It seems like every day there is a new announcement in the news about automobiles powered by fuel cells. The promises are tantalizing, since fuel cells have the potential to very quickly double the efficiency of cars while significantly reducing air pollution.

At the same time, there have been news stories for decades about the problems associated with petroleum. Everything from oil spills to ozone alerts to global warming gets blamed on our dependence on fossil fuels.

These two forces are leading the world toward what is broadly known as the hydrogen economy. If the predictions are true, over the next several decades we will all begin to see an amazing shift away from the fossil fuel economy we have today toward a much cleaner hydrogen future.

Steam pipes at the Wairakei Geothermal Generating Station

Can society actually make this shift, or will the technological, economic and political barriers keep us bound to petroleum and other fossil fuels for the next century and beyond? In this edition of HowStuffWorks, you will learn about the benefits of a hydrogen economy, along with its potential problems. We will also examine some of the technology that would make the transition possible.