Symbolic convergence and the hydrogen economy
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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