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Implications for Insurers and Investors Reference Points for Insurers The Political Dimension

Business & Politics

The Political Dimension

The Issues

Energy is the very backbone of our standard of living. Indeed, our economy depends on reliable and competitively priced energy supplies. Energy is also a major trading commodity, since Canada and the United States are leading producers/exporters of hydrocarbon fuels, uranium, electricity and coal. Any issue pertaining to the energy sector has, therefore, major political and social ramifications. Furthermore, as concerns grow over the consequences of climate change and the depletion of hydrocarbon fuels, the use of clean and renewable energy carriers will become a center-stage issue.

The Environment

The United States and Canada are among the worst per capita emitter of CO2, which is mainly responsible for global warming. The Kyoto commitments require a 6% reduction of the 1990 levels by 2012, that represents a 21% reduction from the present situation. This will imply fundamental changes in energy production and use, but also new opportunities for business, economic growth and jobs. It is in this context that hydrogen presents itself as a political and social issue.

The constituency served by politicians and public service officials is concerned with:

  1. Quality of life issues (environmental benefits).
  2. The cost of hydrogen and its impact on their standard of living.
  3. The risk to life and limb when hydrogen is used as an alternative fuel.


By being supportive of standards writing efforts and regulation, legislators can have a major impact on hydrogen technologies. Various pollution regulations such as the California vehicle emission laws have been, to a large degree, responsible for the phenomenal growth in interest in fuel cells and hydrogen by the major car companies, the oil companies and the public at large. This has led to the development of impressive new fuel cell technologies and to vastly improved zero emission vehicles such as that achieved by the hydrogen-fueled demonstration vehicles now being shown by many of the major automobile manufacturers.

An Educated Public

The political arena can also play an important role in educating the public about hydrogen issues through public hearings armed with correct information. Political support for a strong hydrogen research, development and demonstration program is also essential to the rapid development and deployment of hydrogen technologies in commercial systems, with the benefits they bring to society.