Before you fill up, here are a few safety tips…

When I was leaving the Marionette Theatre the other day, I decided to swing by Columbia’s Hydrogen Fueling Station, since I was close by and had never seen it before.

The good  news was that, had I been driving a hydrogen car, there would have been no waiting.

The bad news was the really scary series of warnings posted at eye level.

But then I got to thinking — such warnings would have been a good idea at the very first gasoline fueling station in a community, back in the days when folks weren’t accustomed to working with that extremely volatile substance.

Come to think of it, we DO have such warnings at gasoline stations — along with those that tell us not to operate our cellphones, and to place a container on the ground before pumping into it. We just tend not to notice them any more.

There’s a tradeoff with so many things that pack a lot of energy — gasoline, hydrogen, coal, nuclear. Once you get the economics to work — which tends to be tougher with the lower-risk sources such as wind and solar — it becomes a matter a matter of engineering things to minimize risk. Or so it seems to my nonexpert mind.

42 thoughts on “Before you fill up, here are a few safety tips…

  1. Silence

    It looks brand new! Are there any cars/trucks/buses that use it? How much hydrogen is dispensed in a month, and what does it cost per unit volume? Does the station break even, make a profit, or lose money? Inquiring minds want to know…

  2. Steven Davis

    Answer: The Columbia Hydrogen Fueling Station.

    Question: What is used less than the buildings in the Innovista?

  3. Doug Ross


    You’re not supposed to ask questions like that. You can only ask those questions when you are a private business that has to provide a justification for investment more extensive than “it’s cool and it’s not our money anyway”

  4. Silence

    @ Kathryn,
    Do you ever update your wordpress blog anymore? I just found it. I’d love to file several FOIA’s but I lack the time or am just too lazy at the moment.
    @ Steven,
    unfortunately probably true
    @ Doug,
    I also saw several Priuses (Prii?) parked over by the water plant. Wonder how sub $3.00 gas is making those work out…

  5. Steven Davis

    @Silence – You do realize that FIOA requests aren’t free. I know several state agencies charge $75-$100/hr. to retrieve requested information.

  6. bud

    Silence, not sure I understand the Prius comment. For one thing gasoline has rarely been under $3 gallon anywhere in the U.S. over the past year so that part of the comment is just bogus. Second, a Prius is a very cost efficient car even if gasoline drops to $1/gallon. You’d still spend less on gasoline than you would in a Hummer. Why are the harping about a vehicle that is by all accounts a success.

  7. Silence

    @ Steven,
    Yes, I know. Sometimes they will waive the fees though. I wouldn’t mind paying the fees out of my pocket if I felt like it helped brign to light some wasteful project or shady deal.

    The closest I’ve been to actually filing an FOIA lately was over the secret meetings between Columbia, the EPA and DHEC. I didn’t think that the meetings should have been subject to a non-disclosure agreement, and I felt like the Columbia taxpayers and ratepayers would have been well served to know exactly what was discussed and what was agreed to in the meetings.

  8. `Kathryn Fenner

    Hey, Silence–No, even my family couldn’t be bothered to read it, so why write it? I say what I need to say here and on Facebook.

    As a happy 2007 Prius owner, whose parents also own two, I can say that I am still paying about half of what most of you are per mile for gas and have to fill up half as often, and I have a car that packs a lot of nice extras (backup camera, garage door opener, etc.) in a comfortable, versatile car that even if it didn’t get excellent gas mileage, is a whole lot of car for the money. My parents are also very happy with theirs.

  9. Karen McLeod

    As a Prius owner myself, I wouldn’t trade it if gas dropped to 50 cents a gallon. It has more room for hauling cargo, livestock, or humans than almost any other car it’s size. It has good pick-up and good safety equipment. I’ve had no breakdowns. Since I seldom have to carry more than 4 passengers, I am content. I have no need for a more polluting giant, nor a desire to be a highway bully.

  10. martin

    I ask this every time I see something about hydrogen and no one ever answers.

    Could hydrogen fuel cells power a house, neighborhood, city?

  11. Steven Davis

    “garage door opener”… now I’m sold. I bet my restored 10 mpg SUV from the 1980’s is more comfortable than one of those electric powered skateboards. It may not have a backup camera, but why do I need one of those, I can drive over anything in my way.

    Anybody ever seen a trailer hitch on a Prius?

  12. Silence

    Sorry to go on a tangent about Columbia’s Hybrid fleet! Personally, I didn’t feel that the city’s decision to buy hybrid vehicles made financial sense for tax-payers and was more a “feel good” type of exercise. It’s my understanding that there was a break even point to driving hybrids, based on your annual mileage, the price of gasoline, and the higher cost of the vehicle.

    “What about the Toyota Prius? This category creator doesn’t have an equivalent gas-only version, so we compared it to both the Toyota Corolla LE and the gas-only Camry LE. This comparison skews the numbers dramatically: It takes the Prius a shocking 16.2 years to catch up with the Corolla. Comparing the Prius to the Camry LE, though, makes it a scene-stealer: only 4.2 years to break even, the shortest of any of our comparisons.”


    Not trying to take pot-shots at hybrid or Prius owners. I currently own 2 Toyotas, though none of them are hybrids, and I wouldn’t criticize anyone’s personal choice of vehicles. That being said, I still feel that it was wasteful for Columbia to purchase them. Not hydrogen fueling station wasteful, or Innovista wasteful mind you, but poor stewardship of my money, nonetheless.

