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Author Topic: Fuel Cell Boondoggle
tyoung
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posted 09 June 2003 02:40 PM      Profile for tyoung        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
There has been a lot of talk about hydrogen fuel cell powered autos in the news lately:
quote:
The Ford Motor Company's latest prototype, the Focus, produces no pollution and runs completely on hydrogen-powered fuel cells

Every time I hear about this panacea of zero-pollution I start yelling at the TV again. Hydrogen fuel cells may be zero-emission, but the production of hydrogen certainly isn't. It is a very energy intensive process that either involoves electrolysis from water, where the hydrogen atoms are split from the oxygen atom using electricity. A quick look at how this electricity is produced in canada should convince us that using it to produce hydrogen is anything but zero-emissions:

quote:
Canada's Electricity Generating Capacity, 1997 (in MW)

Hydro 66 803

Conventional Thermal 30 988
(coal 18 012, oil 7 553, natural gas 5 423)

Nuclear 13 390

Tidal 20

Other (Renewables) 1 405

Total 112 606


So, about a quarter of the electricity in canada is generated from thermal (fossil fuel) sources, which are definately polluters.

In essence, fuel cell cars simply shift the burden of emissions to other areas where energy is produced.

Another way of producing hydrogen is by "reforming" it from fossil fuels such as gasoline or natural gas, which this article talks about in relation to Bush's interest in fuel cell vehicles:

quote:
What Bush didn't reveal in his nationwide address, however, is that his administration has been working quietly to ensure that the system used to produce hydrogen will be as fossil fuel-dependent -- and potentially as dirty -- as the one that fuels today's SUVs. According to the administration's National Hydrogen Energy Roadmap, drafted last year in concert with the energy industry, up to 90 percent of all hydrogen will be refined from oil, natural gas, and other fossil fuels -- in a process using energy generated by burning oil, coal, and natural gas. The remaining 10 percent will be cracked from water using nuclear energy.

A lot of attention is being paid to alternative ways of continuing the wasteful and irresponsible ways we use our private automobiles, and I think it could be better spent encouraging us to change the way we live. Calling hydrogen a zero-emission fuel is simply a lie designed to keep us dependent on fossil fuels, but in an indirect way that soothes our conscience.

[ 09 June 2003: Message edited by: tyoung ]

[ 09 June 2003: Message edited by: tyoung ]


From: Vancouver Island | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
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posted 09 June 2003 03:14 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I know it's of limited comfort, but while producing the H2 in the first place will (likely) be a dirty process, at least it's not happening on city streets. This occurred to me this morning when I watched a convoy of 8 streetcars moving down the street with not a fume. Certainly there's pollution created somewhere to make the electricity that powered the streetcars, but at least it's not concentrated downtown.

That said, I don't disagree with you - more pedestrian only city cores, fewer single-occupant vehicles, even creative "car sharing" or "bike sharing" programs would be a boon.


From: `,_,`,_,,_,, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Briguy
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posted 09 June 2003 03:32 PM      Profile for Briguy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I read an article today where Ford "boasted" that half of their cars will be fuel-cell powered by 2050. Yes, 2050. Regardless of the fact that fuel-cells are not the be-all-and-end-all environmental answer, 2050 is a pretty pathetic target date for any sort of progressive change.

Here's the advertorial


From: No one is arguing that we should run the space program based on Physics 101. | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
tyoung
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posted 09 June 2003 03:37 PM      Profile for tyoung        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yeah, I am a big fan of Vancouver's electric buses as well. They recently won a reprieve as there was talk of replacing them with diesels. A tragedy averted.

I guess what bothers me so much is hearing "zero emissions" when these cars are talked about. It is simply a big fib. I'm afraid that this simplification, especially in the media, leads people to believe that these cars are our climatological saviour, and will keep people from changing their consumptive, SUV lifestyles.


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SHH
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posted 09 June 2003 03:52 PM      Profile for SHH     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
While all fuel cells use the ionized hydrogen atom, pure hydrogen isn’t required. The hydrogen atom found in ethanol works just as well and many such fuel cells are already in production. Thus, the source of fuel could be fermented corn, which is ultimately, solar.

[ 09 June 2003: Message edited by: SHH ]


From: Ex-Silicon Valley to State Saguaro | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
'lance
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posted 09 June 2003 03:54 PM      Profile for 'lance     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Yeah, I am a big fan of Vancouver's electric buses as well. They recently won a reprieve as there was talk of replacing them with diesels. A tragedy averted.

