Industry touts fuel cells as viable energy source


OTSU, Shiga Pref. — As Group of Eight ministers discussed climate change, industry representatives meeting here Friday were touting fuel cells as an “energy for the future.”

The Global Legislators Organization for a Balanced Environment held its 15th general assembly meeting at a hotel near the site where the environment ministers from the G8 are currently holding talks. About 30 lawmakers from 10 countries including the United States, Britain, South Africa and India were in attendance.

Takashi Kosugi, a Lower House member and chairman of GLOBE Japan, said in his opening remarks that GLOBE members should focus more on climate change issues. He also stressed the importance of creating a more sustainable society.

In the morning, Ballard Generation Systems, Inc. and Toyota Motor Corp. explained technical details of fuel cells and their future development.

Fuel cells are a promising new technology that uses a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to generate power that has only one byproduct — water. This is in sharp contrast to the myriad environmental ills associated with the burning of fossil fuels.

Ballard Generation Systems chief James Kirsch said fuel cell vehicles are desirable because they produce less noise and no harmful exhaust.

While prototypes of automobiles run by fuel cells have been developed, some difficulties still need to be worked out before they become commercially viable, said Norihiko Nakamura of Toyota Motor Corp. He cited the high cost of fuel cell production as one of the biggest obstacles to proliferation of the cells.

Nakamura also pointed to the importance of cooperation among the government and business in promoting the product.

Osaka Gas, Ltd., Sanyo Electric Co. and Matsushita Electric Works, Ltd. also gave presentations, focusing on their ongoing development of compact fuel cell development systems for residential use. These would provide energy, electricity and heat for homes.

Other items on the the GLOBE meeting, which runs through today, will include issues such as trade and the environment and global environmental governance.