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Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

Posted by joyfulguy (My Page) on
Wed, Nov 9, 05 at 15:19

Last night I heard on the radio that the world's first commuter driving a hydrogen-powered vehicle is navigating the roads near Los Angeles with a Honda.

Says it has a thick-walled bottle (much like propane, I imagine).

He can get about 160 miles on a tankfull, has a charging unit at home and there's one along his route to work.

It appears that they contacted a number of people on their list who'd used multi-fuelled vehicles, previously, then decided that he should be the one chosen to try it for daily use.

He's very pleased with it.

Sounds like a great idea.

ole joyful


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

Joyfulguy,,did you also note that the news article stated that while the only emission from the car is pure water, at this time the only commercial source of Hydrogen it to extract it from natural gas, and in the process of extracting the hydrogen they actually release 5 times more carbon into the atmosphere than what a fossil fueled car would produce driving the same distance.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

LazyPup,

Yeah - the emissions issue is only one component of the whole structure.

I was not aware that the feedstock of the hydrogen currently is natural gas. Which we're shipping to the U.S. in major quantity, and about to ship more of.

Unfortunately, from the point of view of many Canadians, we've committed to continuing to supply you with a specified proportion of our total production. That is, we can't cut back on percentages later when we come closer to running out of supplies - or open ourselves to suit.

In future years, as the natural gas supply comes closer to being exhausted, for many people in your middle tier and southern states, it's lack will cause some discomfort - but for us, it will mean freezing. Not quite the same level of discomfort.

I'd heard that we can produce hydrogen by electrolysis, but that the cost is so high that it can never, so far as we know at present, be operable for general production in quantity.

What I consider to be Canada's best personal money management magazine, that carries no ads, so is totally subscriber driven, is mostly print material and that on plain paper with almost no illustrations, recently carried an article by a young fellow who retired at age 34, telling how he does it.

A couple of months later he told how he was unhappy, as are millions of others in our society, when he pulled up to the gas pump and saw the price of gas. But he wasn't too unhappy, as he owns quite a few shares of oil and gas corporations, so he's ahead after all is said and done.

We North Americans have been so dependent on fossil fuels, and at low cost, that we've neglected to search out alternative methods of harnessing energy. The Europeans, though they're much closer to Middle Eastern sources, have paid much higher prices for petroleum products for years. This has led them to have done much more research than we in seeking alternative means, e.g. solar, wind, geothermal, etc. and they are a long way ahead of us in learning how to make use of such resources efficiently.

It seems to me that our civilization is in trouble - and, though only about three generations ago we knew how to live much more simply, those skills are now in short supply: current people have no idea how to do that.

Good wishes for success as you seek ways to live effectively and with less impact on the world's resources.

ole joyful


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

"...he was unhappy, as are millions of others in our society, when he pulled up to the gas pump and saw the price of gas."

Yeah, more whiners. It was only about $3/gallon (US). Didn't bother me a bit, 'cause 1) I spent most of the first half of the year working in Europe, where it was twice that even before Katrina; 2) My 401K owns a bunch of oil company stocks; and 3) I drive a Honda Insight which gets about 75 mpg. I filled up the tank at the end of August, and didn't need to fill it again until October :-)


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

Found out watching the news the other night that they are fueling this car at a fueling station that is solar powered. They are making the hydrogen out of water using electricity generated by the solar cells. So they are not using natural gas and wasting fuel to make fuel.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

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Need to think about some other aspects of this . . . .

Hydrogen . . starts with "H" . . . as in Hindenburg . . highly "flammable" ( explosive ! ) . . so no different than gasoline or other similar stuff in that regard.

Hydrogen oxidized ( burned w/ oxygen ) produces nothing more than heat and water vapor in reasonably good conditions. Reality; the atmosphere is 78% nitrogen. Nitrogen plus heat plus pressure ( like in a cylinder in an engine ) produces nitrous oxides . . which produces acid rain . . . which must be dealt with. No cleaner in this respect . . unless the engine is lower compression ( read this as lower power ) than conventional / typical engines; and therefore reduces temps / pressures to where these nasties form to a much lower extent.

Hydrolyzing water with solar energy . . . quaint; but wasteful. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big solar fan . . I produce most of my own electricity by way of 2800 watts of panels . . . but hydrolyzing water takes a lot of energy . . and in a PERFECT system you would only get back exactly what you put in . . . . so no real gain here either. Solar ( PV ) panels collect ~ 14% of available solar energy; collecting the heat is far more efficient that generating electricity as you can capture a much larger spectrum of the solar radiation.

I'm not trying to be a wet rag on things; but let's all realize that hydrogen ( for this car, for fuel cells ) MUST come from somewhere . . . and while it can come from a variety of sources; it is not some amazingly clean / free / endless panacea of unlimited energy. Reducing our consumption will have the biggest impact on WHATEVER source we use; and make it last longer. People who look for the endless heap of "energy" somewhere; are missing the big picture. There is no such heap.

I'm all for trying all sorts of new technologies / sources etc; but we cannot lose sight of basic laws of physics in the process . . . .

Bob


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

Those who figure that they can boss Mother Nature ...

... may appear to succeed ...

... for a while ...

but usually, later on, Mother Nature rises up ...

... and kicks them in the ass.

Just ask some farmers who thought they were so smart, a few years ago.

Co-operation usually works better than exploitation.

ole joyful


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

What is so great about hydrogen? "It's clean and renewable" they say. So where does this unlimited ultra clean energy come from, do we dig it out the ground, drill wells for it? No, they tell us it's made from water. That's misleading however. Hydrogen is made from energy. Either by splitting the hydrogen off traditional hydrocarbon fuel molecules, or by using large quantities of energy to split water molecules. Of course, when quizzed to this extent they fall back on the renewable energy line, saying we can make hydrogen from wind, solar, etc. However, if we could just install all this renewable energy capacity in the ease with which they say hydrogen is to be made from it, then why on earth does more than 95% of the world's energy still come from fossil fuels? Besides, electric is far more versatile a fuel than hydrogen, if we could make all this renewable electric then why not build a 'renewable electric economy'.

