hydrogen dispenser maintained by the California Fuel
Credit: Leslie Eudy
#3: Installing hydrogen infrastructure would be prohibitively
reason the switch to hydrogen has been such a long time coming
is most often described as a classic chicken-and-egg problem.
Who would invest in building a hydrogen distribution infrastructure
if there aren't vehicles, buildings and appliances powered
by hydrogen? Why develop those vehicles, buildings and appliances
if there is no way to power them?
break through this gridlock, Lovins suggests piggybacking
hydrogen distribution into the pre-existing energy infrastructure.
While it's anathema to some purists, Lovins advocates harvesting
hydrogen from fossil fuels to begin with. Hydrocarbons such
as coal or natural gas are hydrogen-rich compounds, consisting
of long chains of carbon atoms, each adorned with multiple
hydrogen atoms, which can be harvested via a process called
front loader piles coal at a power station.
Credit: David Parsons
already have the infrastructure to transport natural gas to
where power is needed. Then on-site reformers could harvest
the hydrogen from the natural gas. That would solve the costly
problem of transporting hydrogen, without investing in new
infrastructure. Lovins envisions this transition working best
to supply fuel cell automobiles and provide buildings which
soak up an astounding two-thirds of all electricity with
the stable, reliable power they need.
aspect of Lovins' strategy comes under fire from renewable
energy advocates who call for a quick transition away from
fossil fuels. But "insisting that...hydrogen be made solely
from renewable energy sources, starting now...is making the
perfect the enemy of the good," writes Lovins in "Twenty Hydrogen
turbines provide renewable energy that could be used
to create hydrogen fuel.
Credit: Eugene Water and Electric Board
if switching to hydrogen wouldn't wean the economy off its
fossil fuel habit, what's the point? First, hydrogen fuel
cells still burn more cleanly than combustion engines, and
the transition would halve carbon emissions from automobiles.
But the Rocky Mountain Institute's strategy calls for producing
hydrogen from natural gas only in the short run. According
to Lovins, this strategy would build up both supply and demand
for hydrogen simultaneously, until such time that it would
be cost effective to switch exclusively to renewable sources
of hydrogen, such as wind-powered electrolysis of water, reforming
the methane from livestock manure or the other methods described
in Hydrogen Hopes.
- - - - - - - - - - -
4 pages: | 1 | 2
| 3 | 4