July 16, 2018
Other Voices

Nor’easters underscore need for greenhouse gas action

Ole Hoefelmann

New England is no stranger to cold winters or snowstorms, but even the most seasoned residents of the Northeast would be hard-pressed to remember a series of winter storms like this year brought.

While the issue of greenhouse gases contributing to these kinds of erratic weather phenomena have become something of a political football, science tells us that it's happening and we need to take action.

Jennifer Francis, a research professor in the department of marine and coastal sciences at Rutgers University, recently wrote about how climate change is leading to more extreme weather, including the recent Northeast winter storms. She predicted that weather patterns will only continue to get more erratic in the area (and globally) unless we finally get serious about addressing issues like greenhouse gas emissions.

So what can we do? Fortunately, alternative fuels are finally beginning to gather momentum as a viable option compared with fossil fuels — and to continue that trend, Air Liquide is excited to announce that we are collaborating with Toyota to open the first of 12 hydrogen fueling stations in the Northeast, including one right here in Hartford.

This network of hydrogen fueling stations will span approximately 300 miles across five states, supporting the introduction of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) throughout the region. Why FCEVs? For equal distance traveled, these hydrogen cars allow for the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent compared with a traditional internal combustion vehicle. It's a big step toward greener mobility.

The stations we're designing and installing are capable of fueling a hydrogen-powered vehicle in just three to five minutes — comparable to the time it takes to fill an internal combustion engine, and much shorter than the 60 minutes it takes to charge a plug-in electric vehicle. This shorter fuel time helps bring the convenience of alternative fuels in line with gas and diesel.

Put simply, that translates to an easier choice for Hartford residents to get around without contributing to climate change. Since FCEVs enjoy a 300-mile range before refuelling, our network of public fueling stations at locations across the region will help finally make clean transportation convenient for real people in their day-to-day lives. As we continue to add more stations, hydrogen will continue to advance in practicality.

You may be wondering where all the hydrogen will come from to power these stations. Is it sustainable?

Hydrogen is a naturally occurring resource that can be produced from a range of energy sources, including from water using electricity from wind turbines, solar power or other renewable sources. We've made a commitment at Air Liquide to produce at least 50 percent of all hydrogen necessary for energy applications through carbon-free processes by 2020.

There are already over 5,500 hydrogen-powered electric cars on the road, and that number should more than double this year, which already represents a significant increase compared to just a couple of years ago. It perhaps shouldn't come as a surprise that people are expected to welcome a safe, convenient transportation alternative that helps reduce pollution and lessen dependence on polluting fuels.

Here in the Northeast, we can prove to the rest of the country — and to the world — that hydrogen represents a smart and convenient solution to the challenge of clean transportation. The availability of FCEVs and hydrogen fuel stations represent an excellent opportunity for Hartford residents to take meaningful action to reverse climate change.

Ole Hoefelmann is CEO of Air Liquide Advanced Technologies U.S. LLC and vice president, Americas at Air Liquide Advanced Business and Technologies.

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