Keep in mind, though, that most of the electricity in Vancouver is generated... yes, by the burning of fossil fuels, up at the Burrard Thermal Plant -- which provides around a third of the electricity used in the province.

It burns natural gas, though, which is at least better than burning diesel.


From: that enchanted place on the top of the Forest | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
tyoung
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posted 09 June 2003 03:58 PM      Profile for tyoung        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
SHH, I totally agree, and have looked at research which is being done to source H2 from renewable sources. But the fact remains that at present levels of demand for personal transportation, H2 could end up consuming more fossil fuels than we currently use. Reforming H2 from a litre of petroleum results in less usable energy than simply buring the fossil fuel. Our use of non-renewable energy could rise as a result of wide scale adoption of fuel cells for transportation.

As for Burrard Thermal:

quote:
BC Hydro generates over 43,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually

and

quote:
The 950 MW Burrard Generating Station near Vancouver has a capability of 7,050 gigawatt-hours per year (GWh/a). Burrard is a conventional thermal plant fuelled by natural gas. It supplements the hydroelectric system in years when water inflow is low and provides transmission support and electrical supply security for the Lower Mainland.

source: BC Hydro

Burrard Thermal does not operate all the time, only to supplement periods of low output by hydroelectric. It certainly does not provide a third of the energy in bc.

However, with the trend toward private enterprises building new generation sources in BC, don't be surprised if there are coal-fired plants opened in the near future.

[ 09 June 2003: Message edited by: tyoung ]


From: Vancouver Island | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged
'lance
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posted 09 June 2003 04:17 PM      Profile for 'lance     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Hmmm. Well, thanks for the correction. Obviously I was misinformed. But you could be right. I can see some enterprising outfit, say, re-opening the Tumbler Ridge mine to start generating electricity from coal.
From: that enchanted place on the top of the Forest | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Mandos
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posted 09 June 2003 05:10 PM      Profile for Mandos   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
So here's the question...how do you get people to believe they have to change their lifestyles rather than fall for zero-emissions? If told the latter, the vast majority of people will almost certainly follow it.
From: There, there. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
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posted 09 June 2003 05:36 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I think you have to start by making that change in lifestyle appealing, and personally I think this has to be somewhat top-down. For example, I think we need cities to commit to better transit infrastructures, as well as sensible and efficient zoning, that would make selling your car a practical possibility.

Right now, if you don't have a car then you need to spend $2.25 for the privelege of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of the world on a screeching, swaying subway car. You may enjoy the privelege of standing around in a thoroughly empty room waiting for a bus to continue your journey. Once on the bus, you may again find yourself standing until you reach your destination, which itself may be several blocks from where the bus kicks you off.

Or you could take your car.

(We need to make that first option a little more efficient and enjoyable, so the second one doesn't look so good by comparison.)

Has anyone ever heard of the fascinating rebuild of a city called Curiciba (sp?), in South America? One rather charismatic mayor named Jaime Escalant and a bunch of good ideas, which included a pedestrian only downtown, buses that behaved more like above ground subways, using old transit buses as mobile classrooms, paying shanty dwellers for their garbage, etc... Saw a great news piece about it on the tube, but can't find much on the web.


From: `,_,`,_,,_,, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
tyoung
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posted 09 June 2003 05:47 PM      Profile for tyoung        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by 'lance:
Hmmm. Well, thanks for the correction. Obviously I was misinformed. But you could be right. I can see some enterprising outfit, say, re-opening the Tumbler Ridge mine to start generating electricity from coal.

Yup. I don't know about Tumbler Ridge, but check this out:

quote:
POWER GENERATION PROJECTS
Stothert have been retained by Hillsborough Resources, the owner of the Quinsam Coal Mine near Campbell River on Vancouver Island, to carry out a feasibility study for a 49 MW coal fired power generating plant burning waste coal fines and raw coal, to be located at the mine mouth.

