Morelle, Business Consortium Call for Major Hydrogen Fuel Cell Initiative to Boost State Economy

June 7, 2011

A consortium organized by Assemblyman Joseph D. Morelle, D-Irondequoit, consisting of energy producers, business leaders and the world’s largest auto makers today hosted a demonstration of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and made the case for a public-private partnership placing New York State at the vanguard of this burgeoning alternative energy field.

The consortium, whose members include representatives from General Motors, Toyota, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, and Hess Corporation, released a position paper proposing an alliance between state government and the private sector that will generate jobs, lead to breakthroughs in hydrogen technology and establish a “hydrogen highway” infrastructure in New York. (Copy attached.)

Today’s vehicle demonstration was the capstone of a two-day consortium meeting held in Albany. The fuel cell cars, provided by General Motors, Toyota, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz, were driven by lawmakers on a course around the capitol complex.

“At a moment when Americans are paying near-record prices for gas, the need to accelerate our search for less costly, environmentally sound energy is abundantly clear,” said Morelle, who brought the consortium together last December. “The potential in terms of economic growth is an important motivation for New York, but reducing our dependence on foreign oil is the truly compelling long-term goal. This is the time to seize opportunities and move forward.”

According to the group’s study, states such as California and Hawaii have already seized this initiative, making it more imperative that New York capitalize on its own advantages in this arena. There are numerous commercial and academic facilities and power plants around the state where hydrogen-based research is underway or which could be easily adapted to that purpose.

“These already existing assets can all be a part of the most advanced hydrogen supply infrastructure in the nation, if strategically utilized,” the report states, adding that New York might be transformed by this energy revolution just as northern California was by the silicon chip a generation ago.

Morelle said his interest in hydrogen fuel cell development was sparked in part by the tandem research done by General Motors and Rochester Institute of Technology, and by a seminar series he recently hosted at RIT in which nationally prominent economists talked about the need for greater public investment in technological innovation.

In his 2005 report, Creating a State of Innovation: Unleashing the Power of New York’s Entrepreneurial Economy, Morelle argued for a joining of government and business as a means of advancing research and expanding the state’s job market.

"General Motors believes New York State is ideally positioned to capitalize on the coming hydrogen economy with its abundance of natural resources, renewable energy supply, environmental leadership, local fuel cell expertise, and strong government support,” said Daniel O’Connell, General Motors Director of Advanced Vehicle Demonstration Programs. “The collaboration between the original equipment manufacturers, energy providers, universities, and government on this initiative demonstrates that New York can be a leader in this economic and environmental effort."

"I would like to thank Joe Morelle for bringing together this group meeting on hydrogen fuel cell technologies,” said Dan Maloney, President of United Auto Workers Local 1097 in Rochester. “As an advocate for workers and state taxpayers, I see a huge potential for job growth in the fuel cell industry. Other states, regions, and nations are developing the infrastructure for the coming hydrogen economy. We designed and refined fuel cells here, and we should benefit from our own invention. For the economic health of our state and nation, we need to get this done.”

“The work being done here has the potential to make New York and the US leading global competitors in this emerging market,” said Matt Fronk, formerly the Director for Fuel Cell Research and Development at GM’s Honeoye Falls facility and now a consultant in the fuel cell field. “It is a matter of connecting the dots that already exist to make this a reality. As a lifelong resident of New York I believe we can win this competition, but it’s also ours to lose if we don’t act now.”

“The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority looks forward to working with our partners in government and the private sector to develop a strategy to encourage the utilization of fuel cell technology in the transportation sector,” said Francis J. Murray, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer of NYSERDA. “We applaud Assemblyman Morelle’s leadership in organizing this public-private partnership, which has the potential to create good-paying jobs, strengthen our environment, and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.”

“The creation of hydrogen infrastructure is critical to the successful market launch of fuel cell vehicles," said Kevin Kinnaw, National Manager of Regulatory Affairs for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. "Toyota applauds the efforts of the State of New York to spur infrastructure development and looks forward to continued collaboration on the road to a hydrogen economy."

With its recent advances in infrastructure announced in California and Michigan, Air Products believes New York State is perfectly positioned to further develop its hydrogen infrastructure to support the deployment of fuel cell vehicles, according to Bob Kelly, Business Development Manager at Air Products, the largest global manufacturer of hydrogen and the company responsible for more US hydrogen infrastructure than any other.

“New York has the opportunity to use the success stories learnt over a great many years from other parts of the US to build a showcase infrastructure and Air Products is privileged to be part of this initiative," Kelly said.

“Real and impactful solutions to our nation's energy, environmental and national security issues are within commercial reach,” said Michael McGowan, head of Government Affairs for Linde NA, Inc.

“To realize our shared goals, it is essential that auto manufacturers, hydrogen and infrastructure suppliers and federal and state governments move forward with strong public-private partnerships like the one we hope to form in New York State. Linde is proud and excited to be part of New York's hydrogen effort.”

“Proton OnSite is committed to the deployment of hydrogen fueling infrastructure, in support of the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle commercial roll-out plans, said Mark Schiller, Vice President of Business Development for Proton OnSite. “Public-private partnerships are an important element for successful implementation of advanced low-carbon transportation technology, and at the same time would create value for the State of New York in terms of jobs and technical skills.”

“Leading hydrogen suppliers and automotive manufacturers recognize New York is an energy innovation leader with the fuel cell technology and infrastructure primed for a hydrogen highway that would yield significant new capital investment and new jobs for our communities,” said Mark S. Peterson, President and CEO of Greater Rochester Enterprise. “We fully support this new public-private partnership and the opportunity it provides to build on Rochester’s own unique fuel cell R&D and fueling station expertise to enhance New York State’s economy.”

Morelle said the consortium will continue to develop policy goals, and that the next steps will include presenting the governor and legislature with a detailed proposal for a cooperative hydrogen initiative.