Business Mirror - Senator moves to develop hydrogen as alternative-energy source

26 December 2013

By Butch Fernandez | Business Mirror

businessMirrorTHE Senate was asked to front-load the passage of a pending bill mandating the government to develop hydrogen as an alternative power source amid recurring increases in fuel and energy prices being passed on to overburdened consumers.

Sponsored by Kilusang Bagong Lipunan Sen. Bongbong Marcos, Senate Bill 408, entitled The Hydrogen Research, Promotion and Development Act of 2013, aims to create a Philippine Hydrogen Research and Development Center tasked to spearhead the development of hydrogen, which Marcos believes to be “the fuel of the future.”

In a statement, Marcos cited the volatility of oil prices in the world market as dictated by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which the senator blamed for “retarding the country’s efforts for a rapid economic growth because the Philippines is highly dependent on oil imports.”

“The latest big-time price increases of both petroleum products and electricity in the last few weeks, with price adjustments of power until the first few months of next year, is expected; there is compelling need to shift to hydrogen as an alternative fuel, as a long-term-solution,” Marcos said, asserting that a “sustainable hydrogen power industry will extricate us from the cruel cycle of world oil price increase in the world market.”

As proposed under the Marcos bill, a Philippine Hydrogen Research and Development Center shall be created and operated by the Department of Science and Technology to “spearhead research, development and utilization of hydrogen in the country; initiate and encourage inventions of machineries, equipment, vehicle and the like to be powered by hydrogen; and serve as the core network of foreign investments on the development and utilization of hydrogen, among others.”

Marcos said hydrogen, a highly flammable substance with zero carbon emission, is now used in Canada, America, Germany and Sweden as fuel for cars, trucks, jet planes and other vehicles. It is being processed from deuterium and is abundant in the Philippines, and is heavy water, or hydrogen water, without oxygen.

He said the government’s intensified exploration of available energy resources in the country is an initial step toward veering away from over dependence on oil imports. He said issues like global warming caused by excessive carbon emission from burning of fossil fuels and its impact on agriculture-based countries, has moved the government to consider alternative energy sources like hydrogen.

“A breakthrough in the development and utilization of hydrogen holds promise not only for the accelerated economic growths of the country but also for a much cleaner air, which abates the effects of global warming,” the KBL senator said.

Solon wants House to probe biofuel compliance

A LAWMAKER has filed a resolution asking the House Committee on Energy to probe the performance and impact assessment of the Biofuels Act of 2006 and the development of alternative sources of biofuels, following reports that biofuel development is detrimental to food security.

Rep. Sharon Garin of AAMBIS-Owa Party-list said there is an emergent consensus from eminent scientists, scholars and international organizations that biofuel development is detrimental to food security.

“The emergent consensus is that biofuel development is threatening the availability and supply stability of food due to diversion of land and other resources from food production to biofuel expansion,” Garin said.

The Biofuels Act of 2006 mandates a minimum 1-percent biodiesel blend and 5-percent bioethanol blend by volume in all diesel and gasoline fuels, respectively, be distributed and sold in the country.

“Alternative fuel sources are extracted from organic materials, such as corn, sugar, cassava, sweet sorghum, molasses, potatoes, soybean, rapeseed, canola, sunflower, jatropha, olive, palm and cellulosic materials,” Garin said.

“Although the intents and purposes of the Biofuels Program are commendable and essential, the government also has to put equal premium on food security,” said Garin, vice chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means.

She said in pursuit of balancing the interests of food security and biofuels development, it is practical and judicious to conduct thorough research and development on other indigenous biofuel sources.

“Amid issues raised against the Biofuels Program, it is high time to conduct a process evaluation of the Biofuels Act of 2006 to determine its performance and impact vis-à-vis the goals set forth in the law’s declaration of policy,” Garin said.

The lawmaker, citing a study, said there are many other plants, shrubs, trees, agricultural wastes and residues that could be developed for biofuels expansion, apart from the biomass feedstock currently used in biofuel development.

She said it is the National Biofuels Board (NBB) that is tasked to oversee the implementation and monitoring of the Biofuels Program and the evaluation for future expansion.

“The NBB is also empowered to determine the feasibility of mandating a minimum of 10-percent blend of bioethanol by volume into all gasoline fuel distributed and sold by each and every oil company in the country within four years from the effectivity of the Biofuels Act of 2006, and, thereafter, recommend the same to the Department of Energy for implementation,” Garin said.