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January 29, 2003

That Hydrogen Thing

I hope to say more later about Bush's State of the Union address, but for now I wanted to highlight one of the best things I thought he had to say: He "Proposed spending $1.2 billion over an unspecified period to speed the development of hydrogen-powered, zero-emission fuel cell vehicles." Like much of what Bush said last night, this vague statement could mean nothing more than "I want to give detroit $1.2 billion because they gave me a lot of money to get elected." However, I'm trying to be positive here and I hope that this proposal really will speed hydrogen power technology along.

According to Jeremy Rifkin, hydrogen power has great potential to improve our world by giving us nearly limitless and very inexpensive power. But how would that work? Here's how Rifkin explains it:

Hydrogen must be extracted from natural sources. Today, nearly half the hydrogen produced in the world is derived from natural gas via a steam-reforming process. The natural gas reacts with steam in a catalytic converter. The process strips away the hydrogen atoms, leaving carbon dioxide as the byproduct.

There is, however, another way to produce hydrogen without using fossil fuels in the process. Renewable sources of energy--wind, photovoltaic, hydro, geothermal and biomass--can be harnessed to produce electricity. The electricity, in turn, can be used, in a process called electrolysis, to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can then be stored and used, when needed, in a fuel cell to generate electricity for power, heat and light.

Why generate electricity twice, first to produce electricity for the process of electrolysis and then to produce power, heat and light by way of a fuel cell? The reason is that electricity doesn't store. So, if the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing or the water isn't flowing, electricity can't be generated and economic activity grinds to a halt. Hydrogen provides a way to store renewable sources of energy and insure an ongoing and continuous supply of power.

Sounds good, doesn't it? Plus it provides a good strategy for countering the overwhelming sense of despair that descends when I think about just about everything else Little Ceasar said last night. Did you see how juvenile and smugly self-satisfied he was as he bragged about the "terrorists" U.S. forces have killed in the last year? What the hell kind of example is that to set for our country and the world!? Oh, but wait, he wants to increase spending to fight HIV and AIDS, especially in Africa. Yeah, that's good.

Must stay focused on the positives

Posted January 29, 2003 08:15 AM | general politics


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