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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

March 19, 2007 at 10:56 AM

West Coast energy partnership: Where are Washington and Oregon?

Today’s news that British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell is going green and teaming up with California governator Arnold Schwarzenegger begs a question about the 600 miles in between them.

The so-called Hydrogen Highway hasn’t merited much of a response from Oregon and Washington. Representatives of the two states apparently were not in the meetings where the partnership was drafted. The plan entails building a series of hydrogen fuel stations along the West Coast from British Columbia to San Diego, serving a population of about 60 million people.

One B.C. company that could reap the benefits is fuel-cell maker Ballard Power Systems.

Once considered little more than a pipe dream, hydrogen power along the left coast seems a bit closer to reality. Both British Columbia and California have now started funding the construction of fuel stations.

But some question whether all the hype is justified by real science. As an alternative fuel, hydrogen is not without problems. Hydrogen goes a long way toward reducing pollution that contributes to greenhouse gas, since the only byproducts of the clean-burning engines are water and heat. The problem is that a lot of energy is used in the making of hydrogen itself, a process that requires a significant amount of electricity, often through the burning of fossil fuels.

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