Subject: A Letter to the Editor

Date: Wed, 9 Jan 2002 13:09:16 -0500

From: Berol ROBINSON <101556.1577[at]>

To: International Herald Tribune <>


Regarding "GM's Creation Rewrites Rules of Auto Design" January 9th, page 10,

by Frank Swobeda, Washington Post Service.


This article propagates the widely held misperception that the

"hydrogen-fuel-cell economy" will reduce our need for fossil fuels to run our

automobiles: just buy a fuel-cell car and, Presto!, no more carbon dioxide.

It is not so.


Hydrogen-fuel-cell technology will not in itself lessen our dependence on

foreign oil, because hydrogen does not exist in nature; it is not a source of

energy to be mined (like coal) or to be pumped out of wells (like oil and

gas). It must be manufactured, and the process of making hydrogen requires

energy. To the extent that the energy comes from conventional power stations

fueled by oil or gas, we would still be dependent on imported fossil fuel.


On the other hand, the production of hydrogen by nuclear energy, wind turbines

and solar cells would indeed free us from imported oil.



The improvement of the environment attributed to the fuel cell - the only

tailpipe emission from hydrogen propulsion is water - can be achieved only by

using using nuclear, wind and solar energy. If the energy to make hydrogen

comes from burning coal or oil or natural gas, the emission of polluting gases

like CO2 is merely transferred from the tailpipe to the smokestack.



A constant reader



Berol ROBINSON e-Mail: berol[at]


The writer is an American physicist (PhD Hopkins '53) and environmentalist.

Until retiring he was a science officer at the Paris headquarters of UNESCO.

He is a member of the French not-for-profit international "Association des

Ecologistes Pour le Nucleaire." Website <>