The million, actually multi-billion, dollar question would be why is the US spending billions on developing hydrogen fuel cells and pretty much nothing on developing the much referenced wind and solar with which to make this ultra-clean hydrogen. Are they really so short sighted as to make this fantastically expensive box and then go "Oops, we forgot the hydrogen to go in it!". I toyed with that notion for a while, but had to discard it as a little too far fetched.

Again, I asked myself, what is so great about hydrogen?

I didn't have to go all that far (actually government web sites) to find the missing parts of the puzzle. While plugging the whole ultra-clean hydrogen agenda with visions of wind turbines and solar PV in public, politicians haven't been exceptionally covert in the fact that they really want to make hydrogen from nuclear and traditional fossil fuels, mainly coal. No prize for guessing which country is sat on the largest coal reserves in the world and has a well developed nuclear program. In fact, North America has more energy potential in it's coal reserves than there is in the oil in Saudi Arabia.

The political and economic implications of all this are not really in the purpose of this board, but it's relevant to consider the pollution that would result from turning coal in to hydrogen on such a vast scale. Certainly, coal is the most toxic of all fossil fuels. When the hydrogen is removed, this waste will remain. Billions of gallons of toxic sludge that must be dumped somewhere.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

I remember that they used to heat coal in a sealed vessel, then used the gases that came off for heating (also chemicals?).

The residue was made up of small black chunks called "coke" with holes in them that were much lighter, of course, than the original coal chunk had been.

They used the coke as fuel for stoves, boilers, etc. but I think that the exhaust carried fewer pollutants than had they burned the original coal in that unpressurized firebox.

Anyone else have fuller information about that process, especially the environmental implications of it?

ole joyful


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

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"Pure" coal is nothing but carbon . . . easily burned cleanly in reasonable conditions. Reality is that "pure" coal does not exist . . . there are many other thing in it; one of the them being sulphur => producing sulphur oxides and therefore smog / acid rain. There are also trace element of all kinds; including heavy metals in various amounts. When burned; it either sends that stuff up the smokestack where someone, somewhere; breathes it or has it rain down into their lake etc.; or any that is left behind and NOT burned; is now concentrated to the point where you simply can't just chuck it out. . . . it has essentially been turned into toxic waste. So heating coal ( cooking it ) can indeed produce useful clean fuel . . but again there are consequences from doing that; and heating it requires energy to do as well. Just as in making a gallon of gas, you cannot really ignore the embodied energy . . that is; the energy that went into making that final form of energy.

I'll agree that finding a good, clean way to use coal has some real promise to provide a good amount of energy; but if we do so and make a mess somewhere in the process it has lost it's appeal in the big picture . . .

Bob


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

The problem with coal isn't those extra pollutants: they can be dealt with, though at some cost. It's the fact that, just as with any other fossil fuel, burning coal produces carbon dioxide. All that coal & oil is carbon that was laid down over hundreds of millions of years, by plants slowly extracting CO2 from the atmosphere. Now all that CO2 is getting dumped back in just a couple of centuries.

The problem with hydrogen isn't really the generation, it's transportation and storage. At normal temperature & atmospheric pressure, hydrogen is a very light gas - lighter than air, in fact:-) so there's not a whole lot of energy in a given volume. To transport and store it, you either have to compress it to high pressures, or liquify it. Compressing takes energy (most of which isn't recoverable), and strong, heavy storage tanks. Liquification likewise takes energy, and well-insulated, heavy storage tanks. Worse, since its critical point is well below normal temperatures, you have to keep refrigerating it or it will evaporate.

And the worst part is, it's completely unnecessary. Hybrid cars today can get 75 mpg or better. Improvements in the next few years will get that up past 100 mpg. New lithium-ion battery technology is approching the energy density of gasoline. You can build a practical plug-in hybrid today that gets 150 mpg or better over an average commute, yet can run on gas and still do 50+ on longer trips. You could get all the fuel from ethanol & biodiesel, the electricity from nuclear and/or home based solar. And you could say goodbye to global warming and (depending on your political sympathies) blood for oil or giving the Arabs money to build more bombs.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

"The problem with coal isn't those extra pollutants: they can be dealt with, though at some cost."

Personally, I believe that that byproducts of coal are radically worse than the waste generated by nuclear power, although that receives far more attention than coal waste does.

The first problem is the quantity of it. Coal is a dirty fuel, it contains a whole range of unwanted materials, sulphur, tars, heavy metals, etc. Many of these bad for the environment and public health. 'Clean coal' is an oxymoron, the only way to make it clean is to remove the dirty stuff, and then that has to go somewhere. Now, some people say that these materials if captured and refined have useful applications in industry, but really we should be finding ways to stop using mercury, coal tars and other coal materials as they eventually go to the landfill or worse incincerators at the end of the product's useful life. Using industrial processes as a way of 'disposing' of toxic waste is a short term fix with long lasting problems. So, coal, however it's consumed, leaves us with a massive pile of toxic waste that must be disposed of.

The problem now is, in the bigger environmental scale you can't dispose of anything. 'Dispose' suggests it goes away, you don't see it again, that it's never going to be a problem again. However, that is just not true. These materials will leach and leak in to the soil, water, plants and even the atmosphere to a smaller extent (unless you're burning it, then a lot goes in to the atmosphere). The only option is permanent containment, but that is exceptionally costly, just ask the nuclear industry. Landfills for toxic waste have to be lined, leachate treated, constantly monitored, and this must be done forever in the case of coal waste. While a lot of people are shocked to realise just how long radioactive wastes remain dangerous, they fail to realise that the waste from coal is going to be toxic permanently. We can't even measure it in centuries, millions of years or even billions. The heavy metals are elements, they cannot break down in to anything harmless, they will remain toxic forever.

