During the last three years, we have seen an explosion of electric vehicles on Utah’s roads. In fact, so many Utahns have recently purchased electric cars that a bill has been introduced raising registration fee on electric vehicles. Even though these thousands of new cars on Utah roads running on electricity undoubtedly help our air quality, most electricity, as everyone knows, is still produced in a way that will not.
If electric cars are not the future, then what is? The answer is simple: hydrogen.
Hydrogen, our “energy of the future,” whether used in a fuel cell or burned to create heat, does actually emit an “exhaust.” However, that exhaust is nothing more than simple water vapor.
As Utah takes steps towards adopting hydrogen energy, we will set an example to the world of how to not only address air quality, but how to both create jobs while safeguarding our natural resources and strengthening economic opportunities for all Utahns.
Utah is poised to be a leader in showing how we can apply conservative principles to being good stewards of our environment. This is why during my first year as a state legislator, the legislature passed bipartisan legislation allocating $30 million in funding clear air initiatives that included a wood burning stove conversion program, electric vehicle charging stations, telework programs for state employees, air quality research development, and more.
This year I am specifically focusing my legislative efforts on hydrogen-fueled technologies. I’m proud that the legislature is currently working to add hydrogen powered forklifts at the new Inland Port, new backup generators at the University of Utah, and hydrogen powered buses and generators are the new Salt Lake International Airport.
I have just sponsored HB223 (Alternative Fuel Incentives Amendments) to bring parity for the use of hydrogen fuel cells with other fuel sources like petroleum. I have been lucky enough to see firsthand the revolutionary potential of hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cell industry right here in Utah, working with local companies like Power Innovations, which operates just outside of Salt Lake City. At Power Innovations, hardworking Utahns are pushing the boundaries in developing hydrogen technologies that have applications in industries across the economic spectrum.
Working with them and other industry leaders, I was proud to help host the 2020 Utah and Western Region Hydrogen Forum, which brought together an array of clean energy technology companies, organizations, and other stakeholders to discuss ongoing efforts to grow Utah’s daily hydrogen production from 1,000 kilograms to 100,000 kilograms over the next few years while significantly increasing storage capacity.
I’m proud of how far Republican leaders have come on these issues at the state level, and will continue to support bipartisan efforts to develop clean energy and alternative fuels that will enable us to continue building on this progress.
I’m also proud of how Congress worked together to pass the first major energy legislative package in more than a decade. The Energy Act of 2020, passed as part of the omnibus spending bill lawmakers passed at the end of last year, dedicated $35 billion to a range of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and clean energy technology initiatives nationwide. Not only is this good news for American innovation and our clean energy transition, but it signifies that lawmakers of both parties are ready to work together to address the clean energy issues that impact us all.
There is still much work left to do on this front. If Utah is going to continue to address the air quality concerns facing our communities while building a stronger, more resilient economy, then investments in clean energy and alternative fuels will be critical. I am confident that Utah’s elected officials in Congress, such as Senator Romney, will continue to act in the same spirit of bipartisanship that helped get the Energy Act of 2020 across the finish line, focusing on clean energy solutions that invest in and strengthen our state and national clean energy infrastructure.
State Representative Melissa G. Ballard is a member of the Utah House of Representatives, representing Utah’s 20th District.