The Progressive Energy Regulatory Commission, or PERC, was established in 2019, after it was discovered that Earth had reached peak oil nearly a decade earlier. The Commission, run by a board of overseers that consisted of politicians, businessmen, economists, and other such high-profile minds of early modern society, were charged by the Government of the United States of America with proposing, testing, and implementing new alternatives to the dwindling non-renewable sources of energy that the world had relied on since the Industrial Revolution. These alternatives were primarily geared towards alternatives to the usage of petroleum as a fuel source.
PERC developed and and patented hundreds of new technologies. Some of the most notable achievements of PERC were their legislative proposals regarding the conventional automobile, and how it was powered. Without getting too deep into the nuances of the bill, automobiles were to henceforth be required to have the capability to run on at least three different sources of fuel, two of which had to be one of the "alternatives" that PERC had established. The two most common alternative fuels were ethanol (to which was added a cocktail of other chemical "supplements"), and hydrogen.
The most economic choice for the average motorist was an ethanol-gasoline mixture, marketed under various brand names. The mixture was approximately 70% ethanol and 30% gasoline. Hydrogen was prohibitively expensive, and hard to come by. Hydrogen was a mostly niche market until the public became aware of a few relatively simple methods of producing fuel-grade hydrogen. This new-found knowledge was put to use by many, and for a short while, it seemed that the world could be on the brink of an energy revolution.
As PERC became less and less relevant, it transformed itself into a bureaucratic dinosaur, rife with infighting and monetary disputes, most of which had to do with the distribution of profits from patents that PERC held. Following the resignation of the former PERC chairman Edward Helm (who resigned amid controversies around how PERC money had been spent), the major ethanol and petroleum lobbies managed to push their own candidate into power within PERC. What followed would shape the future of industrial energy on Earth.
In 2038, Chris Deluco, the new PERC chairman, proposed legislation that served to prohibit the "homebrewing" of any modern fuel, with specific focus on hydrogen. The bill passed easily, primarily because of a spike in amateur hydrogen manufacturing related accidents. The majority of these accidents were a result of improper application of the newly-discovered Hrabovsky technique, which at the time was a dangerous method of producing stable solid-state hydrogen.
Prior to the inception of this new law, many universities and other scientific institutions were making great strides in the field of hydrogen fuel technologies. Now that such research was for all intents and purposes illegal, most of these programs were discontinued. Since PERC hadn't made any real innovations since 2029, hydrogen fuel became less viable in the global marketplace.
This period is considered by most historians to be the genesis of the New Dark Age, and the downfall of early modern man.