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Biggert Presses for Alternative Energy Legislation

Location: Naperville, IL

Biggert Presses for Alternative Energy Legislation

U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13th), Chairman of the House Science Subcommittee on Energy, today toured a hydrogen fuel cell bus and pressed for passage of her alternative energy bill, H.R. 5656.

"We need options if we are to end our addiction to oil and gas. Hydrogen and fuel cells are promising options, as demonstrated by this unique bus," said Biggert. "However technical obstacles remain, including safe and inexpensive ways to store hydrogen onboard vehicles. These obstacles can only be overcome by additional research like that supported by H.R. 5656."

Joining Northern Illinois University (NIU) officials and students at the NIU Naperville campus, Biggert toured a fuel cell bus developed by the Advanced Vehicle Development program at Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C.

The goal of the fuel-cell bus tour was to highlight ongoing work at NIU to create stronger, more durable and less expensive fuel cells. Researchers at NIU work closely with a research team at Argonne National Laboratory. Biggert and House Speaker Dennis Hastert have helped secure $1.5 million in federal funding to support the work of the NIU/Argonne Joint Fuel Cell Project.

"By supporting research at places like NIU and Argonne, I am confident our scientists and engineers will find practical solutions that will allow us to do more than ‘tour' a fuel cell bus, but instead to ride one everyday."

Instead of gasoline or diesel fuel, fuel cell buses use a system of hydrogen fuel cells to power the bus. Hydrogen can be obtained from just about anything, including nuclear power and renewables like biomass, landfill gas, and methane. Fuel cells use hydrogen as fuel to produce electricity without any emissions. Water and heat are the only byproducts, and when both the heat and the electricity are used, fuel cells can obtain more than 80 percent efficiency.

Section Six of Biggert's H.R. 5656 supports the research and development of Advanced Hydrogen Storage Technologies. This section builds upon and gives new direction to the extensive hydrogen program created as part of the Energy Policy Act (EPACT) of 2005. More specifically, Section Six focuses research on the development of hydrogen storage technologies that would allow a hydrogen-powered light-duty vehicle to get 300 miles on a tank of hydrogen, similar to today's automobiles.

H.R. 5656 passed the House Science Committee in June and now awaits consideration by the full House. In addition to authorizing research and development (R&D) on hydrogen storage, the bill also authorizes the development of:
• Biofuels from cellulosic feedstocks, or feedstocks other than corn;
• New materials and technologies to minimize the cost and environmental impact and maximize the efficiency of solar and wind power;
• Clean coal technologies, including carbon sequestration, and demonstrating the first zero emissions coal-fired power plant; and
• Advanced nuclear fuel cycle technologies that will safely reduce the volume and toxicity of nuclear waste - and the amount of time it needs to be isolated and monitored - by recycling it back into fuel for nuclear power plants.

The bill also contains sections:
• Providing incentives for the construction of energy efficient buildings
• Offering grants to cities to deploy solar cells and purchase Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles; which can travel 20 to 40 miles without using gasoline;
• Establishing a "cooperative extension" program to encourage the use of advanced energy technologies, patterned after the successful agricultural extension programs that aided farmers in incorporating advanced technologies in food production.

"The tour was an exciting opportunity to get a first-hand look at one of the most promising energy technologies under development," said Promod Vohra, dean of NIU College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. "The efforts of NIU researchers, who are working with some of the top people in this field at Argonne National Laboratory, will no doubt make fuel cells a clean and dependable source of energy in the not-so-distant future."

Biggert held a field hearing in Naperville earlier this year to initiate dialogue and raise local awareness about seeking and developing other sources of energy.

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