The Palmetto Insider

The blog of the South Carolina Policy Council

Media Fails to Vet Hydrogen Claims

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hydrogen station

The new hydrogen fueling station in Columbia is one of two in South Carolina. That equals the number of hydrogen-powered vehicles operating in the state.

South Carolina’s hydrogen industry has found itself quite an ally in the Charleston media.

This past weekend, The Post and Courier offered this decidedly uncritical view of the tens of millions in tax dollars that have been spent in South Carolina on hydrogen research while Thursday the industry turned to The Charleston Regional Business Journal for promotional assistance.

On the S.C. Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance’s web page under its current news section, the group lists as its top story a piece from The Business Journal titled “Hydrogen investment may offer 10-1 return for South Carolina.”

The Alliance’s decision to post the story on its website this week is curious for two reasons: One, the article was published in the Charleston publication back in June; and two, the report simply parroted information released by legislative leaders that gave a misleading impression regarding what the Palmetto State is getting for its hydrogen investment. 

“The state’s investment in the hydrogen industry is seeing a return on its investment at a 10-to-1 ratio, said House Speaker Bobby Harrell Jr,” began The Business Journal’s piece.

“Through direct state appropriations and support of the Centers of Economic Excellence program, South Carolina has invested more than $12.2 million in hydrogen over the past 5 years,” the publication reported. “By conservative estimates, this has spurred more than $115 million in non-state investments.”

As the Policy Council reported earlier this year, what isn’t disclosed in this information is that most of these “non-state investments” have probably come in the form of local, county and federal tax dollars, rather than true private investment.

So the assertion that South Carolina “is leveraging its hydrogen investment dollars at a rate of more than 10 to 1,” likely means the state has gotten other elected officials to put taxpayer money into the hydrogen boondoggle – not that private business is necessarily investing in this research.

The Business Journal also repeats the statement that South Carolina’s “investment in hydrogen has created 229 jobs in South Carolina. With 65% of those jobs being created in the last 5 years, this is proving to be a growing industry.”

While technically this counts as growth, consider that 65 percent of 229 is less than 150. That means over the past five years, fewer than 30 jobs annually have been created from the tens of millions in tax dollars that have been invested in hydrogen.

And it’s unclear what kind of jobs are being discussed. If the tax dollars that have gone toward hydrogen research have been used by state agencies and publicly funded universities to hire lobbyists and consultants, that’s very different than private companies actually bringing aboard researchers and workers.

The story added that since 2003, the number of unemployed people in South Carolina has increased by more than 100 percent. Actually, since 2003, state unemployment has moved from 6.3 percent to 12.1 percent, an increase of about 92 percent.

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Written by Cotton Boll Conspiracy

August 27, 2009 at 4:44 pm

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