NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Hydrogen Fuel Cells Could Hurt Ozone

July 28, 2003

New hydrogen fuel cells could help deplete the ozone layer because large amounts of leaked hydrogen would enter the stratosphere, according to researchers at the California Institute of Technology.

According to the report:

  • If hydrogen replaced fossil fuels completely, about 10 to 20 percent of the hydrogen would leak from pipelines, storage facilities, processing plants and fuel cells.
  • Resulting ozone depletion could be as much as eight percent.
  • However, with advanced warnings of problems, energy analysts could create a hydrogen energy infrastructure to reduce leaks and protect the ozone.

Nejat Veziroglu (International Association for Hydrogen Energy) says that hydrogen leakage will be much less than what the Cal Tech researchers estimate. Because hydrogen is a developing fuel technology, scientists aren't sure to what extent it will affect the environment. Some leaking hydrogen could be absorbed in the soil instead of the atmosphere.

Although hydrogen-fueled cars are probably still decades away, President Bush has made hydrogen energy research a central part of his energy plan, and Congress has plans to appropriate more than $3 billion into research over the next five years.

Source: H. Josef Hebert, "Group: Hydrogen Fuel Cells May Hurt Ozone," Associated Press, June 12, 2003.


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