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Symbolic convergence and the hydrogen economy

  • Sovacool, Benjamin K.
  • Brossmann, Brent
Registered author(s):

    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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    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
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/enpol

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    1. Taanman, Mattijs & Groot, Arend de & Kemp, René & Verspagen, Bart, 2006. "Diffusion Paths for Micro Cogeneration Using Hydrogen in the Netherlands," MERIT Working Papers 025, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
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    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. Clark II, Woodrow W. & Rifkin, Jeremy, 2006. "A green hydrogen economy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(17), pages 2630-2639, November.
    13. 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.
    14. 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.
    15. 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.
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