Source:Stothert Engineering

Lovely. Coal-fired generating plants. Another giant step backward, thanks to Gordo and co's new legislation barring BC Hydro from building new generating facilities, and encouraging the private sector to do so:

quote:
Under the plan, the building of coal-fired plants would be encouraged. British Columbia is a major coal producer, but exports virtually all its production.
Indymedia

[ 09 June 2003: Message edited by: tyoung ]


From: Vancouver Island | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged
Gir Draxon
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posted 09 June 2003 07:21 PM      Profile for Gir Draxon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Hydrogen fuel cells may be zero-emission, but the production of hydrogen certainly isn't.

Ah, but what if cleaner energy sources, such as wind or solar power were used to generate the necesary electricity?


From: Arkham Asylum | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
tyoung
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posted 09 June 2003 08:38 PM      Profile for tyoung        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Pay attention. This article, linked earlier, describes how the oil lobby is steering toward hydrogen reformed from petroleum products for mainstream use.
quote:
As hydrogen gained momentum, the oil companies rushed to buy up interests in technology companies developing ways to refine and store the new fuel. Texaco has invested $82 million in a firm called Energy Conversion Devices, and Shell now owns half of Hydrogen Source. BP, Chevron-Texaco, ExxonMobil, Ford, and General Electric have also locked up the services of many of America's top energy scientists, devoting more than $270 million to hydrogen research at MIT, Princeton, and Stanford.

Such funding will help ensure that oil and gas producers continue to profit even if automakers manage to put millions of fuel-cell cars on the road. "The major energy companies have several hundred billions of dollars, at the least, invested in their businesses, and there is a real interest in keeping and utilizing that infrastructure in the future," says Frank Ingriselli, former president of Texaco Technology Ventures. "And these companies certainly have the balance sheets and wherewithal to make it happen."



As far as alternative sources go, they are impractical for making Hydrogen for the same reasons that they are currently impractical for generating electricity for your home.

I am not against H2 power, I think it is a fantastic move forward. My argument is that it must be combined with a drastic decrease in vehicle use is the problem of emissions is to be solved. Calling these things "zero emissions" is false, and that's what makes me yell at the TV.

[ 09 June 2003: Message edited by: tyoung ]


From: Vancouver Island | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 10 June 2003 12:06 AM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by SHH:
While all fuel cells use the ionized hydrogen atom, pure hydrogen isn’t required. The hydrogen atom found in ethanol works just as well and many such fuel cells are already in production. Thus, the source of fuel could be fermented corn, which is ultimately, solar.

Ethanol is energy-intensive to make, and just fermenting corn without further distillation only yields 14% by volume (or by weight, I forget which, but you can work it out from the point where the ethanol begins to kill the yeast) at best.

This is why companies like Archer Daniels Midland pork out on $2 billion plus subsidies from the US government in order to profitably make ethanol in the first place.

Once you back out the subsidies and you work out the true cost of what it takes to go from corn to the 95% azeotrope of ethanol (going to 100% is even more expensive because you must destroy the azeotrope in the distillation column), it costs more to make it than what ADM would get back at current market prices for ethanol.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Gir Draxon
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posted 10 June 2003 12:15 AM      Profile for Gir Draxon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
I am not against H2 power, I think it is a fantastic move forward. My argument is that it must be combined with a drastic decrease in vehicle use is the problem of emissions is to be solved. Calling these things "zero emissions" is false, and that's what makes me yell at the TV.

I see your point, tyoung, I'm just saying that it does not have to be that way. Hydrogen can be clean if we start with clean energy. But that requires changes in the way we generate power as well, which I am in full support of.

It boggles the mind that the US wants to make hyrdogen out of oil. So much contreversy has come up over the American quest for oil, and yet they still want to use it???? It would be in the best interests of the US government to become independant of oil producing companies (particularily in the middle east). Such independance would damage left-winger's abilities to slander the Bush administration, as oil would not be a reason to go to war because they will need a heck of a lot less of it.

If Bush does not see the merit behind breaking America's oil dependance, then maybe he really is a moron...

"Sound environmental policy is sound fiscal policy"- Scott Brison


From: Arkham Asylum | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 10 June 2003 12:45 AM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Well, the best place to do the hydrogen production would be using BC hydroelectricity.

A very inefficient process that could also be used if you want to stick strictly to solar power is the photolysis of water.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Jimmy Brogan
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posted 10 June 2003 09:37 AM      Profile for Jimmy Brogan   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Promising new developments on hydrogen production

quote:
First, temperatures of 700 degree Celsius drive oxygen out of the material, where it oxidizes carbon in the methane to form carbon oxides and free hydrogen. Temperatures as low as 375 degrees Celsius are then used to reduce water vapor, pulling oxygen from water to replenish the crystalline structure -- producing more hydrogen.


