Alternative Energy

The history of the developments and milestones of Alternative Energies. Events with the same color are related to each other.




According to the the National Hydrogen Association, "English scientists William Nicholson and Sir Anthony Carlisle discovered that applying electric current to water produced hydrogen and oxygen gases. This process was later termed 'electrolysis.'" This lead to the use of hydrogen energy.

First Hydrogen Fuel Cell Developed to Generate Electricity


According to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, ""William Robert Grove (1811 -1896), a Welsh lawyer turned scientist, won renown for his development of an improved wet-cell battery in 1838. The 'Grove cell,' as it came to be called, used a platinum electrode immersed in nitric acid and a zinc electrode in zinc sulfate to generate about 12 amps of current at about 1.8 volts"

Spirit Tax Destroys Ethanol Fuel Industry


President Abraham Lincoln established the Spirit Tax to help finance the Civil War happening at the time. The tax imposed $2.08 per gallon, including ethanol. This caused the ethanol industry to disappear for 45 years.

Diesel Engine Makes Appearance


Rudolph Diesel's invention of the Diesel Engine allowed the engine to run on vegetable oils. This was showcased at the World's Fair in Paris, believing his invention would help lead in better efficient technology and economy for the world. Over the next 80 years, the diesel engine would become an industry standard for power.

Ethanol Proved Better than Petroleum

1906 - 1908

According to Bill Kovarik, "Studies of alcohol as an internal combustion engine fuel began in the U.S. with the Edison Electric Testing Laboratory and Columbia University in 1906. Elihu Thomson reported that despite a smaller heat or B.T.U. [British Thermal Unit] value, 'a gallon of alcohol will develop substantially the same power in an internal combustion engine as a gallon of gasoline. This is owing to the superior efficiency of operation...' Other researchers confirmed the same phenomena around the same time."

Spirit Tax Lifted, Free Alcohol Bill Signed

June 8, 1906

President Theodore Roosevelt, who was seeking a competitor to Big Oil, convinced congress to lift the Spirit Tax and also established the Free Alcohol Bill, which enabled alcohol use for industries to be free from internal tax. By the end of WWI, ethanol fuel was being produced at a rate of 50 million gallons per year.

Worlds First Flex Fuel Car


According to the EPA, "Ethanol-fueled vehicles date back to the 1880s when Henry Ford designed a car that ran solely on ethanol. He later built the first flex fuel vehicle: a 1908 Model T designed to operate on either ethanol or gasoline."

Atomic Energy Act

August 30, 1954

This act allowed private companies to create atomic energy for peaceful purposes. This stimulated the development of atomic energy use and ended the government monopoly over it.

Department of Energy Organization Act Signed

August 4, 1977

According to the US Department of Energy, "On August 4, 1977, President Carter signed the Department of Energy Organization Act, consolidating more than 30 separate energy functions carried out by various government agencies, including ERDA [Energy Research and Development Administration]." This led to the creation of many energy departments that would aid in the development of alternative energies.

Congress Passes Act which Stimulates Hydrogen Power Development

January 23, 1990

The Spark M. Matsunaga Hydrogen Research, Development, and Demonstration Program Act of 1990 was passed. The act would, according to the document, "a comprehensive 5-year comprehensive program management plan that will identify and resolve critical technical issues necessary for the realization of a domestic capability to produce, distribute, and use hydrogen economically within the shortest time practicable; to direct the Secretary to develop a technology assessment and information transfer program among the Federal agencies and aerospace, transportation, energy, and other entities; and to develop renewable energy resources as a primary source of energy for the production of hydrogen."

Hydrogen Future Act of 1996

October 9, 1996

Further expands the use of hydrogen fuel as first established by the Matsunaga Act. According to Daniel Kahikina Akaka, "It authorized activities leading to production, storage, transformation, and use of hydrogen for industrial, residential, transportation, and utility applications"

Hydrogen Fuel Initiative

February 2003

The Hydrogen Fuel Initiative. supported by President George W. Bush, increased funding for hydrogen and fuel cell research, development, and demonstration to $1.2 billion over five years.

Plans Announced to Build FutureGen

February 27, 2003

FutureGen is planned to be the world's first coal-fired, zero emissions electricity and hydrogen production power plant. The production of hydrogen was included to support the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative.

First Commercial Cellulosic Ethanol Plant

February 2008

The first cellulosic ethanol plant goes into production, making use of waste such as cardboard and paper.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

February 17, 2009

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was signed by President Obama, includes billions of dollars in investment for renewable energy development, energy efficiency programs, energy storage technology, electric grid modernization, and many other areas of energy development.

Presidential Directive Provides for Biofuels

May 5, 2009

According to the U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, this directive will "provide $786.5 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to accelerate advanced biofuels research and development and to provide additional funding for commercial-scale biorefinery demonstration projects..."