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Bush freedom fuel criticised

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The Bush Administration's 2004 budget includes large increases for hydrogen research and development (R&D), dubbed in typical fashion by the administration as the FreedomFuel Initiative. It is committing $1.7 billion over the next five years to hydrogen R&D, which focuses most heavily on developing what the administration calls the "Freedom Car" by 2005. It also looks at how to develop a future hydrogen economy filled with fuel cells.

The hydrogen spending advocated by the government of President George Bush's budget, however, comes at the expense of renewables and energy efficiency, according to an Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) budget analysis. While the total budget for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) rises by only 1% from 2003, budgets within EERE have been cut to pay for Bush's hydrogen initiative, which is not based on renewables. Spending by EERE for hydrogen research will increase by more than 49%, causing the office to move $83.7 million or about 7.3% of its renewable energy and conservation budget in 2004 to that research. Wind, biomass and geothermal research all lose some money, but the biggest bite, almost $73 million, comes out of EERE's energy efficiency funds.

Most of the research proposed by Bush for hydrogen production is aimed at traditional fuel sources -- gas, coal and nuclear -- with little money going to producing hydrogen from renewable energy sources, such as wind. The Bush FreedomFuel Initiative could have the overall effect of creating a hydrogen economy with the same old fossil fuels. Rather than reduce overall CO2 levels worldwide, critics argue, the president's hydrogen initiative would only shift pollution from one activity to another.

"Unless hydrogen is produced using clean energy sources -- not coal and nuclear power as the Bush plan proposes -- our country's security will be further undermined with increased nuclear waste and accelerated global warming," Greenpeace says. It challenges Bush to create a clean energy future now with renewable energy, not decades in the future.

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