  13. Silence

    @ Steven,
    What’s your restored 1980’s SUV? I’ve got a 1980 International Scout II with the turbo-diesel, but it’s certainly not comfortable! It’s also presently receiving a rust-ectomy that has dragged on past the one year point. Hopefully I’ll have it back on the street this spring, and maybe try to convert it to run on waste vegetable oil.

    @ martin,
    Sure, a hydrogen fuel cell could power a house or a neighborhood or a city. It’s not as efficient as being “on the grid” and receiving commercially generated power though. It’s more about storing and transferring power. It might be viable for a remote cabin, or a village somewhere in the middle of the jungle.

    First you have to make hydrogen which typically involves the electrolysis of water. You need a lot of electricity to do this, which around here would mean burning coal, or maybe nuclear fission. Once the hydrogen is created, it is then compressed (using more electricity) and stored in a tank or fuel cell. It then would be taken to the site where it would eventually be used. I think it’d probably be cheaper just to buy a nice diesel, natural gas or propane generator, at least for the forseeable future.

  14. Karen McLeod

    @ Steven I had a GMC Jimmy back in the 90’s. Less comfortable, spent a lot of time in the shop, expensive to run. Yeah, in a wreck, I’d have the advantage (F=MV), but if I’m gonna go that direction, I want a tank at least. There are things such as concern for stewardship of the planet, and that “doing unto others” thingy, but I suspect you don’t find those items important.

  15. Norm Ivey

    I attended a workshop for teachers conducted by the Department of Energy some time back. The issue of hydrogen vs. hybrid was raised. One of the barriers to hydrogen automobiles is the fact that the carbon footprint is about equal to that of a Prius, and since it is more expensive for now, why bother?

    Yes, hydrogen can power a home, city, space shuttle or just about anything that runs on electricity OR combustion–it’s just used in different ways.

    I really like the idea of the Volt, but they’re getting some bad press right now.

  16. `Kathryn Fenner

    Well, Steven–I find my Prius very comfortable, and it has gone on several trips to New England, Canada and Chicago. My brother and his sons are all well over 6’2″ and the three of them fit comfortably in the back, while I (34″+ inseam) drove.

    The safety features are excellent, too– dual front and side air bags, stability control, ABS–things your 80s vehicle may lack….

    Very few of us need a trailer hitch for more than very occasional use. Rent a vehicle, or have only one that can tow, while driving a more planet friendly one most of the time.

  17. Steven Davis

    BS, three 6’2″ guys wouldn’t fit comfortably in the backseat of a Lincoln Towncar much less a Prius.

    Who needs airbags when you’re driving something that weighs 4500 pounds.

    I’d consider the Prius, but I’m afraid of the surgery men are required to get once they sign the title.

  18. Steven Davis

    @Silence, a restored Jeep Grand Wagoneer that’s better than the day it rolled off the assembly line… especially once I yanked all that damn emissions crap off it which increased my gas mileage. I did look at a 1980 Toyota Land Cruiser the other day, tempting vehicle.

  19. Silence

    @ Steven,
    I had a 1970 FJ40 that I wish I’d never sold. Were you looking at an FJ40 or a 60? I might be in the market for one…

  20. bud

    Who needs airbags when you’re driving something that weighs 4500 pounds.

    You are kidding aren’t you. Try running that 4500 lb vehicle into a tree at 70 mph and see how much you need an airbag.

  21. SusanG


    Um, according to your rules, you should probably have disallowed your own comment!

    (Though I’d heartily agree that rule #1 is that the rules don’t apply to the guy who owns the blog!)

  22. Brad

    Susan, what I meant was that Steven was going out of his way to be offensive, in EXACTLY the way Denis Leary is in his song — boasting about not giving a damn about the environment or other people.

    I’m sure Steven does that to shock, just as Leary did…

  23. Steven Davis

    “At any moment, I expect Steven to erupt into a rousing chorus of Denis Leary’s “I’m an A__hole.””

    Nothing wrong with that, I’d rather be a A__hole than a Candy A__.

  24. Steven Davis

    “You are kidding aren’t you. Try running that 4500 lb vehicle into a tree at 70 mph and see how much you need an airbag.”

    You first, I want to see how much those airbags in your Prius help you out in that scenario.

    I’m willing to bet the only difference will be “open casket” vs. “closed casket”.

  25. Steven Davis

    I’ve been called worse, by people I could care even less about. End result, no sleep lost.

    @Silence – FJ40. They have a real nice one inside Toyota Center, but I don’t know if it’s for sale. It’s on on their list of used vehicles on the website.

  26. Steven Davis

    And to add to that, I’ve been called a “Smart A__” many times in my life, my response is usually that I’d rather be a smart one than a dumb one.

  27. Brad

    And to be clear, I didn’t call Steven an “a__hole;” I said he sounded like the guy in the song… I don’t know; maybe y’all think Denis Leary actually is one, but the point is that both were going for shock value…

  28. Mab

    I thought Jimmy Buffett was the only one to write a song about this condition. Denis Leary does make an excellent case for himself, though.

    A fun rendition:

  29. Norm Ivey


    Brad wrote “…what I meant was that Steven was going out of his way to be offensive…”

    I simply asked, “Why would anyone go out of their way to be offensive?”

    No, Steven, I’m not offended. Were you trying to be offensive?

  30. `Kathryn Fenner

    “Time to remove the stick people.” -Steven Davis

    What do you have against stick people? Some of us can’t draw very well, although our ability to wield a comma is second to none.


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