Around $4 billion is to be provided for fuel cell technologies by a bill currently going through the House and Senate in America.

Nearly $2 billion has been authorised over the next five years for research and development as well as $1.3 million for demonstration projects and a tax incentive program for customers who buy fuel cells for vehicles or buildings.

The move by America's lawmakers has been welcomed by clean energy supporters. Robert Rose, executive director of the US Fuel Cell Council, said: \\$quot;For the first time a modern Congress has endorsed a national program to pursue hydrogen and fuel cells as a mainstream strategy to try to get us off our addiction to oil.\\$quot;

And republican Nancy Johnson, said: \\$quot;Through greater use of fuel cell technology, we will improve our energy independence and protect our environment. The incentives in the bill will help make hydrogen fuel cells a clean, permanent energy alternative for the future.\\$quot;

Up to a dozen fuel cell and hydrogen energy companies could benefit from hydrogen research programmes already backed by the Bush administration. Cars running on fuel cells which produce energy by mixing hydrogen with oxygen are already in use and could be ready for the mass market in 15 years time.

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