In October 2004, then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger rolled up to a pioneering fueling station at Los Angeles International Airport in a hydrogen-powered metallic blue Hummer loaned to him by General Motors Corp.
The "California Hydrogen Highway," Schwarzenegger's vision to ensure that every Californian would have access to a hydrogen fueling station by the end of 2010, called for the state to spend more than $50 million to help deploy up to 100 hydrogen fuel stations that would serve 2,000 fuel cell vehicles. "We got 200 stakeholders around a table, literally, and mapped out who could get stations where," said Terry Tamminen, a top adviser to Schwarzenegger.
But nearly nine years later, California has just nine hydrogen stations open for the public, and only about 200 fuel cell cars that can use them.
The global financial crisis helped slam the breaks on dreams of a Hydrogen Highway, but the roots of green energy's mid-life crisis - marked by a rash of recent corporate collapses in everything from electric cars to solar panels - run far deeper.