The hydrogen-fueled engines built and tested by students at the East Valley Institute of Technology should be the wave of the future, said Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., during a tour of the Mesa facility Wednesday as part of a campaign swing through Arizona.
But unless President Bush is thrown out of office next year, Lieberman said, hydrogen technology will remain largely in the classroom while the United States becomes even more reliant on fossil fuels.
As one of nine Democratic candidates for president, Lieberman finished a two-day campaign swing across the state with a visit Wednesday morning to EVIT, 1601 W. Main St. Lieberman met with high school students and teachers who convert common gasoline engines on cars and lawn mowers to burn hydrogen.
Solar cells can be used to generate electricity that in turn splits apart water molecules to create hydrogen and oxygen, said Roy McAllister, an EVIT teacher and president of the American Hydrogen Association. Converted engines burn the hydrogen as fuel, releasing none of the pollutants associated with gasoline and other petroleum fuels.
"The process is so effective it actually cleans the air," McAllister said as he demonstrated three engine models for Lieberman.
EVIT officials were excited to host Lieberman for about an hour.
Superintendent Sally Downey said the personal attention of a presidential candidate was a big boost to the school and its hydrogen class.
"Once they are educated and understand the depth and the opportunities that can come out of this program, then more people will get behind it and embrace it," Downey said.
In a speech after the campus tour, Lieberman said hydrogen is the key to ending the United States' dependence on foreign oil, as well as reducing pollution and slowing the buildup of atmospheric greenhouse gases. But Bush's national energy plan, now stalled in the Senate, would cut hydrogen research by $1 billion a year and would provide unwise subsidies to petroleum and natural gas suppliers, Lieberman said.
Lieberman said his own energy plan would save 2 million barrels of oil a day by 2015 by raising auto fuel economy standards. The senator also wants to spend $15 billion in the next decade to develop a commercially viable method of turning coal and natural gas into hydrogen. An additional $6.5 billion would be used to place 100,000 hydrogen fuel vehicles on the road by 2010, increasing to 2.5 million vehicles by 2020, Lieberman said.