"By cycling the temperature back and forth in the presence of methane or water, you can continuously produce hydrogen," Wang said.


Although the use of rare-earth oxides such as cerium oxide as catalysts for hydrogen production has been known for some time, the addition to iron to those oxides by the Georgia Tech researchers has significantly enhanced the surface chemistry activity of these materials, allowing the oxidation and reduction reactions to take place at lower temperatures. Wang believes the reaction temperatures may be lowered farther by "tuning" the iron content and understanding the trade-offs between reaction efficiency and temperature.


Lowering the reaction temperature to 350 degrees could allow solar energy to supply at least some of the heat needed



From: The right choice - Iggy Thumbscrews for Liberal leader | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
tyoung
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posted 10 June 2003 12:17 PM      Profile for tyoung        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Cool. I could see using a parbolic solar collector, which seem to be able to operate at high (350C) temperatures, to provide some of the energy required. This seems to be simple enough technology to use on a small scale-- how about co-ops in communities making the investment on a small plant to produce hydrogen?

Gir: you said

quote:
It would be in the best interests of the US government to become independant of oil producing companies (particularily in the middle east). Such independance would damage left-winger's abilities to slander the Bush administration, as oil would not be a reason to go to war because they will need a heck of a lot less of it.

THe US government, Bush et al, is big oil. Look at all of the corporate links that have been discussed on this board. Halliburton and Dick Cheney, for example. Re-read the article I posted twice. You can't disconnect some ideal of "the US Government" from money, corporations, and greed. While there has been a little slander here and there, most of what I've seen on this board has been a discussion of fact. As regards the issue of H2 power, look at the article. Big oil is in favour because the demand for their product stands to increase if H2 becomes the fuel of choice.

[ 10 June 2003: Message edited by: tyoung ]


From: Vancouver Island | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 10 June 2003 08:57 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Way too much technospeak for me to follow the intricacies closely - but I heard something neat on CBC radio this morning about fuel cell technology, and I hadn't read this thread yet. And the first thing I thought was, "But won't it take energy to run those machines that separate the water's hydrogen from the oxygen" or whatever it was they were saying the machines would do.

I guess I was just thinking it sounded too good to be true, and you know what they say - if it SOUNDS too good to be true...


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Jimmy Brogan
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posted 13 June 2003 08:10 AM      Profile for Jimmy Brogan   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Massive hydrogen production threatens ozone depletion


quote:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- While hydrogen is touted as a clean fuel waiting to replace fossil energy sources, a new study concludes its widespread use could increase damage to the ozone layer that protects Earth from ultraviolet radiation.

The report in Friday's editions of Science magazine says such trade-offs shouldn't prevent development of hydrogen fuel cells, but they should be taken into account when considering what measures might be needed to limit any environmental downside of a hydrogen-fuel economy.



From: The right choice - Iggy Thumbscrews for Liberal leader | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
Bubbles
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posted 13 June 2003 12:56 PM      Profile for Bubbles        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I always thought that the idea behind the use of hydrogen was to use it to generate electricity in a fuel cell and then run the car with an electric motor. The only waste product would then be water vapour, which is rather harmless at lower elevations. Might add a bit to the rain. Its use in high altitude planes to run turbines would not be advisable, since that could destroy our ozone shield. The production of hydrogenfrom from oil is ofcourse not a clean process, some energy would be wasted, which could be used for heating purposes. What to do with the left over carbon? If we burn it, it would contribute to the CO2 imbalance and thus global warming. We could bury it, or use it to replace some of the coal being used for metalurgical purposes.

This process is probably still more efficient then burning the oil in our inefficient internal combustion engines. I agree it would make more sence to use the sun in a more direct way, rather then this cirquitious (?) route.

How about a horse, it reproduces itself, it can gather its own energy, has some built in intelligence, lasts for 20+ years, does not rust, don't need a switch for the seat-warmer, and it can be used for food. And best of all it would not cost $20,000. Which means less time grubbing for the buck, probable the most wastfull thing ever invented.