If they put the real cost of permanent waste containment on to the price of coal, nobody would be able to afford it, which is why we're disposing of it so carelessly and will probably continue to for as long as coal is used. The quantity of it combined with the costs to contain it for any length of time are too vast, undoubtedly unlike nuclear waste it's eventual resting place will be poorly designed and in the bigger scale of things very short term. We might get away with dumping the leftovers from clean-coal in landfills for a long time, but each and every coal waste filled landfill is an environmental time bomb. When considering waste that's permanently toxic, it's not a case of will it leak, it's a case of when will it leak. There is no good answer to how we should throw away toxic waste, we really should stop generating it.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

We who live in southern Ontario, north of Lakes Erie and Ontario, get a great deal of not only carbon dioxide but a mess of other pollutants from the coal-fired generating systems in the Ohio valley and nearby areas.

ole joyful


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

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Burning ANYTHING will yield CO2; and while it's not good to do in such large amounts; it IS something that can be dealt with by nature . . . and not deforesting so much at such incredible rates . . and we are ALL guilty of adding to that just by existing . . . . . it is a waste product, but it is SO much easier to deal with than coal, nukes, garbage burning energy plants . . . ALL of which emit stuff that is toxic in many ways . . . and it gets concentrated ( ash, waste piles, scrubber ash ) or spread ALL over the place when going up a smokestack . . . taking what was a reasonably benign / hidden / buried toxin; and spewing it all over in a variety of ways.

The 150 mpg hybrids . . . etc . . well what is the real ENERGY mileage . . . it takes a certain amount of energy to move a given mass at a given speed . . . if you do part by electric; fine . . but that electricity came from somewhere; so you're still burning something, somewhere to generate that electricity. Regenerative braking ( hybrid method of turning braking energy into eletricity ) simply diverts energy that would have gone into heat; into some useable energy. Doesn't change HOW much energy it takes to move a given mass along.

What is ONLY thing common to ALL the various ways to (try) and achieve lower side-effects of energy's generation and use, in ANY form ? ? ?

Using less . . .

Less crap generated, less crap to deal with; no matter the method . . . . and we'll be leaving that much more for our following generation(s) to hopefully wisely use as newer / better ways of doing things are developed.

Bob


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

"While a lot of people are shocked to realise just how long radioactive wastes remain dangerous..."

I do wonder, though, whether that danger isn't greatly overstated by the anti-nuclear lobby. Scout around the web, and you'll find pictures of the area around Chernobyl as it is today. This is an area that was supposed to be so badly contaminated that no one could live there for centuries. Today it's a wildlife preserve.

"Burning ANYTHING will yield CO2..."

True enough, but remember the carbon cycle from your high school biology class? Plants use sunlight to convert CO2 to carbohydrates, the CO2 gets released again when animals eat the plants, or they burn. So there's always X small percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere, and some relatively constant amount of carbon locked up in living tissue (or recently living, like wood). Volcanos and other geologic processes keep adding a trickle of CO2, another trickle gets removed by ongoing processes like deposition in peat bogs, which in millions of years might become coal.

You have this cycle, which has developed and stabilized over hundreds of millions of years. Now all of a sudden you're adding a whole lot more CO2 to that cycle, by burning all that fossil carbon. What's it going to do to the cycle? Is it going to keep on working at a higher temperature, or break entirely? I don't know, and I'd prefer not to find out by mucking around with the planet I happen to be living on :-)

"...it takes a certain amount of energy to move a given mass at a given speed..."

Technically, no. It takes energy to accelerate to a given speed, or to climb hills. Otherwise the only energy needed is to overcome friction.

"...but that electricity came from somewhere; so you're still burning something, somewhere to generate that electricity."

Not necessarily. Part of the electricity comes from non-fossil-fueled sources: hydroelectric plants, nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal... There's no technical reason why all electricity couldn't come from such sources, it's just that in the current climate it's cheaper to burn stuff.

"Using less..."

Yeah, but some guys need their 12 mpg penis substitutes. My neighbor up the road, for instance, who owns two Hummers. I always say, it's his poor wife I feel sorry for :-)


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

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Am familiar with the carbon cycle . . my point was, that while messing with it is not good. BUT . . . at least it is a known, relatively benign material ( CO2 ) that nature has a way to deal with . . . which we could help with. When you start spewing toxics around, or taking ones that are poorly concentrated and benign as they exist in nature; but we ( through using stuff ) end up concentrating or spreading all over the place; you've now got much more serious issues.

Lead, asbestos, radioactive matl's, etc ALL exist in nature . . pretty well in low concentrations and tied up in various forms. When we use them; we end up %%$&ing with the carbon cycle, AND producing concentrated amounts of these various substances; which are MUCH harder to "deal" with intelligently; than CO2 production.

Chernobyl is a wildlife preserve. One way to define a wildlife preserve is to say it's a place where wildlife is encouraged. Another way is to say it's a place where people don't live anymore. And for good reason . . it's still awfully "hot" . . and will be for generations to come. Nice place to go if you wanna fish for seven-eyed carp, or various other types of mutated wildlife. Most mutations are deadly, fatal.

Who insures EVERY nuclear power plant on earth ? ? ? Governments do . . . because NO insurance company on the planet will get close to thinking about touching one. And what are we doing with all the nuclear waste from them ? ? ? Nothing . . . moving it around 'til we find somebody's back yard that won't mind having it. Not gonna happen. We don't KNOW how to deal with it. And it's PERMANENT from any time fram a human can understand / rationalize. We don't know HOW to build a structure to safely contain the stuff for long enough for it to no longer be a hazard. Know of any nuke plants that have been de-commisioned and are now safe ? ? ? There aren't any. Never will be; at least for thousands of years. That's how long it'll be 'til the stuff is "safe" . . . and that's a relative term.

