Friday, February 27, 2004
1. THE HYDROGEN INITIATIVE: WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO MAKE IT WORK?
Two years ago, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham announced the "Freedom Car" program (WN 18 Jan 02). It was supposed to stimulate development of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, freeing us from reliance on foreign oil. The big auto makers pledged their support, but something was missing. A year later, President Bush announced a $1.2B Hydrogen Initiative to produce Freedom Fuel to run the Freedom Car. The plan calls for competitive use of hydrogen in commercial transportation by 2020. Huge performance gaps in hydrogen engines, production and storage must be overcome for this to happen. It is likely that the early phases of any hydrogen economy will rely on production methods that use fossil fuels (WN 31 Jan 03). On Monday, a report critiquing the Hydrogen Initiative, prepared by the APS Panel on Public Affairs, will be released.
2. ITER: NEGOTIATION DEADLOCKED ON LOCATION OF FUSION FACILITY.
What happened? Did I pick up an old newspaper? Or maybe I just regained consciousness after 20 years in a coma, but the ITER soap opera seems awfully familiar. In 1992, when it came down to Japan, Germany, or the USA, the Solomonic decision was to chop it into three pieces (WN 31 Jul 92). The baby did not survive the dismemberment. The decision of the US to once again enter into negotiations on ITER was announced by Spencer Abraham in a speech a year ago at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (WN 31 Jan 03). He dreamed of fusion plants producing hydrogen "to power hundreds of millions of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles." The deadlock in picking a site this time is between Rokkasho, Japan and a European Union site in Cadarache, France, with the US backing Japan. Well, you didn’t expect the US to back a site in France did you? Another gathering will be held in Vienna next month.
3. FIRST AMENDMENT: SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS SECULAR SCHOLARSHIP.
The case involved a Washington State scholarship program that specifically excludes students preparing for the ministry. The 7-2 decision was widely regarded as a setback for advocates of using publicly financed vouchers to pay for religious school tuition. The case also has implications for President Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative that would allow church organizations to compete for government programs.