From: somewhere | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 13 June 2003 10:14 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
From the article:

quote:
Because hydrogen readily travels skyward, the researchers estimated that its increased use could lead to as much as a tripling of hydrogen molecules -- both manmade and from natural sources -- going into the stratosphere, where it would oxidize and form water.

Of course, the reverse process also occurs, which is photolysis, bringing water back to hydrogen and oxygen. I wonder how the equilibrium behaves, anyhow, and whether the concern being voiced is due to a proposed mechanism of free radical formation from the hydrogen molecule (which would possibly promote formation of water from ozone).

In any case, if hydrogen is entrained in some fashion, for example, by using alkali metal hydrides, then the problem is moot since they're solids and the hydrogen gas can be released on demand as one drives a vehicle, which would reduce leakages enormously.

Someone remind me to find out if visible light alone will promote reactions of hydrogen and oxygen.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Bubbles
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posted 13 June 2003 10:53 PM      Profile for Bubbles        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
You are right leakage of hydrogen would be a problem, but it seems to me that there are probably all kinds of substances in the atmosphere that would react with that. But I am no chemist.

But hydrogen is dangerous stuff and will make an explosive mixture with air over a wide range. I used to fill balloons, for high altitude weather observations, very carefully with hydrogen. I forgot the exact number but if I recall correctly even as little as two percent oxygen contamination of the hydrogen will form an explosive mixture. In the electrolizers, we used, we were forever checking to make sure that the hydrogen coming out was pure, because having one of those plate steel cells blowing up makes a huge mess of things.

The idea of combining it with another element could make sence, since storing hydrogen gas is a problem too.


From: somewhere | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 14 June 2003 12:11 AM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Hydrogen explosions will tend to blow up rather than out due to the light density of the gas. This can, if proper design is taken into account, limit the damage done by any such.
From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Gir Draxon
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posted 14 June 2003 02:25 AM      Profile for Gir Draxon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
DrConway, I doubt that visible light could do it. If it were true, I beleive that hot air baloon explosions would be a lot more common since SOME light and SOME oxygen from the atomosphere is bound to sneak in there. I don't plan on verifying it at this point, since that requires more physics/chemistry than I feel like doing right now.

quote:
The idea of combining it with another element could make sence, since storing hydrogen gas is a problem too.

I see more of a problem in transferring it. Wherever people will fuel up, there is going to be hydrogen gas build-up. Right now there are restrictions on how close one can be before they light a cigarette (or for that matter, anything involving combustion) near a gas station. There would have to be quite a clearance zone from the H2 station, or perhaps some kind of device to reclaim the leaked gas.

But those obstacles can and must be overcome since we MUST find a way to break our oil dependance. There are a variety of environmental concerns, but also a big strategic one. There is a limited quantity of oil in the Earth, which is going to run out sooner or later (more likely sooner). More efficient engines that still depend on petroleum-derived hydrocarbons (gas, diesel, jet fuel, etc.) are only delaying the inevitable.

Which brings me to my next point, Bush & friends.

quote:
THe US government, Bush et al, is big oil. Look at all of the corporate links that have been discussed on this board. Halliburton and Dick Cheney, for example. Re-read the article I posted twice. You can't disconnect some ideal of "the US Government" from money, corporations, and greed. While there has been a little slander here and there, most of what I've seen on this board has been a discussion of fact. As regards the issue of H2 power, look at the article. Big oil is in favour because the demand for their product stands to increase if H2 becomes the fuel of choice.

But what do the corporations really care about? Are they in business because they think oil is a good fuel? No. They only care about what can be measured in units of $. Oil will not be around forever, so they WILL be driven out of business if they do not change. It would not make sense to push oil-based fuels if more money could be made by producing cleaner fuel.

quote:
How about a horse, it reproduces itself, it can gather its own energy, has some built in intelligence, lasts for 20+ years, does not rust, don't need a switch for the seat-warmer, and it can be used for food. And best of all it would not cost $20,000. Which means less time grubbing for the buck, probable the most wastfull thing ever invented.

1) Need lots of grain to fuel 'em
2) Solid waste is nasty

From: Arkham Asylum | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
WingNut
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posted 14 June 2003 02:49 AM      Profile for WingNut   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I heard a presentation recently that argued there are two competing schools of thought at work. Returning to the initial post, one school argues the solution to ther problem is to produce additional hydro electric power through mini-hydro generators. For example, placing generators along the Trent canal could produce enough power for all of Peterborough. Computer and Internet technology, for the first time, makes this sort of power feasible in that they can all be networked and brought on straem as needed. There would be no need for additional dams or mega engineering projects as existing dams and canals would be used. This additional power could then be harnessed for producing hydrogen cells.