There is a Nordic country . .. forget which one .. .that produces %90 + of it's electricity via hydro. Yes, there is still a price for doing so; but relatively benign. There's another Nordic country which grows trees AS A CROP . .. for the purpose of generating electricity with it. Yeah, this too messes with the carbon cycle; but again is quite benign in the big picture. The very growing of the trees needed; helps mediate the damage in the carbon cycle. Allows for a continuous supply of wood; that does NOT chew up forests . . . . only the trees grown / planted / harvested specifically for this purpose. A bunch of trees does NOT make a forest as some US lumber companies try to make us believe . . planting a monoculture for lumber production does NOT make a forest. Leave the forests alone; grow wood as a crop . .. and call it so.

My statement about moving a given mass at a given speed simply states that energy needed to do something is NO different because of it's source. Watts, hp, whatever; remains the same to do a given task. Different sources have different impacts. If you have an ALL electric car; it does NOT get infinite mpg because it uses no gasoline . . . and that electric came from somewhere . .

Bob


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

I think it was Mark Twain who said "It ain't what you don't know that's the problem, it's what you do know that ain't so."

We've had half a century of anti-nuclear propaganda shoved at us. A lot of it comes from the watermelons (you know: green on the outside, red on the inside), who automatically hate anything to do with big business and/or free markets, regardless of facts. More comes from the silly sciences, who hear words like "nuclear" or "radiation", and automatically go into a state of hysterical panic.

A lot of what people think they know about nuclear power just ain't so. Take for instance this business of nuclear waste being radioactive forever. Now strictly speaking that's true, because you know what? EVERYTHING is radioactive. Every atom that makes up the ground you walk on, the air you breathe, every cell of your body: every one of them will in time undergo radioactive decay. The important question is whether that breakdown is fast enough to be dangerous. So the anti-nuclear crowd uses a circular argument: they say radiation is dangerous, this power plant waste is going to be radioactive forever, therefore it's going to be dangerous forever.

As for the seven-eyed carp at Chernobyl, show me :-) Sure, you'll find some "mutations" in animals there, but you'll find the same sorts of things everywhere, if you take the trouble to look. Happens in humans too, but we call them birth defects. (In fact, it turns out that such defects are far more common in cold-blooded animals like fish & frogs, because their gestation doesn't take place in a nice climate-controlled environment inside the mother's body.)

Now about that CO2 being "relatively benign". I think you're failing to see the big picture. What's the worst case for that nuclear waste, those chemical pollutants? Some people (and plants & animals) will be adversely affected, maybe even killed. Not a desirable scenario, but one in which life can survive and eventually adapt to the new conditions. (There are, after all, bacteria that live quite happily inside operating nuclear reactors.) What's the worst case for CO2? We dump so much of that fossil carbon into the atmosphere that it triggers a runaway greenhouse effect and turns the Earth into a copy of Venus. Nothing would survive that.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

jamesqf,

Would you be interested in living anywhere near Chernobyl?

Not me, thanks.

Three Mile Island, either.

ole joyful


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

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Plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 YEARS. That's close enough to forever for me; and a VERY good reason to not be collecting the stuff, using it for a while; and then trying to discard it safely. Can't be done . . . .

Another aspect of nuke power people like to not think about; is it's mining / refining and the consequences of it. An astronomical amount of material must be processed ( read this as mined, dug, trucked, ground, processed . . ALL of which involve huge amounts of energy to do ) to obtain a small amount of "useable" end product. Dig the mine, then when it starts to fill with water, pump it out. Now we're taking stuff that normally would have remained in place for a long time; and releasing it all at once into some creek, stream, or river eventually. We've now released incredible amounts of all kinds of stuff in a very short time in a very concentrated place . . for the sake of obtaining something very dangerous, that when we're done with we don't know how to dispose of it safely for many thousands of years more than the pyramids have stood. Not realistic at all . . and certainly not on a "shrinking" planet . . nor a long term solution to anything, merely more ( and incredibly toxic ) waste.

Fly over Chernobyl area and you may well see what appears to be "normal" stuff . .. .trees, critters, etc. Stop, get out with your radiation meter, and start really looking close up and you'll see a terribly distorted smattering of sick flora and fauna.

I'm not a big fan of trashing / destroying anything . . . I accept that I add to the CO2 problem / carbon cycle. But I do NOT accept that it is OK to do nukes and the irreversable damage that it does to us all . . . and will for hundreds of generations to come . . .

Bob


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

"Would you be interested in living anywhere near Chernobyl?"

As compared to where? I wouldn't move from where I am now, but if it were a choice between there and someplace like Los Angeles or New York City, damned right I would.

"Plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 YEARS."

Yes? Carbon 14 has a half-life of (IIRC) 5400 years, and you breathe it in every time you inhale. Uranium 238's half-life is 4.4 billion years, and big chunks of it are buried in various places around the world. Doesn't seem to worry anyone.

Also, there's a really simple way to get rid of that plutonium. You use it in a nuclear reactor, it fissions (generating power in the process), after which it is not plutonium any more.

"An astronomical amount of material must be processed ( read this as mined, dug, trucked, ground, processed..."

Not so. The amount of material that needs to be moved per megawat of energy produced is absolutely miniscule in comparison to the amount that's moved to generate that same megawat from coal.

"...we don't know how to dispose of it safely..."

Sure we do. One way would be to put it back in the mine where the original uranium came from. That radioactive material stayed there for billions of years without bothering anyone.

"...start really looking close up and you'll see a terribly distorted smattering of sick flora and fauna."

