Issue Date: March 12, 2012
Developments in Hydrogen Fuel
I am deeply indebted to C&EN for its unique coverage of hydrogen fuel developments (which may be something of a surprise because I’m a political scientist member of ACS). On the basis of your key articles, I’ve just submitted for publication a manuscript indicating why President Barack Obama should NOT endorse the Keystone XL pipeline (expert predictions are that global crude oil reserves will probably be severely limited or exhausted in 50 years, so the pipeline would be just a short-term boondoggle for the oil cartel, prolonging its ability to sell high-cost oil for a few years). What’s urgent is to explain clearly the public policy implications of your coverage.
Hydrogen fuel is being developed in many industrial countries, as your reports make clear. The Honda FCX Clarity and Chevrolet Equinox prototypes are hydrogen-powered vehicles already on some U.S. highways. Hydrogen fuel can be ubiquitously available within the U.S., especially through the solar energy plus cobalt catalyst technology described in a C&EN article (July 5, 2010, page 26). It will be nonpolluting, ending carbon dioxide’s contribution to global warming. It will end the need to import 25% of our oil from the Middle East and Venezuela, where millions of people hate the U.S.
The federal government should use $7 billion that would be spent on the pipeline for low-cost (or no-interest) loans to invest in the transformation of our fuel infrastructure—investing in the next generation of new hydrogen fuel rather than spending money for the benefit of a technology now short-lived. Moreover, a hydrogen fuel production system that can make fuel cells near point of sale and use will save the enormous energy now needed to ship crude to a refinery, refine crude into gasoline, and ship gasoline to users’ geographic residences. Honda is already designing a home fuel-cell module.
These transformations usually take about 50 years (that was the time frame for replacement of the horse-drawn carriage by the gasoline-powered automobile, from first discovery of crude in Pennsylvania to the Model T Ford). If there’s only 50 years of crude in existence (no matter how remote), it’s essential to act now to support investment in hydrogen technology. Although subsidies have been used in the past to support new energy sources (C&EN, Dec. 19, 2011, page 30), under current political circumstances no-interest loans are more likely to be funded by Congress.
To overcome ignorance of the scientific facts about our energy future, I hope ACS leaders and members will, in their personal capacities, speak out against Keystone XL and lobby for a transition to hydrogen.
By Roger D. Masters
- Chemical & Engineering News
- ISSN 0009-2347
- Copyright © American Chemical Society