The federal grant won by USF’s chemistry department to research a viable way to store hydrogen as fuel is an important step toward a hydrogen-based economy, according to Monday’s Oracle.

This move toward hydrogen is key to its development and priority as an alternative energy source. Ethanol is the current national favorite, but hydrogen needs to be recognized as a serious contender.

Ethanol is a biofuel, usually made from corn. It can be used with any diesel vehicle and is mixed with petroleum to reduce gelling in cold conditions, reported MSNBC.com. Ethanol uses 29 percent more fossil energy to produce than the fuel it yields, according to a study conducted by Cornell University and the University of California-Berkeley. Simply put, this means that ethanol is wasting more energy than it is producing.

Ethanol production in the United States does not benefit the nation’s energy security, its agriculture, the economy or the environment,” reported the study, according to MSNBC.com. The study also states that it would be wiser to move toward hydrogen, solar, or wind based energy, instead of ethanol.

Also, the use of corn to make ethanol is driving up the prices of other agricultural concerns – including chicken and milk. “Anybody that knows anything about the marketing of corn knows that when you raise the price of corn you are going to create problems in all of the markets that use corn,” Ronald W. Cotterill, director of the Food Marketing Policy Center at the University of Connecticut, told the Washington Post. Creating hydrogen power does not use up these same resources and will not drive up the price of other commodities.

“There is a long way to go before it becomes practical to be used by everybody,” said Mohamed Eddaoudi, the principle researcher on USF’s hydrogen project. “That’s why there is a lot of research going on for hydrogen.” He added that both hydrogen and ethanol have advantages.

“One of the challenges (of hydrogen) is to find ways to store (it)… Currently, it’s not user friendly, and you want to find something user friendly.”

Hydrogen, however, may prove to be a better fossil-fuel alternative once it can be safely stored. Production or use of hydrogen does not take corn away from other uses – such as animal or human consumption. Although hydrogen is not ready for common use in cars and other vehicles, it is proving to be the best alternative fuel source for this nation.