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Wednesday, September 7, 2011


In 1979 when I went to work for U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga, one of my assignments was to draft a hydrogen bill.  The driving motivation was to set the stage for the hydrogen powered National Aerospace Plane.  Some early politics regarding this effort were published in Chapter 3 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.  The aviation portion of hydrogen was assumed by the Defense Advanced Projects Agency, which led to a statement:

In his 1986 State of the Union address, President Ronald Reagan called for "a new Orient Express that could, by the end of the next decade, take off from Dulles Airport, accelerate up to 25 times the speed of sound, attaining low earth orbit or flying to Tokyo within two hours."

The project was officially put to rest in 1993, but there are reports of a black program within the Department of Defense that continues.

Yet, a funny thing happened to the next generation aircraft.  Instead of Mach 25, the first out of the block has a maximum speed of Mach 0.2, or 115 miles per hour.  Built by Hybrid Air Vehicles, (United Kingdom), in partnership with Northrup Grumman, a $517 million contract was let by the U.S. Army to supply a Long-Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (below) for deployment in Afghanistan in 2012, just about when we would be leaving.  But Discovery Air Innovations (Canada), a private company, then agreed to purchase several of these dirigibles capable of lifting 50 tons.

There is the sperm blimp, a German-American effort for surveillance:

Lockheed Martin's P-791, to float at 20,000 feet, also for surveillance:

These are representative of the activity, but the one  I've long been following is the H2 Clipper (at one time to be called the Hawaiian Hydrogen Clipper when Hawaii was first explored as the headquarters to develop this aircraft).  Robert Colucci, left, is CEO, and Rinaldo Brutoco is the founder.  There are three special features that excite me:

1.  It might fly as fast as 350 MPH (which means that a flight from California will take less than 8 hours).

2.  There was original interest in linking with sustainable hydrogen produced using Puna geothermal resources, wind farms and OTEC plantships at sea.  Hawaii would thus export energy.

3.  The greatest attraction, though, is that this would be a passenger liner utilizing hydrogen and, over time, replacing the conventional jetliner.

My understanding is that discussions are proceeding with the Department Defense.

Thus, it took a decade to get the original hydrogen bill through Congress, resulting in the Matsunaga Hydrogen Research, Development and Demonstration Act of 1990.  Two decades after that, finally, the first signs of progress on sustainable hydrogen aviation.  Rinaldo indicates he can commercialize a next generation hydrogen aircraft in ten years.  I think it will take 30 years, but I want him to prove me wrong.  Here is this landmark legislation:


One Hundred First Congress of the United States of America

Begun and held at the City of Washington on Tuesday, the twenty-third day of January,
one thousand nine hundred and ninety
An Act

To establish the
Spark M. Matsunaga Hydrogen Research, Development, and Demonstration Program Act of 1990

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be referred to as the `Spark M. Matsunaga Hydrogen Research, Development, and Demonstration Act of 1990'.


(a) FINDING- Congress finds that it is in the national interest to accelerate efforts to develop a domestic capability to economically produce hydrogen in quantities that will make a significant contribution toward reducing the Nation's dependence on conventional fuels.
(b) PURPOSES- The purposes of this Act are--
(1) to direct the Secretary to prepare a comprehensive 5-year comprehensive program management plan that will identify and resolve critical technical issues necessary for the realization of a domestic capability to produce, distribute, and use hydrogen economically within the shortest time practicable;
(2) to direct the Secretary to develop a technology assessment and information transfer program among the Federal agencies and aerospace, transportation, energy, and other entities; and
(3) to develop renewable energy resources as a primary source of energy for the production of hydrogen.
(c) DEFINITION- As used in this Act, the term:
(1) `critical technology' (or `critical technical issue') means a technology (or issue) that, in the opinion of the Secretary, requires understanding and development in order to take the next needed step in the development of hydrogen as an economic fuel or storage medium; and
(2) `Secretary' means the Secretary of Energy.


