Hydrogen is an energy carrier able to be produced from domestic, zero-carbon sources and consumed by zero-pollution devices. A transition to a hydrogen-based economy could therefore potentially respond to climate, air quality, and energy security concerns. In a hydrogen economy, both mobile and stationary energy needs could be met through the reaction of hydrogen (H2) with oxygen (O2). This study applies a full fuel cycle approach to quantify the energy, greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), and cost implications associated with a large transition to hydrogen in the United States. It explores a national and four metropolitan area transitions in two contrasting policy contexts: a "business-as-usual" (BAU) context with continued reliance on fossil fuels, and a "GHG-constrained" context with policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A transition in either policy context faces serious challenges, foremost among them from the highly inertial investments over the past century or so in technology and infrastructure based on petroleum, natural gas, and coal. A hydrogen transition in the USA could contribute to an effective response to climate change by helping to achieve deep reductions in GHG emissions by mid-century across all sectors of the economy; however, these reductions depend on the use of hydrogen to exploit clean, zero-carbon energy supply options. ?? 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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