Former Congressman, Robert S. Walker, resigned this month from the federal government's Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technical Advisory Committee (HTAC). Walker's resignation letter was frank. The resignation was, perhaps, not surprising as a prior member had already resigned (Byron McCormick) and the HTAC’s March 2011 message to the Department of Energy was submitted with "some dismay." The stated concern is that the Obama Administration is cutting funding and publicly questioning the viability of making fuel cells a priority, suggesting they are a "distant dream." Some leaders in the electric vehicle industry have also been critical of fuel cell viability. However, other countries seem to continue to push ahead on fuel cell vehicles. So will the United States fall behind in this sector?
Nanotechnology is an integral technology for both batteries and fuel cells. 11% of the class 977 patent publications as of April 14, 2011 mention batteries, although only 4% mention fuel cells. Nevertheless, fewer fuel cell patent publications (141) mention the term in the abstract, title, or claims compared to battery patent publications (215). Both are clearly important applications of nanotechnology in the cleantech space.
On a personal note, Bob Walker was my Congressman as I grew up in Pennsylvania. We heard him regularly on the radio, for example, as we ate breakfast. He has been a respected contributor to government policies and science over the years.
Time will tell to what extent the United States falls behind the rest of the world in this sector by not prioritizing fuel cells.