Exploring Hydrogen as a Primary Energy Source – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Exploring Hydrogen as a Primary Energy Source

HWS economics professor leading national study on the viability of hydrogen as the nation’s energy alternative

February 26, 2003 GENEVA, N.Y.—Can hydrogen replace oil as a primary energy source in the United States? Can enough hydrogen be manufactured to power our cars and heat our homes? And can it be done cost-effectively? Tom Drennen, an energy expert and assistant professor of economics at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, is the principal investigator on a two-year project in conjunction with researchers at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., that will answer those questions and others.

Drennen and his team will develop a computer simulation to explore the multiple ways to produce hydrogen, as well as the cost, accessibility and other factors associated with each production method. The overall goal is to figure out the most effective/cheapest way to make hydrogen a viable energy source. Once complete, the research will be presented to policy makers.

Hydrogen can be produced in several ways, including separating hydrogen from water. Separating the hydrogen requires energy; Drennen says this energy can come from existing sources, or may provide a strong rationale for wide scale use of solar or wind resources. Hydrogen can also be separated out of gasoline and other fossil fuels, but, as Drennen notes, that won’t help global warming.

This is not Drennen’s first foray into governmental energy issues. He has been called to Washington to discuss domestic energy policy and America’s role in the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, and has helped members of Congress analyze various policy options regarding global warming.

Drennen holds a Ph.D. in resource economics from Cornell University, a master's degree in public affairs from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor of science degree in nuclear engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received top awards and merits while studying at each institution.