Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Hydrogen Based Economy Is Inevitable


U.S. Wind-power Map (Seasonally Averaged) U.S. D.O.E. - Public Domain


Oil Addiction In The Land Of Energy Resource Abundance

According to Department of Energy estimates wind power harvested from just three states would produce all of the electricity needed for all fifty states, and this is also true of wind energy which could be produced offshore. The United States is rich in renewable energy resources. The cost of producing electricity using the current generation of wind turbines is now competitive with oil, coal, and nuclear production methods.

Despite an abundance of solar, biomass, wind, wave, hydroelectric, and geothermal energy U.S. energy policy is controlled by the Oil, and Coal industry. Despite predictions that world climate is being changed, and the finite limit on cheap light crude oil the U.S. government's response seems stymied. The U.S. has an oil addiction, and sadly the U.S. government is controlled by oil pushers.

Hydrogen - Seen As An Energy Transport Unit

Hydrogen should be viewed as a form of energy transport, and storage. Water can be broken down into oxygen, and hydrogen, and the hydrogen can then be transported through pipelines similar to the pipelines which transport oil, and natural gas.

There are no genuine obstacles to the transition from a hydrocarbon based economy to a hydrogen based economy.

The United States really has no choice in the matter, as eventually cheap light crude oil will be depleted, and some type of alternative will be necessary to fuel the nations transportation system.

Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Hydroelectric, and Biomass can all contribute toward the creation of electricity which in turn can be converted to Hydrogen. There is a significant loss energy in the process of converting electricity into hydrogen, yet hydrogen is clean, and can be transported, and stored safely, and easily.

In A Power Grid for the Hydrogen Economy, authors Paul M. Grant, Chauncey Starr and Thomas J. Overbye in Scientific American (July, 2006) propose that now is the time for the development of a new national electric grid. The current electric grid, based upon antiquated technology, isn't able to move large amounts of energy across the country which represents a major vulnerability, and restriction to the energy sector.

In their proposed hydrogen based energy transport grid hydrogen cooled to cryogenic temperatures would flow from major energy production centers into urban areas. Electricity could also be transported through super cold super conducting wires within the hydrogen pipelines. This would allow hydrogen, and electricity to move across the country, and into redistribution hubs without significant loss of energy. The current electric grid can not transport surplus electricity from one coast to another. These same limitations which exist within the current national electric grid explains why power plants must be located near cities.

The creation of a superconducting energy grid, and hydrogen transport system would allow nuclear power plants to be located in remote areas, solar power plants, and wind power parks to economically transport electricity to urban areas hundreds of miles away. It would also allow energy produced at peak wind, and solar production periods to be stored in the form of hydrogen which could be pumped through existing natural gas lines. Consumers could electrically recharge their batteries overnight, or could recharge their hydrogen fuel cells using the same lines that provide natural gas today.


Politics of Short Sighted Greed - Resistant to Change

With oil, coal, and natural gas interest in charge of the nation's energy policy it is unlikely any major government investments will be made in assisting the U.S. transition from a hydrocarbon based economy into a hydrogen based economy.

Yet the change is not only coming, it's also inevitable. Sadly, such change will not be the result of concern for the people of the United States, nor will it come out of a sense of concern for the ecology of the planet, but instead be the result of dire necessity. It will come about only as a result of a global economic crisis which will occur as a result of rapidly rising prices for fossil fuel. The economic turmoil which will be thrust upon the U.S. will be a direct result of the nation's political corruption.

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