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Imagine limitless power from hydrogen!
Posted by: Dale Franks on Thursday, February 08, 2007

Robert Zubrin takes a look the Hydrogen Economy, and declares...
Hydrogen, after all, is “the most common element in the universe,” as Secretary Abraham pointed out. Since it is so plentiful, surely President Bush must be right when he promises it will be cheap. And when you use it, the waste product will be nothing but water—“environmental pollution will no longer be a concern.” Hydrogen will be abundant, cheap, and clean. Why settle for anything less?

Unfortunately, it’s all pure bunk. To get serious about energy policy, America needs to abandon, once and for all, the false promise of the hydrogen age.
He then goes on to get all sciency and stuff.

My initial reaction to hydrogen power was fairly positive. It sounded good. Then, I started reading more about it, and my enthusiasm faded.

Things like the problems outlined in this piece don't make it sound any better, or any easier to implement in any sort of economical fashion.

He also ends up with a call for government mandates for flex-fuel vehicles. I'm not really enthusiastic about government mandates, either.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

I looked at the article, and found exactly the sentence I expected:
Hydrogen, therefore, is not a source of energy. It simply is a carrier of energy.
This is the entire problem in a nutshell. If we had fusion or something else that would generated extremely cheap electricity, we could use that energy to extract the hydrogen from water, and we’d be all set. But we don’t have such a source, and none is on the horizon. We can (and should) get more of our energy from nuclear plants, but I don’t think it’s possible for us to build them fast enough to have a big enough surplus of electricity to use for deriving hydrogen.
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
This is something I have tried to convince some friends before. Simply using the Law of Conservation of Energy, it becomes painfully obvious that hydrogen fuel cells are incredibly ineffecient. This is one place I can clearly and unequivocally stand against President Bush on, because it should be seen as bad environmentally by Democrats and bad financially by Republicans. Unless we can harness fusion as Billy Hollis notes, or matter-antimatter reactions, or at the very least find a form of fuel that is more effecient than fossil fuels, what we have is the best option for both the environment and our wallets.
Written By: CR UVa
The advent of near-superconducting material could also affect the equation dramatically. I hear Zubrin’s arguments, but the history of progress is nothing if not the history of achieving the impossible. He probably shouldn’t be so confident.

I do however think that his fondness for alcohol is misplaced. Natural gas is where it’s at; there’s gobs and gobs of it, far, far more than there is oil, and it’s relatively inexpensive to mine. We need to see an infrastructure develop for dealing with it in liquid form.

Written By: peter jackson
Yeah, hydrogen is the most common element in the universe. The problem would be getting all that hydrogen here. There’s a big source of hydrogen 93,000,000 miles away — anyone care to go fetch it?
Written By: steverino
Zubrin’s analysis is good about the aspects he decides to cover. The chemistry is straight forward but he fails to look at or consider high temperature electrolysis. While I don’t remember the exact temperature if things get hot enough electrolysis get real energy efficient. The next generation of nuclear reactors will meet and exceed the temperature. So with the next generation of nuclear reactors we get electricity and massive cheap hydrogen production. Unfortunately this next generation of reactors is not slated to come online until 2020. Looks like we should throw some additional resources towards expediting the new generation of reactors and that problem is solved

Storage is moving to low pressure containers using metal halides. Materials that will absorb and release hydrogen through the application of minor amounts heat or electricity. The DOD is spending considerable amounts of money along these lines, batteries are heavy, and have taken delivery of prototype systems for field testing. Haven’t seen any information of upscaled versions suitable for autos but have read numerous articles on people working the problem.

The amount of platinum used in the fuel cell is a technical issue that is being worked and is definitely headed in the right direction. In the early 90s fuel cells required about 20g of platinum per Kw. Today it requires about .8g/Kw and I have recently see research that gets it down to about .2g/Kw. This is the projected density needed to lower costs into the 30-50 dollar per Kw necessary to compete competitively with internal combustion engines.

Currently there is no mass manufacturing of fuel cells. The are all essentially assembled by hand. This is in fact the greatest reason for them costing so much. When Toyota and GM are both saying that the believe that they can get cost down to the 30-50 dollar per Kw cost by 2015 and back it up by spending 10s of millions of dollars yearly in trying to do so I tend to believe that it will be done.

Written By: piscivorous
URL: http://
Well he might know his hydrogen but he proves his utter ignorance by supporting a flex fuel mandate.

Ethanol is a boondoggle, simple corporate welfare for corn farmers and companies like ADM. It is bad for the environment, takes massive amounts of energy to produce, and it is having a negative fiscal impact on food prodcution.
Written By: TJIT
URL: http://

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