In the first of a series of features that discuss the feasibility of the hydrogen economy, we look to the challenge for legislators. Timothy Wilkins, is a partner in law firm Bracewell and Giuliani.
As head of his firms environmental arm, Wilkins says he is excited about, $quot;Promising, and unconventional technologies that are coming along.$quot; However regulators, producers and distributors all have much to do.
Hydrogen-based enterprises may find themselves up against a tide of regulation as, $quot;There are so many agencies and non-governmental standards agencies working on what is going to be appropriate and safe...it seems inevitable there will be a great deal of detail in terms of a regulatory scheme.$quot;
The move towards normalising hydrogen as a fuel source may only confuse the problem. He says, $quot;Obviously a lot of hydrogen production that goes on already for industrial applications, but when you take this product outside the industrial fence and you move it out onto street corners there is going to be a much greater focus on what is going to be adequately safe for the public.$quot; He says there is a great deal of existing and developing regulation but based on the work of hydrogen standards and codes organizations, there will be, $quot;a lot of additional requirements we should expect to see coming on line in the future.$quot;
He says its important to make sure this doesn't stifle innovation as we must be sure, $quot;we don't go overboard in terms of substantive restrictions or procedural measures that would unnecessarily inhibit the development of promising technologies.$quot; However this is going to need co-operation from both sides. He notes, $quot;On an issue like hydrogen, legislators and regulators cannot make the best law relying on their own resources. It is incumbent upon the hydrogen enterprises who understand these technologies and their commercial applications to get the knowledge out to the legislators and regulators so that policies they adopt will be well-grounded in the practicalities of the business.$quot;
When asked whether the feted hydrogen economy will become a reality he is confident there will be a critical role for hydrogen in the future, though he notes, $quot;There is a lot of physical facilities work that would need to be done and there is a lot of economic work that will need to be done - involving major investments and efforts from both the public and the private sector.$quot;