(a) PLAN- The Secretary shall prepare a comprehensive 5-year program management plan for research and development activities, which shall be conducted over a period of no less than 5 years and shall be consistent with the provisions of sections 104 and 105. In the preparation of such plan, the Secretary shall consult with the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Secretary of Transportation, the Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel established under section 108, and the heads of such other Federal agencies and such public and private organizations as he deems appropriate. The plan shall be structured to identify and address areas of research critical to the realization of a domestic hydrogen production capability within the shortest time practicable.
(b) CONTENTS OF PLAN- Within 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall transmit the comprehensive program management plan to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate. Subsequent plans shall be incorporated in the management plan under this section. The plan shall include--
(1) a prioritization of research areas critical to the economic use of hydrogen as a fuel and energy storage medium;
(2) the program elements, management structure, and activities, including program responsibilities of individual agencies and individual institutional elements;
(3) the program strategies including technical milestones to be achieved toward specific goals during each fiscal year for all major activities and projects;
(4) the estimated costs of individual program items, including current as well as proposed funding levels for each of the 5 years of the plan for each of the participating agencies;
(5) a description of the methodology of coordination and technology transfer; and
(6) the proposed participation by industry and academia in the planning and implementation of the program.
(c) DEMONSTRATION PLAN- The Secretary shall, in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel established under section 108, also prepare a comprehensive large-scale hydrogen demonstration plan with respect to demonstrations carried out pursuant to section 105. Subsequent plans shall be incorporated in the management plan under this section. Such plan shall include--
(1) a description of the necessary research and development activities that must be completed before initiation of a large-scale hydrogen production and storage demonstration program;
(2) an assessment of the appropriateness of a large-scale demonstration immediately upon completion of the necessary research and development activities;
(3) an implementation schedule with associated budget and program management resource requirements; and
(4) a description of the role of the private sector in carrying out the demonstration program.


(a) PROGRAM- The Secretary shall conduct a research and development program, consistent with the comprehensive 5-year program management plan under section 103, to ensure the development of a domestic hydrogen fuel production capability within the shortest time practicable consistent with market conditions.
(b) RESEARCH- (1) Particular attention shall be given to developing an understanding and resolution of all critical technical issues preventing the introduction of hydrogen into the marketplace.
(2) The Secretary shall initiate research or accelerate existing research in critical technical issues that will contribute to the development of more economic hydrogen production and use, including, but not limited to, critical technical issues with respect to production, liquefaction, transmission, distribution, storage, and use (including use of hydrogen in surface transportation).
(c) RENEWABLE ENERGY PRIORITY- The Secretary shall give priority to those production techniques that use renewable energy resources as their primary source of energy for hydrogen production.
(d) NEW TECHNOLOGIES- The Secretary shall, for the purpose of performing his responsibilities pursuant to this Act, solicit proposals for and evaluate any reasonable new or improved technology that could lead or contribute to the development of economic hydrogen production storage and utilization.
(e) INFORMATION- The Secretary shall conduct evaluations, arrange for tests and demonstrations, and disseminate to developers information, data, and materials necessary to support efforts undertaken pursuant to this section, consistent with section 106.


(a) REQUIREMENT- The Secretary shall conduct demonstrations of critical technologies, preferably in self-contained locations, so that technical and non-technical parameters can be evaluated to best determine commercial applicability of the technology.
(b) SMALL-SCALE DEMONSTRATIONS- Concurrently with activities conducted pursuant to section 104, the Secretary shall conduct small-scale demonstrations of hydrogen technology at self-contained sites.


(a) PROGRAM- The Secretary shall conduct a program designed to accelerate wider application of hydrogen production, storage, utilization, and other technologies available in near term as a result of aerospace experience as well as other research progress by transferring critical technologies to the private sector. The Secretary shall direct the program with the advice and assistance of the Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel established under section 108. The objective in seeking this advice is to increase participation of private industry in the demonstration of near commercial applications through cooperative research and development arrangements, joint ventures or other appropriate arrangements involving the private sector.
(b) INFORMATION- The Secretary, in carrying out the program authorized by subsection (a), shall--
(1) undertake an inventory and assessment of hydrogen technologies and their commercial capability to economically produce, store, or utilize hydrogen in aerospace, transportation, electric utilities, petrochemical, chemical, merchant hydrogen, and other industrial sectors; and
(2) develop a National Aeronautics Space Administration, Department of Energy, and industry information exchange program to improve technology transfer for--
(A) application of aerospace experience by industry;
(B) application of research progress by industry and aerospace;
(C) application of commercial capability of industry by aerospace; and
(D) expression of industrial needs to research organizations.
The information exchange program may consist of workshops, publications, conferences, and a data base for the use by the public and private sectors.


