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Hydrogen power is a sham

Posted: September 11th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: | 3 Comments »

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Hydrogen power is clean!  It is the future!  Zero emissions!  People have been telling me that hydrogen power is the wave of the future for quite some time now.  Unfortunately few people understand even the basic laws of physics.  I’ve been shitting in people’s birthday cakes for quite a while, and one of my favorite examples occurred while listening to a bunch of classmates extol the virtues of hydrogen power.   It went a little like this:

Presenters:  10 minutes of key phrases like renewable, zero emissions, no pollution

Me:  Sorry to interrupt, but given the fact that almost all commercial hydrogen is produced by running electricity through water to separate hydrogen from oxygen, and almost all of this electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels, how is this going to reduce pollution?  Further, given that you lose energy, usually to heat, when you convert fossil fuels to electricity, then to hydrogen, then back to electricity, then to mechanical power, wouldn’t this also be less efficient that directly converting the fossil fuels to mechanical power, like in say a traditional engine.

Presenters:  …uh…

Ya they were pretty much fucked after that.  Sorry.  You see Hydrogen fuel cells are simply a form of battery.  They store energy.  They’re expensive to make, complex, and hydrogen in most forms if really fucking explosive.  It’s a dumb idea.

So why are we all talking about hydrogen fuel cells?  Well there are two reasons.  First, because we don’t have any batteries.  Batteries?  Ya, we don’t have any.  See lithium ion batteries are as expensive as 100% Cambodian breast milk.  That’s why the Tesla Roadster is so expensive and has such a limited range.  We could use way cheaper NiMH batteries, but the douches at Chevron bought most of the key patents to produce them from the chodes at GM.  Not surprisingly Chevron wants to stop the production of electric cars so they won’t allow these batteries to be produced for EVs.

The next big reason we are all jumping on hydrogen is precisely the reason it’s a bad idea.  The people who produce energy (ie. the people who give our politicians lots of money) know that hydrogen would be terribly inefficient and will ultimately fail.  So as long as we’re all chasing this red herring around, dumping billions of tax dollars into hydrogen, we’re not making better alternatives.  Further, because it’s inefficient, any success in producing hydrogen cars will only increase the demand for fossil fuels.  Yay Chevron!

Ultimately unless the original energy source is renewable (solar) no amount of increased effeciency storing or converting that energy is going to make much of a difference in the long term.  Further, I believe that any increases in energy effeciency will only lead to decreased energy costs, and therefore more money to spend on more energy.  So saving the planet may only make it cheaper to destroy the planet.

3 Comments on “Hydrogen power is a sham”

  1. 1 Peter said at 10:02 am on October 1st, 2009:

    Good points about how people usually don’t think things the whole way through. I agree that hydrogen is probably a dead end. However I would like to present the scenario wear it would work.

    We greatly increase our nuclear, hydro, solar, wind, and wave power production. We then use this energy to produce hydrogen.

    However we are very unlikely to greatly increase our nuclear power production which is the only way at this point we could feasible generate enough power with current technology to run a hydrogen economy. We know the environmentalist won’t let that happen. (This is one reason environmentalist have been the greatest producers of green house gas in the past 50 years)

    But basically the benefit of going to a hydrogen economy is that if we could develop clean power production on a large scale then we could have a completely carbon neutral energy system.

    But most likely it would be an expensive fiasco.

  2. 2 Bryan said at 6:45 pm on October 5th, 2009:

    Too bad I wasn’t giving that speech. I would have shot down every fallacious argument you just brought up against Hydrogen.

    You did part of the work for me. Battery technology is stuck right at the threshold where it would actually be useful to power a full time EV car. So instead we get extended range EV which are less efficient because they have a heavy engine which is not even running most of the time. See the Chevy Volt.

    So we have this problem if range. How to solve it and still use EV propulsion? The way is to instead combine batteries with Hydrogen. Now you very succinctly pointed out the places where inefficiencies enter the equation for hydrogen. You however left off the part about the internal combustion engine. The ICE (for short) is horribly inefficient. It converts maybe 25% of the actual energy into movement.

    So even taking all the places where you make electricity, use it in electrolysis, transport the Hydrogen, convert it back to electricity and water in a fuel cell, and then use an electric motor to power the car it is STILL MORE EFFICIENT!

    But don’t let little things like facts get in the way Michael Moore… I mean whatever you name is. In addition the system reduces pollution the same way EV battery cars do. Because power plants are WAY more efficient and WAY less polluting. Besides, places like California hope to achieve 30% renewable power in it’s grid in the next decade or so. SO as time goes on the system improves.

    ICE in the other hand has peaked and has only a few tricks up it’s sleeve which still leave it with worse mpg then an extended range EV.

  3. 3 Walter said at 9:07 pm on October 16th, 2009:

    I never know this about hydrogen. All I know is that hydrogen is highly explosive. I’m glad you have elaborated it here. :-)

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