Publication Detail

Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies: A Focus on Hydrogen



Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (STEPS)

Suggested Citation:
Ogden, Joan M. (2009) Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies: A Focus on Hydrogen. Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies--A Focus on Hydrogen

When it comes to energy security and climate change concerns, transportation is the principal culprit. It consumes half the oil used in the world and accounts for almost one-fourth of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In the United States, it plays an even larger role, consuming two-thirds of the oil and causing about onethird of the GHG emissions. Vehicles, planes, and ships remain almost entirely dependent on petroleum. Efforts to replace petroleum—usually for energy security reasons but also to reduce local air pollution—have recurred through history, with little success.

The United States and the world have caromed from one alternative to another, some gaining more attention than others, but each one faltering. These included methanol, compressed and liquefied natural gas, battery electric vehicles, coal liquids, and hydrogen. In the United States, the fuel du jour four years ago was hydrogen; two years ago it was corn ethanol; now it is electricity for use in plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Worldwide, the only non-petroleum fuels that have gained significant market share are sugar ethanol in Brazil and corn ethanol in the United States. With the exception of sugar ethanol in Brazil, petroleum’s dominance has never been seriously threatened anywhere since taking root nearly a century ago.