(a) SECRETARY'S RESPONSIBILITY- The Secretary shall have overall management responsibility for carrying out programs under this Act. In carrying out such programs, the Secretary, consistent with such overall management responsibility--
(1) shall use the expertise of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Transportation; and
(2) may use the expertise of any other Federal agency in accordance with subsection (b) in carrying out any activities under this title, to the extent that the Secretary determines that any such agency has capabilities which would allow such agency to contribute to the purpose of this Act.
(b) ASSISTANCE- The Secretary may, in accordance with subsection (a), obtain the assistance of any department, agency, or instrumentality of the Executive branch of the Federal Government upon written request, on a reimbursable basis or otherwise and with the consent of such department, agency, or instrumentality. Each such request shall identify the assistance the Secretary deems necessary to carry out any duty under this Act.
(c) CONSULTATION- The Secretary shall consult with the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Secretary of Transportation, and the Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel established under section 108 in carrying out his authorities pursuant to this Act.


(a) ESTABLISHMENT- There is hereby established the Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel (the `technical panel'), to advise the Secretary on the programs under this Act.
(b) MEMBERSHIP- The technical panel shall be appointed by the Secretary and shall be comprised of such representatives from domestic industry, universities, professional societies, Government laboratories, financial, environmental, and other organizations as the Secretary deems appropriate based on his assessment of the technical and other qualifications of such representatives. Appointments to the technical panel shall be made within 90 days after the enactment of this Act. The technical panel shall have a chairman, who shall be elected by the members from among their number.
(c) COOPERATION- The heads of the departments, agencies, and instrumentalities of the Executive branch of the Federal Government shall cooperate with the technical panel in carrying out the requirements of this section and shall furnish to the technical panel such information as the technical panel deems necessary to carry out this section.
(d) REVIEW- The technical panel shall review and make any necessary recommendations to the Secretary on the following items--
(1) the implementation and conduct of programs under this Act;
(2) the economic, technological, and environmental consequences of the deployment of hydrogen production and use systems; and
(3) comments on and recommendations for improvements in the comprehensive 5-year program management plan required under section 103.
(e) SUPPORT- The Secretary shall provide such staff, funds and other support as may be necessary to enable the technical panel to carry out the functions described in this section.


There is hereby authorized to be appropriated to carry out the purposes of this Act (in addition to any amounts made available for such purposes to other Acts)--
(1) $3,000,000 for the fiscal year 1992;
(2) $7,000,000 for the fiscal year 1993; and
(3) $10,000,000 for the fiscal year 1994.
Passed the Senate October 16 (legislative day, October 2), 1990.
Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Vice President of the United States and
President of the Senate. 


I became chairman of the U.S. Secretary of Energy's Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel soon after passage, following Jim Birk of EPRI, and that budget indicated just above pretty much came to pass.  Hydrogen advocates were so successful that incredibly enough, from zero, fifteen years later, the funding for hydrogen became larger than that of solar energy technology.

The Dow Jones Industrials leaped 276 (+2.5%) to 11,415, with world markets also mostly up, and Europe between 3 and 4%.  Gold, as would then be expected, crashed $54/toz to $1821, while the WTI Cushing rose to $89/barrel and Brent Spot to $116/barrel.

Tropical Storm Kulap at 45 MPH will move through Okinawa and head for South Korea, but not expected to strengthen much.  Some interesting action in the Atlantic, as Hurricane Katia, at 80 MPH, will maintain this strength for the rest of the week, but move northeast to miss land.  Tropical Storm Maria, at 50 MPH, will for the next few days move along the path of Irene, but should not attain hurricane strength and will probably move north, also keeping away from the Eastern coastline.  Finally, Tropical Storm Nate, at 45 MPH west of Yucatan in the Gulf of Mexico, will get to hurricane strength soon and early next week make landfall, probably near Tampico, well south of Texas.


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