Aiken County's Center for Hydrogen Research impresses energy undersecretary

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It looks like Aiken County made a good investment when it built the Center for Hydrogen Research.

The center opened in March. Before its opening, companies like Toyota were already renting space.

Tuesday, May 30, the nation's Undersecretary of Energy toured the facility...and he was impressed with what he saw.

It's a warm southern welcome for Undersecretary of Energy David Garman.

But Senator Jim Demint brought him to Aiken County to show off more than good manners.

"What we're hoping for is for the federal government to see this as one of those places in the country where we have a critical mass of experience and expertise and technology," Senator Demint said.

Demint's also hoping to land a few million dollars for the center.

President Bush is giving away $1.5 billion for alternative fuel research.

And it looks like the work happening here impressed Secretary Garman.

"This is a groundbreaking facility in a couple of ways," Garman said.

The nation already has a few hydrogen run vehicles, like the John Deere utility vehicle. Hydrogen is stored under the seat.

The hydrogen and oxygen from the air are used in a fuel cell to make electricity--enough to run this entire vehicle.

Some of the research at the Center is to make those fuel cells smaller, and that made a big impact on Garman.

"This will be very hard for us to pass on," he said. "The federal government, the Department of Energy here, looking at this experience. You all will compete very well for this funding."

It's local experience hard to pass on.

And that southern hospitality couldn't have hurt either.