Sunday, November 20, 2005

Hydrogen. Mother of all fuels ?

I was in a training program the whole of last week. About 3 hours of commute each day to downtown Chicago. I braved the weather and stuck to my public transportation only routine. While you get a lot of time to read books, blogging suffers quite a bit.

Ever since my Solar Decathlon Washington DC trip, I have been wondering about Hydrogen and Fuel Cells. The Solar + Fuel Cell home built by NYIT was quite impressive.

Off late many in the media, companies like GM and even President Bush have been touting Hydrogen as the cure-all for our energy needs and worries. Is it true I wonder!

So I chose to read this book. The Hype about Hydrogen. Fact and Fiction in the Race to save the Climate. Author Joseph Romm was in the Department of Energy during the Clinton administration. He helped oversee hydrogen and fuel cell research.

I found the book a very informative read. From the basics of a fuel cell, to the history of hydrogen fuel cell and its future, the book provides insight in the most simple and yet scientific manner. Every aspect of the discussion is balanced with a look at economic viability.

Hydrogen is the most abundant element on our planet. It is the mother of all atoms and molecules. But is it the mother of all fuels? Romm feels it has the potential, but it requires several leaps in the area of technology, infrastructure, and distribution. He explores the current hydrogen sources, production and distribution technologies and provides detailed cost analysis and carbon emission scenarios. If Hydrogen is to be used as a fuel just for the sake of using it, things might work out in its own weird costly way. In the true "alternate-fuel-green-house-gas- reduction" sense, Hydrogen has ways to go.

Through, his analysis, Romm makes the case that Hydrogen might not be a viable fuel till the later half of the century. Hydrogen production and distribution remains complex and energy intensive. If we do not have ample clean and renewable electricity (and energy) the whole purpose of Hydrogen itself is defeated. A chicken and egg situation.

If a CO2 emissions free future is what we have in mind, then clean renewable electricity and energy should be our first priority. Not just go around drum beating a "Hydrogen Economy".

I don't think I can do justice to this book in a blog post. Give it a read. You will definitely walk away with a lot of information and reason.

Quote of the day
"Take a long-term, conservative approach on hydrogen. Overhyping the potential of hydrogen fuel vehicles will not bring them to market sooner. More likely it will create a backlash that will slow their ultimate market success-an important less from our humbling experience in the 1990s trying to speed the use of alternative fuel vehicles. Rather, we need to let research and development (R&D) do its steady work and we hope, make major breakthroughs in all the key technologies including-hydrogen production, storage, and infrastructure, as well as fuel cells and carbon sequestration"~Joseph J Romm

PS: Joseph Romm is currently the Executive Director of the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions ( )

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Welcome back to blogland! I was starting to worry about you.

I'm afraid to say that this book is probably WAY over my head intellectually speaking. Thank you for always keeping me informed about these things because I do care!