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Bush Touts Hydrogen, Pushes for Energy Bill

WASHINGTON -- Hydrogen is "the wave of the future," President George W. Bush said Wednesday during a visit to a Shell hydrogen fueling station in Washington, D.C.

The clean fuel offers the United States a road away from its increasing dependence on foreign oil, said Bush, who again called on Congress to pass a comprehensive energy bill.

"Congress has been talking too long about the energy bill," Bush said. "I'm getting a little tired of waiting … for the sake of energy independence, they've got to get me a bill."

The energy bill includes support for the president's $1.2 billion hydrogen initiative, which aims to make it practical and cost effective for U.S. consumers to use hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles by 2020.

The House passed its version of the legislation last month -- the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is working through its mark-up this week.

The hydrogen pump tested by Bush is the first installed at a retail gas station in North America. It was installed last November by Shell and General Motors to provide a venue for demonstrations to federal lawmakers and officials.

"This is the beginning of some fantastic technology [but] it won't happen overnight," Bush said. "It is going to take a fair amount of research and development to make sure hydrogen is attractive and reasonable -- is able to be manufactured at reasonable price, distributed in a wide way for consumer satisfaction."

Current hydrogen fuel costs are about twice the cost of premium gasoline but is about twice as energy efficient and far less polluting.

"We've got work to do," Bush acknowledged. "No one thinks this technology is going to overwhelm our society in the immediate term.

"The key is that we're now putting things in place today, making investments today, encouraging development of alternative sources of energy today, that will help transform our energy mix for tomorrow," Bush said.

As a sign of support for Bush's hydrogen plan, the U.S. Energy Department on Wednesday disbursed $64 million for hydrogen research and development projects.

The administration also announced a partnership between the U.S. Departments of Energy and Agriculture to support efforts to turn biomass into hydrogen.

Other U.S. leaders are pushing for a hydrogen future: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to unveil a five-year, $54 million plan to build a network of some 100 hydrogen-fueling stations. The plan calls for matching funds and state grants to spark the construction of the fueling stations.

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