Look downstream of any coal strip mine, downwind of any coal-fired power plant, and you'll see as bad or worse. The difference is that those effects are produced by coal-fired plants in their normal, everyday operation, whereas Chernobyl only happened because the Soviets made the decision to build plants without any sort of containment, AND an absolute idiot decided to override all the safety systems that were in place.

The point here isn't that there's a choice between "safe" and "dangerous": it's that public hysteria has greatly exaggerated the dangers associated with nuclear power, while the old "familiarity breeds contempt" effect has resulted in the dangers of coal-fired generation being understated or ignored. If you look at all the effects of both, including realistic estimates of worst-case scenarios, you'll find that nuclear power is much safer than coal.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

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Let's get some facts straight . . . .

The statement about carbon being radioactive and breathing it . . . well, yes. But only a TINY fraction of the carbon molecules are radioactive; not all of them. Background radiation absorbed by random exposure ( which we've now increased by concentrating and using the stuff for nukes ) and is what causes this. Your implication that ALL carbon is radioactive is simply; wrong.

U-238 having such a long half-life; and not being a problem because it's buried . . . EXACTLY . . it is buried . . and there aren't chunks of it laying around as pure U-238 or anything remotely close to it. It is scattered about everywhere; some places more than others. That is exactly why it IS "safe" as found in nature . . . VERY low concentrations; which we evolved with. Give up some numbers on how many tons of material must be mined for a MW of power from nukes; vs a MW from coal.

Getting rid of plutonium by fission . . . well, if you take 100 lbs and do that; in 4.4 billion years you'll only have 50 lbs of it, and all the fission by-products to deal with. Still dangerous, very much so. Not much of a solution.

Simply get rid of the waste by putting it back into the mines it came from ? ? ? How come no government in the world has figured out how to do that ? ? ? Please write them a letter and tell them that YOU have figured out how to deal with nuclear waste. How 'bout YOUR back yard ? ? ?

Coal mines ( in fact most everything we do ) has environmental consequences . . some are huge . . . . I am fully aware of that and never stated otherwise. Whoever designed Chernobyl thought they had proper things in place . . . and NOTHING is above a failure, idiot-proof, or completely fail-safe no matter WHO built / designed / runs it. The very long-term possible side effects when doing nuke power is astronomical.

Last but by no means least; is the simple fact that NO insurance company in the WORLD will touch insuring a nuke plant. Much as I hate to see money talk; the simple reality is that the liability is too big for any of them. This speaks volumes . . . .

Bob


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

"But only a TINY fraction of the carbon molecules are radioactive..."

Yes and no. All atoms are technically radioactive, though the half-lives of those we call "stable" may be many times the lifespan of the universe. But you only consider just C-14, with a 5700 year half-life. It occurs as a small fraction of atmospheric carbon (being constantly created by bombardment by solar radiation). There is a lot of carbon around, so that tiny fraction still adds up to a lot of radioactive carbon. The C-14 is intermixed with C-12 in the atmosphere, so every thing that contains carbon derived from atmospheric sources contains some of it. (Though not carbon derived from coal or oil, since most of the C-14 has decayed in the hundreds of millions of years since it was laid down.

"Getting rid of plutonium by fission . . . well, if you take 100 lbs and do that; in 4.4 billion years you'll only have 50 lbs of it..."

Way wrong. I think you're confusing fission with natural decay. In the case of plutonium, the half-life is a bit over 24,000 years, if you just let it sit around. Fission is a different process, that only rarely occurs in nature. (But see the Oklo nuclear reactor for an interesting example.) In a reactor (or nuclear weapon), an atom fissions whenever it captures a neutron. This may happen over years, in a power reactor, or in a tiny fraction of a second, in a weapon. Afterwards, that atom of plutonium is gone, replaced by two or more daughter atoms that may or may not be radioactive.

"How come no government in the world has figured out how to do that?"

They have. That's essentially what the repository they're building does (though it adds a lot of other containment). It's just that the anti-nuclear groups have used misinformation and scare tactics to try to keep it from being built.

"The very long-term possible side effects when doing nuke power is astronomical."

As compared to the risk of a runaway greenhouse effect, which would sterilize the planet? We do have, thanks to Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, examples of what the effects of nuclear accidents are. If you trouble yourself to look, you find that they aren't anywhere near as serious as anti-nuclear hysteria makes them out to be. I know I was shocked when I saw those pictures of the "Dead Zone" around Chernobyl. I had of course heard all the stories of how this land had been rendered uninhabitable, yet the pictures showed a verdant, living place. Seems like radioactivity and no humans must be a lot better for wildlife than humans and no radioactivity :-)

"...the simple fact that NO insurance company in the WORLD will touch insuring a nuke plant."

Who says this? Has anyone ever seriously asked them to write a policy, or is this just another bit of disinformation? Even if it were true, is it the risk itself, or the fear of political consequences that dissuades them? If nothing else, I'd imagine that any company that wrote such a policy would find itself boycotted by all the anti-nuclear groups.

In any case, no insurance company, AFAIK, insures coal-fired plants against the environmental damage they do. The only differences are that the damage from a nuclear plant would be localized, and happen only as a result of an accident, while the damage from coal plants is spread over hundreds or thousands of plants, and happens little by little, every day of the year.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

Hello,
Why use non-renewable fuels? because the system already uses them. The system is in place to make someone money, so why change it? From a government standpoint, change is confusion, and governments do not need confusion.

Solar, and other natural occurances should be utilized instead of non-renewable, but where is the installment payday? The concept of renewable in society as I know it, is a dangerous concept. Something for free? Not in our lifetime. Manufacturing will use resources, so methods need study to reduce the overall effect.

Technology will one day be clean? Only when money is not important.

Ignorance is Bliss. A saying we have heard for centurys. This also fits the current issues with energy and money.

