THE 17th National Hydrogen Association\\$quot;s (NHA) conference in California opened last Monday with true US-style star power.

The annual hydrogen conference\\$quot;s attendees heard Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recap his efforts to bring the element into mainstream use.

California has led the way in hydrogen research and testing, due in part to Schwarzenegger's \\$quot;˜hydrogen highway\\$quot; programme. That effort calls for the construction of 50 to 100 fuelling stations for hydrogen-powered cars by 2010, with more over the following decade. Some 22 stations are already open in what will eventually become a state-wide network.

''No state is more committed to hydrogen than California. We are well on our way to a hydrogen future,'' said Schwarzenegger, who spoke for about five minutes via a satellite link from Sacramento.

Schwarzenegger has led California\\$quot;s efforts to expand hydrogen fuelling infrastructure, highlighting hydrogen\\$quot;s critical role as an alternative to oil and catalyst for improved air quality. In 2004, he formed the Hydrogen Highway Network to serve as a blueprint for government and private agencies to work together in planning and building a hydrogen infrastructure.

Jeff Serfass, President of the NHA, said: \\$quot;His strong advocacy for hydrogen development underscores the strength and viability of this industry. With the support of partnerships such as the Governor\\$quot;s Hydrogen Highway Network, hydrogen use will continue to accelerate over the next decade as the technologies and infrastructure evolve.\\$quot;