I have never been as happy with a grocery store as I am with Wegmans. My local Wegmans puts local foods front and center when they are in season. The market's tweets often read something like this, “Fresh local peas and broccoli crowns have arrived at our #Harrisburg Wegmans from Oake Grove farms! Enjoy the tastes of locally grown!”

The store also has a large natural/organic selection with reasonable prices. There is a lot for someone concerned about sustainable food to appreciate about Wegmans.

There’s a lot to like behind the scenes, too. Philly.com reports that Wegmans is quickly moving towards fuel cells to power its electric forklifts and pallet trucks. Hydrogen-powered fuel cells generate electricity without pollution. The byproducts of these fuel cells are heat and water.

Not only do the fuel cells clean burner, they work more efficiently, too, allowing Wegmans to double the amount of produce it moves through its facilities because the fuel cells take only three minutes to refill while recharging a traditional lead-acid battery takes eight hours.

Interestingly, the Philly.com article reports that under the Bush administration, $1.2 billion was committed to research on hydrogen fuel cells. Last year, the Obama administration attempted to cut spending on fuel cells because “they would not provide a practical solution any time soon,” but Congress restored much of the money that was to be cut.

David Friedman, research director for clean vehicles at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said treatment of fuel cells showed the chronic weakness of federal energy policy.

It has been a combination of "support for cheap fossil fuels and the silver-bullet philosophy," which involves "jumping from technology to technology, and when it doesn't save the world in five years, they call it a failure and move on," Friedman said.

Despite the hot-and-cold treatment by the White House, "fuel cells have made huge improvements over the last five years," Friedman said. The Energy Department recently estimated the manufacturing cost of a fuel cell at $45 per kilowatt, less than half the cost four years ago.

It seems to me that an energy source that doesn’t use fossil fuels is one worth some patience if it shows promise in the long run. Maybe one of the results of the horrific oil spill we’re experiencing right now is that the government will realize the need for alternative energy is imperative and worth the time, money and effort needed to make new energy sources available for general use.  

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Wegmans' forklifts powered by fuel cells
The supermarket chain is moving away from fossil fuels in its warehouse vehicles.