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A Commentary on the New US Energy Policy and Turkey

Yüksel Çamaş



US president Bush delivered his annual state of the union address last Tuesday night while many people tuned in to the news in order to find out some hints as to what could be the next US move on Iraq. I did not watch the address but read several articles about it, and personally I think, as much of an impact as the US foreign policy towards Iraq has on Turkey now, the US energy policy will be the main factor shaping the two countries relations in the upcoming years.
"Tonight I am proposing $1.2 billion in research funding so that America can lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles said Bush and he continued; "A simple chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen generates energy, which can be used to power a car producing only water, not exhaust fumes. With a new national commitment, our scientists and engineers will overcome obstacles to taking these cars from laboratory to showroom so that the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free. Join me in this important innovation to make our air significantly cleaner, and our country much less dependent on foreign sources of energy." [1]
Although this sounded like sci-fi to many, the hydrogen-powered automobiles are nothing new. A few automobile manufacturers such as Chrysler, Ford and Honda have been working on it for years. Chrysler announced its prototype version of a minivan called Natrium in December 2001. Hydrogen-powered Natrium minivan is using a fuel cell technology based on borax, a substance which exists in Turkey in abundance. The technology was developed by a small company called Millenium Cell Inc. based in New Jersey [2]. In a press release issued a day after the state of the union address, Millennium Cell Inc. welcomed President Bush s new initiative for a research fund to speed up the development of hydrogen-powered automobiles [3].
Millenium Cell has business relationships with several leading companies including US Borax, which is the main provider of borates in the world market. The two companies are discussing possible research joint ventures. US Borax is owned by the world s largest mining company Rio Tinto [4] and Rio Tinto happened to be in alliance with a North American company called Anatolia Minerals Development Ltd. (AMDL) which is in control of mining projects covering more than 4,800 square miles in Turkey (about 2% of whole Turkey) [5].
Mr. Bush s initiative is aimed at making the first car to be driven by an American child born today to be a hydrogen-powered car and aimed at decreasing US dependence on foreign energy sources. While this policy will possibly decrease US dependence on the Middle Eastern fossil fuels in the future, it will make them heavily dependent on Turkey, which has almost 80% of world s borax reserves.
But ironically, Mr. Bush is not considering Turkey as a foreign energy source.
[1] President Bush, State of the Union Address, January 28, 2003, US Department of Energy Web Page: http://www.eren.doe.gov/freedomfuel
[2] Mark Cropper, Fuel Cell Today, Dec 12, 2001, http://www.fuelcelltoday.com/FuelCellToday/IndustryInformation/Industry
[3] Millenium Cell Inc. News Release, Jan 29, 2003, http://www.millenniumcell.com/cgi-bin/news.pl?function=detail&id=01292003
[4] Millenium Cell Inc. News Release, April 20, 2001, http://www.millenniumcell.com/news/articles/031401.php  & US Borax Web Page: http://www.borax.com/borax1.php 
[5] Anatolia Minerals Development Ltd. Web Page: http://www.anatolia-minerals.com/

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