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Symbolic convergence and the hydrogen economy

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  • Sovacool, Benjamin K.
  • Brossmann, Brent
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    Abstract

    This article documents that the hydrogen economy continues to attract significant attention among politicians, the media, and some academics. We believe that an explanation lies in the way that the hydrogen economy fulfills psychological and cultural needs related to a future world where energy is abundant, cheap, and pollution-free, a "fantasy" that manifests itself with the idea that society can continue to operate without limits imposed by population growth and the destruction of the environment. The article begins by explaining its research methodology consisting of two literature reviews, research interviews of energy experts, and the application of symbolic convergence theory, a general communications theory about the construction of rhetorical fantasies. We then identify a host of socio-technical challenges to explain why the creation of a hydrogen economy would present immense (and possibly intractable) obstacles, an argument supplemented by our research interviews. Next, we employ symbolic convergence theory to identify five prevalent fantasy themes and rhetorical visions--independence, patriotism, progress, democratization, and inevitability--in academic and public discussions in favor of the hydrogen economy. We conclude by offering implications for scholarship relating to energy policy more broadly.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Energy Policy.

    Volume (Year): 38 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 4 (April)
    Pages: 1999-2012

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:38:y:2010:i:4:p:1999-2012

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/enpol

    Related research

    Keywords: Hydrogen economy Symbolic convergence theory Fuel cells;

    References

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    1. Penner, S.S., 2006. "Steps toward the hydrogen economy," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 33-43.
    2. Edwards, P.P. & Kuznetsov, V.L. & David, W.I.F. & Brandon, N.P., 2008. "Hydrogen and fuel cells: Towards a sustainable energy future," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(12), pages 4356-4362, December.
    3. Solomon, Barry D. & Banerjee, Abhijit, 2006. "A global survey of hydrogen energy research, development and policy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(7), pages 781-792, May.
    4. Saxena, R.C. & Seal, Diptendu & Kumar, Satinder & Goyal, H.B., 2008. "Thermo-chemical routes for hydrogen rich gas from biomass: A review," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 12(7), pages 1909-1927, September.
    5. Hisschemoller, Matthijs & Bode, Ries & van de Kerkhof, Marleen, 2006. "What governs the transition to a sustainable hydrogen economy? Articulating the relationship between technologies and political institutions," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(11), pages 1227-1235, July.
    6. Tseng, Phillip & Lee, John & Friley, Paul, 2005. "A hydrogen economy: opportunities and challenges," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 30(14), pages 2703-2720.
    7. Sherif, S.A. & Barbir, Frano & Veziroglu, T.N., 2005. "Towards a Hydrogen Economy," The Electricity Journal, Elsevier, vol. 18(6), pages 62-76, July.
    8. Clark II, Woodrow W., 2008. "The green hydrogen paradigm shift: Energy generation for stations to vehicles," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 117-129, June.
    9. Clark, Woodrow W. & Rifkin, Jeremy & O'Connor, Todd & Swisher, Joel & Lipman, Tim & Rambach, Glen, 2005. "Hydrogen energy stations: along the roadside to the hydrogen economy," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 41-50, March.
    10. Clark II, Woodrow W. & Rifkin, Jeremy, 2006. "A green hydrogen economy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(17), pages 2630-2639, November.
    11. Blanchette Jr., Stephen, 2008. "A hydrogen economy and its impact on the world as we know it," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 522-530, February.
    12. Doll, Claus & Wietschel, Martin, 2008. "Externalities of the transport sector and the role of hydrogen in a sustainable transport vision," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(11), pages 4069-4078, November.
    13. McDowall, William & Eames, Malcolm, 2006. "Forecasts, scenarios, visions, backcasts and roadmaps to the hydrogen economy: A review of the hydrogen futures literature," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(11), pages 1236-1250, July.
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    Cited by:
    1. Sovacool, Benjamin K. & Bulan, L.C., 2011. "Behind an ambitious megaproject in Asia: The history and implications of the Bakun hydroelectric dam in Borneo," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(9), pages 4842-4859, September.
    2. Sovacool, Benjamin K. & Drupady, Ira Martina, 2011. "Examining the Small Renewable Energy Power (SREP) Program in Malaysia," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(11), pages 7244-7256.

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