The other school of thought is ethanol. Big industry and agriculture is behind thsi one. Agriculture because corn must be grown to produce ethanol and industry because plants and distribution systems must be built.

Before responding remember I was at a presentation and do not pretend to have any knowledge beyond an interest in this matter.


From: Out There | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 14 June 2003 04:51 AM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
WingNut: Re ethanol, see my response to SHH's post for why it's not as great a panacea as it looks.
From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
WingNut
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posted 14 June 2003 04:58 AM      Profile for WingNut   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yeah, thanks, Doc. That was essentially the argument made at the presentation.
From: Out There | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
Steve N
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posted 14 June 2003 11:29 AM      Profile for Steve N     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I haven't looked at the technology articles for some months, but the last I read, fuel cells use hydrogen peroxide. I know there were at least two companies doing research, I'm not sure if this is Ballard's method. Hydrogen peroxide doesn't blow up though.

As to reducing car use, I think the main point would be to make cities more attractive and livable.

For one example, my father-in-law is on the verge of retirement. He's anxious to move to the big ciy away from the small-town/suburbia he's lived in for 40 years. His reasoning is to be closer to museums, galleries, bookstores, theatres, etc. He's far from "old", but he doesn't like driving for 2-3 hours on the highway anymore.

This is the kind of sales pitch that needs to be promoted, and the kind of facilities and advantages that need to be developed. Public transit should be clean, fast, efficient and LUXURIOUS if you want to attract suburbanites downtown.

So often I read comments by suburbanites that "most people don't want to live in the city". We have to address why, reduce the noise, pollution in the cities, and promote the advantages. Cities have to become much more than a place to "make a quick buck, and then get the hell out."

Meanwhile the "true" cost of low-density developement has to be passed on to the buyers. Maintenence costs to develope and repair highways, sewers, water treatment, hydro, police, fire, ambulence services, etc. have to somehow be passed on to local property taxes.(This is somewhat true, but not 100%.) All of these things are far more cost-effective if provided in a high-density setting. Mass transit has to be funded by regional/provincial/federal levels.

Low density suburbs are massively subsidized by high density inner cities, yet (around here anyway) the myth is constantly promoted that the inner cities are subsidized by suburbia.

Changing these attitudes and financial restructuring HAVE to occur first, but I can't really see any easy way this will occur.

[ 14 June 2003: Message edited by: Steve N ]


From: Toronto | Registered: Aug 2002  |  IP: Logged
redshift
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1675

posted 14 June 2003 12:07 PM      Profile for redshift     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
the real problem with almost any alternative fuel source is that sufficient research into net effect hasn't been done. presently much of the hype is designed to promote the same shallow interest that lead to internal combustion, nuclear and GMOs as saviors of humanity.
hydrogen peroxide is produced industrially by "cracking " natural gas with super-heated live steam. if your desired effect is hydrogen peroxide production its efficient, but harvesting energy from the secondary product of that process isn't going to be.
Ballard bought a big chunk of Methanex a couple of years back, as methane is readily available as a by-product of a lot of processes and is hydrogen rich. unfortunately , one of the sources being explored is underwater frozen deposits. this type of exploitation would probably result in environmental damage.
computer and solid-state technology increase transmission flexibility and efficiency, but require transmission lines and manufacturing facilities, neither of which are economic on a micro scale. solid state equipment also requires the smelting of rare earths which is extremely energy demanding.
there is no free lunch.

From: cranbrook,bc | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
WingNut
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1292

posted 14 June 2003 12:26 PM      Profile for WingNut   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
there is no free lunch.

Sorry, I was eating, what did you say?

Seriously, you are correct. We are an arrogant species and we will go to great lengths to sell the next flood as beach front property.


From: Out There | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 490

posted 14 June 2003 01:34 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Powerballs!

I actually visited that place back in 2000. They were a basic operation in Utah catering to some test customers at the time. I don't know if they've expanded any, but their biggest problem is that the process involves natural gas as the hydrogen source rather than electrolysis, which means any uptick in natural gas prices can ruin your profit margin.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
butterhead
recent-rabble-rouser
Babbler # 2985

posted 25 June 2003 03:14 PM      Profile for butterhead        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
We seem to be lurching from one cricis into the
next. One consideration not discussed here is
that fuel can probably be manufactured from
genetically engineered entities.

