The Believers

Daniel Emmett: Hydrogen Hero

Dec 1, 2005
Outside Magazine


IT'S THE LIGHTEST, MOST ABUNDANT ELEMENT IN THE UNIVERSE, can be derived from a stalk of celery or a lump of coal, is twice as efficient as gasoline, and has only two by-products: water vapor and heat. No wonder hydrogen is the next big thing in alternative fuels—and car-crazed California is its testing ground. Leading the charge is Daniel Emmett, 36-year-old cofounder of the Santa Barbara–based nonprofit Energy Independence Now. In 2001 Emmett partnered with green politico Terry Tamminen to create a network of hydrogen-fuel stations along California's 45,000 miles of roadway. They pitched the idea to anyone willing to listen; in 2004 Governor Schwarzenegger pledged support, ponying up $6.5 million in state funding in 2005. Now there are 17 hydrogen stations across the state, and Emmett is pushing for a total of 100 by 2010 as part of a larger effort to reduce petroleum dependency and cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent. It's a tall order: There are currently only 70 hydrogen test vehicles on California roads (though the major auto manufacturers are racing to develop new fuel-cell technologies), and Emmett estimates he'll need another $54 million. But the hydrogen revolution has to start somewhere. "If we don't do something today," says Emmett, "it'll always be 30 or 40 years off."