When we didn't know all was easier. Now that we know, we have some hard choices to make. The only problem is who makes them.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

There was an article in national geographic that showed we would have to cover an erea the size of vermont with pv panels to supply a signifigant portion of out energy w/ solar and this is just not feasable Mr. treehuger(s).And what would we do at night ? Nuke power is our only way out of this mess. Essentially the liberals are trading our national security for preserving a few hundred square miles of arctic wasteland.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

I hear often how renewable energy sources are too expensive, complex or intermittant. To some extent, all of these are good and at first look accurate points, but I do not believe by any stretch of the imagination that they can explain why we currently use so little renewable energy.

There is great potential out there. It would seem there are even more ways to make renewable energy than there are fossil fuels. We do not lack renewable energy sources. And we certainly do not lack the technology to collect energy from them. Nor do we lack the finances to make any of this happen. We choose not to because the majority place very little value on our environment and future.

But rather than debate the costs of renewable energy, what about the long term costs of fossil fuels? Climate change, air/water/ground pollution, health problems from breathing fumes, being subject to abrupt price changes and shortages, and the high probability of running out eventually. The list of prices we're going to pay for the convenience of 'cheap' fossil fuels is grim. I do not feel that their currently low prices are cheap, it's more "buy now pay later".

We're going to have to stop using them one day, so why cling on until the last bit of dirty old coal is sent up in smoke? Wanting to pay a little less per kWh or thermal unit is a rather empty excuse from some of the richest nations in the world.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

I agree, so let's start building those new nuclear power plants right away.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

.

BeagleBuddy

Yeah, lets build some more nuke plants. We STILL don't know how to get rid of the waste after how many years of having them ? ? It's easy to say bury it somewhere . . an old salt mine, whatever. We'll do it in YOUR back yard. And then we'll all know that it's safe forever, right ? ? We won't have any earthquakes or such in the next 10,000 years.

Drilling the "arctic wasteland" for sake of our national security. Another good idea. It's one of the very few places like it on the planet, so we might as well destroy it for the sake of less than 1% of our nation's present oil needs for ONE year. Raising the CAFE standards by one tenth of a mile per gallon will save more oil EVERY year than the Arctic refuge even HAS.

Renewables are "primitive" . . . we've spent 100 years living off the petroleum-is-endless dream world . . . if we spend an equal amount of time / energy / technology on developing / perfecting renewables . . . they too would be developed enough and cheap enough so that everyone could / would use them as they would be the best choice.

Renewables are change, and change is inconvenient to a system world-wide that grew up on endless oil when we did not realize the impact of burning it all at such an incredible rate. Oddly enough, what do you think the reasoning is behind oil companies buying up solar companies ? ? ? ? They got us right now by the short and curlies; and they wanna keep it that way. It's called greed.

Call me a tree-hugger if you want; and thanks for the compliment. Maybe I give a damn about what I leave behind for the coming generations. Maybe you are too wrapped up in the me me I I school of thought to see past the end of your nose . . . .

Bob


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

Yes you may build a nuke plant or bury the nuke waste in my backyard, I'm not foolish or supersticious enough to be scared of it. There is a lot more oil than you state in Alaska.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

In the 1980's they estimated ANWR contained 300 million to 5.4 billion barrels of oil. Sounds massive, and it is, but even by the 1980's American oil consumption made it look like a small puddle. In 2005 some 22 million barrels of oil were being consumed per day in the US.

Until recently the opinion has been that drilling the ANWR would be a futile, expensive and environmentally damaging attempt to fix a problem much greater than the oil it contains.

Now, some 25 years later the ANWR contains between 6.7 billion and 16 billion barrels in the latest estimates. Something seems to have changed? Oil certainly doesn't form *that* fast, and even with early 80's technology it's hard to miss some 10 billion barrels of oil.

The tar sand monster has got them! It's been popping up all over the place. Somewhere below oil resides this thick heavy bituminous slime of no economic value. The energy required to process it rivals the energy provided by it's products, and the vast quantity of filth and toxins combined with it are a major disposal problem. But, this nasty tar sludge seems to have been turning up in all the right places and winning all the best friends, from the white house to big oil company's and the DOE. If you pretend this stuff can actually be processed economically and that you could bring it to market, then you can pretend it's actually part of your oil reserves... All the big oil companies seem to be quietly topping up their projected reserves with tar sands.

Unfortunately, America cannot stick it in their cars and drive off somewhere with it. I feel it's safe to say these vast oil reserves they consider "trapped in tar sands" contain less useful energy than the paper they're written on would liberate if burnt. Someone's trying to stick our heads in the tar sands and pretend we're not really running out of oil. That and artificially inflated reserves help reinforce the illusion America's vast appetite for oil wouldn't send the ANWR's entire reserves up in smoke in a matter of a few short years.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

Has anyone here actually been to this area of Alaska ?


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

.

We've been pumping lots of oil out of Alaska for several decades. I am specifically referring to the latest push from our "leader", to open up a new section of the National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. It contains less that one percent of our annual consumption. This will make NO difference to the overall oil picture here; but simply impact if not ruin one of the few remaining pristine areas like it left on the planet. For such a small "return", it is insanity to do so. It is simply a chance for a bunch of oil cronies to make a bunch of money and accomplish little else. Calling it a "wasteland" because it is in it's natural state simply implies that you have no concept of what such an area represents. Putting up condo's and oil derricks is not the only use of land.

If you believe that radiation is not harmful, then I'll also guess that you believe that the Valdez caused no harm either. All that talk of pesticides is probably a bunch of bunk from the tree-huggers / alarmists too, right? So much talk in fact, that it almost wiped out the Bald Eagle; the symbol of our country. You are entitled to your beliefs, no matter how wrong they may be . . . . .

