Friday, April 24, 2009

Hydrogenated Hempstead

Hydrogen Fueling Station Planned For Point Lookout

As per the most recent missive from Hempstead Town, via four-page, full-color Murraygram, Long Island's first hydrogen fuel station is slated to be built, this summer, in Point Lookout.

The idea: To demonstrate hydrogen energy technology, educate residents, and allow scientists to evaluate the practical potential of developing hydrogen-based fuel.

The projected cost: $2 million.

"Oh, the humanity." Doesn't Hempstead Supervisor remember the Hindenburg? Wait a minute. That was Helium. Never mind.

What about the hydrogen bomb? Talk about creating a blight upon America's largest township!

But seriously, folks, a hydrogen fueling station? What vehicles are we fueling, and at what cost?

Efficiency isn't exactly the word that comes to mind when we observe how the Town of Hempstead operates -- from its blunderbuss approach to suburban renewal to its hands-off wink-and-nod to the local special taxing districts that do business under the town's name and auspicies.

And yet, when it comes to energy technology, Hempstead Town, and, yes, Supervisor Kate Murray, have often been on the leading edge.

True, its been more showmanship and media play than anything else -- from the solar panels atop town hall that power the Supervisor's fridge, to the modified electric golf carts that town employees scoot around in -- but its a start, and a rather good one at that.

From e-cycling to Mercury recycling, humane geese control to, dare we say, Nigerian goats, the Town of Hempstead has led the charge for change in alternate energy and environmental responsibility.

That, even we must admit, is a tremendous feather in Supervisor Murray's cap, and kudos are due, both to her and the Town Board, for innovative programs that, at least in theory, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and promote a cleaner, more sustainable environment.

But a hydrogen fueling station?

The NYS Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) is fronting $1 million of the tab, with National Grid, the Island's gas supplier, chipping in with grant money and tax credits. The Town of Hempstead -- meaning, we, the taxpayers -- will foot the balance of the bill.

With the state in deficit mode and National Grid already surcharging ratepayers to debt by the therm, is this the way tax dollars should be spent? And have you looked at your local property tax bill lately?

And what of the cost of creating hydrogen fuel and safe, efficient fuel cells, and the energy needed to turn hydrogen into harmless H2O? When all is said and done, it could cost more, in today's dollars, to fuel vehicles on hydrogen than it does to run them on petrol.

Is the potential benefit of exploring the development of hydrogen fuel and its possible application as a fossil fuel alternative worth the risk and the cost?


Progress, of any kind, entails at least a modicum of risk, and the potential benefits -- including what we might learn from this technology even if the hydrogen fuel experiment should itself ultimately fail -- makes the cost palatable, if not entirely reasonable, even in these tough economic times.

As always, the cost of doing nothing -- standing still and taking no chances, let alone spearheading bold, creative initiatives -- is far greater than the risk of trying something new.

Stepping out of a zero-emission, hydrogen-powered car is, for Kate Murray -- and any politician, for that matter -- more ploy than play. That said, we have to doff our caps to the Town Supervisor on moving forward with progressive and inventive measures that not only keep the town ahead of the curve in terms of environmental stewardship, but also, as Ms. Murray herself said, "...contribute in a meaningful way toward the goals of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels..."

The Town of Hempstead hydrogen fueling station, politics and pandering aside, is more than mere fuel for thought. Its a small step in this generation's giant leap forward into this, our 21st Century.

1 comment:

  1. CORRECTION: The Hindenburg was fueled by hydrogen, NOT helium. Modern airships get their lift from helium. Hmmm.

    Look up in the sky! Its a bird. Its a blimp. Its Kate Murray! "Oh, the humanity..."