, so I'm just getting it up now...
This is the last report from the Nobel Conference. In a few minutes I'm heading off to dinner, where famed polar explorer Will Steger will give us an eye-witness account of the global warming changes he's seen in the arctic (in May I interviewed Steger about his latest expedition).
The last lecture I heard today was from Dr. Joan Ogden with UC-Davis, who discussed a hydrogen economy. I was pretty skeptical walking into the lecture and I walked out a bit less skeptical, although I still don't think hydrogen is the silver bullet or is anywhere near where the rest of technologies are to get us out of the global warming problem. However, I think it can play a role.
Almost all automakers have a hydrogen prototype vehicle, and Ogden said that around 2015-2020 hydrogen cars will be commercially ready - that doesn't mean they'll be on the lot ready to go, but that an automaker could make a fleet of them if it wanted to.
A lot of time was spent discussing the different uses for hydrogen and the hurdles it faces. For example, the big infrastructure question, how to store it, the cost, and fuel cells. James Hansen pointed out that plug-in hybrids are much closer being part of the mainstream, and thought that's where we should be putting more focus. Ogden argued that plug-in batteries aren't ready for primetime and only have an electric range of about 5-10 miles.
I'm not sure where that average number is coming from, but I know of plug-in vehicles here in the Twin Cities that get 20-30 miles on electricity.
Steven Chu pointed out that using hydrogen to store wind in fuel cells, for example, would be more efficient and feasible rather than using it as a fuel. You'd also avoid the problems of transportation and major infrastructure.