Bob


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

I'm completely against radiation contamination also, which is why I'm for nuclear power. Burning coal has released, probably at least a million times more radiation into the atmosphere than nuclear power ever will. And I won't even get into the mercury poisoning. Live in Denver Co. for a year and you will recieve about the same amount of radiation as the people who lived around three mile isle.


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Vermont?

Beagle, Vermont is not that big anyway. Imagine instead of trying to cover an entire state with PV's, just cover every roof of every building with PV's. Now, you have a good portion of single family homes in the 48, especially the south, producing all of their electrical needs (if not more) during the daylight hours. If all were grid-tied, now you are using the leftover to power businesses that use more power during the day, while people are at work not using a lot at home. Supplement this system with hydro, wind, tide or wave-based generating systems, and ethanol/biodiesel burning plants. Granted, this idea would be extremely costly to start with. PV's are very expensive but cash savings will pay for them in a few (maybe 10) years. Environmentally, they have very little embodied energy, only what it takes to manufacture and install them. Electrical infrastructure is already in place.
Couple all of this with more efficient use of this energy, such as geothermal heating/cooling, and general design of a building to use passive solar energy properly, and we could make a great impact on fossil and nuke fuel usage.

I do agree that it's the money that talks. I've always thought that using hydrogen in cars was a dumb idea for most all of the reasons listed in other posts. I think hybrids are a great idea. They still use the same amount of energy, but some of what they used is energy that would have been wasted turning fuel into heat at the brakes. Now we're reclaiming some of the energy we used to accelerate.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

Al these pv panels being installed now will be losing their output in another 15 years or so down the line. Just like the h/w solar of the 70's this is a bit of a fad.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

.

PV mfg capacity is at a peak around the world . . they cannot make them fast enough to meet demand. Forward thinking places like Europe have incentives in place to encourage their use . . . and they are gobbbling up everything that is manufactured. In Germany, this "green" power is sold back to the utilities at a HIGHER rate than going "retail". They are guaranteed to produce at least 80% of their "new" power; for 20 to 25 years by the manufacturers. There is embodied energy in their manufacture; but over a lifetime of the product, they produce 20 times the energy needed to make them. The "fuel" they run on is free, clean, and limitless.

How much energy has gone into a gallon of gasoline by the time it's pumped, shipped around the world, refined, shipped to point of sale and ends up in your tank ? ? ? Figure the same for coal . . . or nuke stuff . . ungodly amount of energy invested there PLUS all the side effects of all that activity, and then ultimately the by-products from when it is actually used. Does a gallon of gas produce 20 times the energy invested in taking it from the ground and putting it into a useable form to the consumer ? ? ? Not even close . . it's less than one. Same for coal, nukes, etc.

You should also note the PV ( wind too ) is "expensive" to install. Expensive is a relative term . . . relative to other ways of doing the same work. When electricity is 20 cent / kWh; PV is no longer so expensive . . nor wind . . and in case you haven't noticed; energy is getting more expensive every day. It is becoming more uncertain every day as well. You think the mid-east is a hot spot now; wait 'til the oil supplies there and other places start drying up . . which they WILL do, some day. Argue about when; but it IS going to happen some day. Right now we are totally dependant upon those sources. There are lots of countries around the world that could use our "help" . . we just happen to pick the ones that happen to have oil . . . .

And now our fearless "leader" makes the astute statement that we are addicted to oil. Maybe he's too young to remember the 70's . . .

Clean, renewable energy is a MUST at some point in the future . . or there won't BE one for any of us . .

Bob


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

Everyone is so upset about nuke energy and what to do w/ the relatively tiny amount of waste produced, yet nobody bats an eye at the giant vats of poisonous chemicals all around us at industrial facilities. I'm sure the manufacturing of pv panels is not a completely clean process.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

I used to work in a semiconductor plant for 23 yrs before they closed down and moved out of state and i can tell you that making semiconductors is not a clean process. it is a process that involves various types of acids,caustic,oxidants, and a wide variety of poisonious gases.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

Coal - produces crap.

Nukes - produce crap.

Wood - produces (some) crap - but there isn't enough.

Hydro-electric - is more or less benign, though it involves displacing some people, stopping fish from spawning, etc. Plus - there are a lmited number of potential locations where it's feasible.

And all of them, except hydro-electric, produce carbon dioxide, which is causing us a whole mess of problems - and about to cause more.

Maybe we should all go and find or dig a cave in the mountainside - that would help a great deal in terms of cutting the carbon dioxide produced in heating our homes.

Just a thought.

ole joyful


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

Does nuclear power produce carbon dioxide ?


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

Yes, from the people working there. Plus the vehicles they drive to work in.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

Does anyone have any accurate info on Brazil's use of ethanol ? Is this a viable alternative to mid east oil ? or do you have to put more energy into it to produce than you get out as some have claimed ?


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

.

We all need to realize something: EVERY thing we do has SOME impact on the place we call home. NO form of energy is free of that condition. Mining coal, drilling oil, splitting seawater, PV panels, whatever . . . they ALL produce some impact; not only in their "manufacture" or procurement, but also many WHEN used, and many AFTER they are used. Nothing is exempt from that.

Once we all realize AND accept this, it becomes very obvious that there are two things we can ALL do to minimize our impact / extend the useable life of resources we have.

First: Minimize energy we use no matter where it came from . . . insulate better, drive a different vehicle if you can, walk, take a bus, wear a sweater . . . tons of little things we can all do . . that don't really change our lives, just make it a little different. Easy to do if you feel the need to.

Second: Use energy forms that cause less overall pollution / consequences by their very nature. Dirtiest ones should be avoided at all costs if possible . . nukes, coal, oil . . all produce some signifigant impact on a large scale . . acid rain, trace heavy metals, waste we have NO idea how to "dispose" of.

