It seems like I've been writing about nothing but hydrogen for two months so I'll use this lofty perch to make a few final points before I move on.
I have gotten about 40 e-mails from my previous hydrogen column and many of you would like to see mass market hydrogen take off. But there was an under current that hydrogen could never be economic. That's nonsense. Air Products makes enough excess hydrogen now that could power 100,000 vehicles in the LA Basin alone. Chevron already makes a million kilograms a day largely to clean the sulfur out of gasoline (a full tank of hydrogen in a car should average about 8-10 kg). With 280 million registered vehicles on the road — nearly one for every man, woman and child in the nation — the challenge can't be underestimated, but hydrogen is very promising. Oh, did I mention hydrogen fuel cell vehicles produce zero emissions?
There was somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction that nukes are the answer. At best, they are a small part of the answer and have considerable downsides … sky-high expense, limited fuel supply and no good solution for fuel rod disposal. But there's an even bigger problem with nukes: We don't have the time it would take to build them. Oil is creating too much instability and insecurity NOW and it's imperative we start using progressively less of it. Sixty-two years ago Geophysicist W. King Hubbert developed his peak theory which predicted the demise of oil. Well-known oil company Geologist Colin Campbell puts the theory in simple terms: “It's a theory that any beer drinker understands. The glass starts full and ends empty and the faster you drink it the quicker it's gone.”
To restore the luster to American economic industrial might, we need a mobilization effort around renewable energy on the scale of the WWII effort. John Turner, a research fellow at the National Renewable Energy Lab. (http://rbi.ims.ca/5719-509) in Golden, CO, says it could be like the Manhattan Project. Others say the next president should exhort the citizenry just as JFK stumped to put a man on the moon. Al Gore (imagine for a moment if he entered the White House in 2000) and T. Boone Pickens (http://rbi.ims.ca/5719-510) are spot on ... if only the two 2008 presidential candidates started talking more about renewable energy. I'm not sure they get it yet. The biggest fear in the oil rich Middle East and nations like Venezuela is that the U.S. will rely less on their oil. The goal should be nothing short of energy independence.
Talk about change. Our 8,500-word hydrogen package (http://rbi.ims.ca/5719-511) — the biggest I can remember at Design News — has more exclusive coverage online than in print. The 2,000-word main feature on what the oil and industrial gas companies are doing (or aren't doing) is exclusively online (http://rbi.ims.ca/5719-512). I hope you visit our hydrogen page early and often so you know I don't JUST proselytize. I put in the legwork and in some cases a half dozen calls and e-mails to get the movers and shakers like ExxonMobil on the phone to press them about their plans. We also have great coverage in this issue on ethanol by Senior Technical Editor Chuck Murray (http://rbi.ims.ca/5719-513) and Senior Editor Joe Ogando (http://rbi.ims.ca/5719-514).
I urge all our readers to contact their state and federal legislators, city councilors, selectmen, entrepreneurs, town managers and mayors to voice your support for everything from national policy to what your local DPW is doing to cut gasoline consumption and electricity costs. Energy independence for the U.S. is utterly and positively essential. The personal computer, Apple and software rescued a flagging rustbelt economy in the early 1980s. Now it's energy's turn.
Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit my Design Engineering at Large blog (http://rbi.ims.ca/5719-515).