Every solution creates new problems, or has
unforseen consequences. The BT corn used to
profitably manufacture ethanol, is leaching
tons of toxin into the soil.

The proferred panaceas, and the political media
spin, are a continuation of the same old process,
and there is no way out.


From: Windsor | Registered: Aug 2002  |  IP: Logged
Jimmy Brogan
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3290

posted 30 June 2003 09:24 PM      Profile for Jimmy Brogan   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
New Catalyst Paves Way For Cheap, Renewable Hydrogen

quote:
ARLINGTON, Va. Scientists have developed a hydrogen-making catalyst that uses cheaper materials and yields fewer contaminants than do current processes, while extracting the element from common renewable plant sources. Further, the new catalyst lies at the heart of a chemical process the authors say is a significant advance in producing alternate fuels from domestic sources.

In the June 27 issue of the journal Science, James Dumesic, John Shabaker and George Huber, of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, report developing the catalyst from nickel, tin and aluminum and using it in a process called aqueous-phase reforming (APR), which converts plant byproducts to hydrogen. The process performs as well as current methods that use precious metals such as platinum, yet runs at lower temperatures and is much cleaner.

"The APR process can be used on the small scale to produce fuel for portable devices, such as cars, batteries, and military equipment," said Dumesic. "But it could also be scaled up as a hydrogen source for industrial applications, such as the production of fertilizers or the removal of sulfur from petroleum products."


[ 30 June 2003: Message edited by: JimmyBrogan ]


From: The right choice - Iggy Thumbscrews for Liberal leader | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 490

posted 30 June 2003 09:41 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Ooh. Raney nickel. Organic chemists (and I am one ) will recognize this. It's a common catalyst used in reactions involving carbonyls.

Now, if they could find a way to cheat the water overpotential effect...

[ 30 June 2003: Message edited by: DrConway ]


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
redshift
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1675

posted 02 July 2003 09:30 AM      Profile for redshift     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
more good news.
"The volcanoes produced two gases: sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide. The sulphur and other effusions caused acid rain, but would have bled from the atmosphere quite quickly. The carbon dioxide, on the other hand, would have persisted. By enhancing the greenhouse effect, it appears to have warmed the world sufficiently to have destabilized the super concentrated frozen gas called methane hydrate, locked in sediments around the polar seas. The release of methane into the atmosphere explains the sudden shift in carbon isotopes.

Methane is an even more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The result of its release was runaway global warming: a rise in temperature led to changes that raised the temperature further, and so on. The warming appears, alongside the acid rain, to have killed the plants. Starvation then killed the animals."

http://tinyurl.com/ftpm


From: cranbrook,bc | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
alisea
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 4222

posted 02 July 2003 05:04 PM      Profile for alisea     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I was mildly amused to see the suggestion of the horse. A while back, I was researching the horses replacement by the car in the early 20th century, and I was stunned to find out that gas/oil-fueled cars were seen as the* end* of urban pollution, because the problems of urine and manure were so acute. A single horse produced about 6,000 kilos of manure and close to 2000 litres of urine a year, and there were hundreds of thousands, if not millions of them, in the United States alone.

Ive read stomach-turning accounts by environmental historians stating, e.g., that New York in 1900 was buried under roughly four million pounds of manure every day, horses were stabled away from their carriages, because their urine fumes were strong enough to blister paint, and the air was loaded with bacteria-laden dust carrying a plethora of respiratory diseases. Tuberculosis rates plummeted in the 20s after the car displaced the horse. As well, the amount of land clear-cut and turned into fields to grow feedstock for horses topped out at 93,000,000 acres in 1915, with almost none today. Some of the reforestration thats taken place in the US north-east (Vermont was almost 90% cleared land in 1900; its 85% forested today) is likely due to this decline in land use to produce feed for horses (and oxen, as well).

We have *got* to find a way to move ourselves and our stuff around that isnt going to kill this planet, but draft animals arent the solution.

[ 02 July 2003: Message edited by: alisea ]


From: Halifax, Nova Scotia | Registered: Jun 2003  |  IP: Logged

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