Wind, PV, hydro power, biomasss ( ethanol, methane ) . . all produce consequences too . . but can all be relatively easily mitigated / minimized. And they ALL can produce more energy than is consumed in "making" them. One investment initially; and these things can produce lots of power for many, many years with virtually NO further consequences.

Brazil and ethanol . . I don't have many facts about it; but did hear about it many years ago. An amazingly good, simple idea from a "third world" country. They had FAR more insight into the big picture by proposing such a thing than any administration here could ever think of. Believe the whole premise was to use sugar cane tailings that result from the existing sugar industry; to ferment into alcohol. Using an existing " waste " product to produce fuel / reduce need for oil. An investment ( energy-wise ) into the equipment etc once; can "produce" lots of energy for years and years using what is now "garbage". If you think about it, the "source" of the energy in such a process is . . . solar. Sunlight / photosynthesis turning water / CO2 into sugars etc; which ferment into alcohol very easily. Not unlike making wine / beer. Not only that; but alcohol is a very simple compound . . under realistic conditions can burn quite cleanly . . unlike the chemical "soup" that existing gasoline is . . producing all kinds of compounds in the burning process.

So what makes things such as Brazil / ethanol happen ? ? ? Mandates via gov'ts / laws. I'm no fan of them; but if they do not produce such changes; the changes will NOT happen. There's more money to be made drilling for oil than fermenting garbage. THAT is the bottom line in determining energy policies / sources . . not the environmental issues behind them . . .

Believe it was a Canadian gentleman who said: " If the people lead, the leaders will follow." . .. . think about it . . .

Bob


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

I would like a little more info re;" So what makes things such as Brazil / ethanol happen ? ? ? Mandates via gov'ts / laws." This is pure speculation on your part, I'll bet it was purely private enterprise, most all good inventions and ideas come from private enterprise as people are motivated by money earning potential. Perhaps someone out there knows all about Brazil/ ethanol.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

.

Just as an example, why do we now have cars that burn so much cleaner than 30 years ago and use unleaded gas ? . . . it wasn't private enterprise, it was gov't regulations. Everyone had horror stories about engines not lasting very long if you took the lead out . . . obviously that challenge has been met very well. Again, I'm NOT a fan of them as such, but there are some things which just AREN'T gonna happen without them.

Do you really think that some private individual's business proposition is going to change the energy policy of an entire country ? ? ? . . and pooh in the face of the energy businesses / lobbies there ? ? ? Get a grip.

If so, we'd all be driving around with those little magnets on our gas lines, the turbo air things, and no oil in our engines 'cuz we treated it with super slick something engine treatment; if you wanna think private enterprise changes things.

My data is just as good as your data, if you haven't got any . . .

Bob


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

Brazil's energy picture is unique I believe. They source a vast quantity of energy from renewable sources. About one quarter of their transport fuel is from ethanol. Some cars run just ethanol, others a mixture of ethanol and petrol. As someone else said, they produce it from sugar cane. The wastes from this are also burnt to produce electric, although on what scale I don't know.

They actually generate just over 95% of their electric from hydroelectric, so sugar cane waste cannot be a huge contributor.

I think they have been fortunate to have such excellent sources of renewable energy, and being able to supply such a large amount of their energy needs from them is easier when energy use per person is so much lower than other countries. However, they have been most fortunate that their government see the value in renewable energy and invested there, and have continued to even when traditional fossil fuels were of comparative price, or even lower at times.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

I'm banking on you guys "selling" all these alternative energy opportunities to the masses. Once adopted in will drive the demand for oil/nat gas and other fossil fuels lower and thereby significantly reducing the price. I'll be able to take advantage of those lowere prices for generations to come!

So a hardy THANK YOU now is in order Just where are my keys to my boat?

Bob


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

Bob,

What's this - "keys" to my boat?

You mean, "oar", don't you?

For shame - you should be "paddled".

Boats are huge consumers of petroleum product.

Yours is one used in commerce, of course.

ole joyful


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

On the topic of nuclear, there's a pervading idea that as a critic of nuclear energy I'm against nuclear energy. But I'm not, I just feel we should criticise everything.

Nuclear does provide a lot of energy, but it's not as carbon free as we're told by the industry. Anyone interested in the carbon emissions of nuclear plants should read this study:

http://www.greatchange.org/bb-thermochemical-nuclear_sustainability_rev.html

I gained a lot of information from this study, but most importantly that with current technology we need high concentrations of uranium for the process to be more efficient than using fossil fuels. The energy picture is not as good as it once looked, nuclear power does release substantial carbon emissions, while the apparently 'unlimited fuel' is actually limited by economics and decreasing returns from the energy input to processing it. At some point the energy needed to process the fuel will surpass the energy available from the resulting fuel.

I don't think we should just give up on nuclear, I believe it has the potential to work, but it needs improvements. Processing and mining could be more efficient, and the plants themselves are currently inefficient - although most improvements made there could be applied to fossil fuel plants as well, thus keeping them in close competition. But, nuclear is the technology of the future and is not a perfect carbon free solution available right now, in fact the short term results of building lots of new nuclear plants will be *more* carbon emissions. A trend that will continue for some years, and depending on the uranium content of the original fuel may continue for the entire plant's life span.


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RE: Commuter driving hydrogen-fuelled auto

Unfortunately, hybrid cars are no use to those of us who live in rural areas, as far as improved gas mileage. They shd be required in places like LA or NYC; here, there's not much stop-go traffic so no opportunity for the battery to take over. So, no gas savings. I'm waiting for some smart Japanese or European to invent a better internal combustion engine.

Iceland has lots and lots of hydrogen cars and fuel stations. They don't have to worry about the diminishing-returns conundrum because they use geothermal power to process the fuel. And best of all, Bush can't invade them and take away their geothermal energy sources. So they're sitting pretty.


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