Currently our federal government is wasting tens of billions of dollars on hydrogen research and use. There are even organizations set up to help take that money all to promote what will never be a source of energy in the future.
A Brief History:
A Swiss Alchemist, Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus, in 1520 discovered hydrogen sort of when he described a gas rising from iron dissolving in sulfuric acid. Robert Boyle also dissolved iron in an acid to create what he called a flammable air. Henry Cavendish from England in 1766 detected hydrogen in a demonstration where he dissolved various metals in sulfuric acid and showed the resulting gas burned. In 1783 the gas was finally names hydrogen by A.L. Lavoisier. In the same year Jacques Charles created the first hydrogen filled balloon.
Jules Verne published the Mysterious Island in 1874 in which he describes in Chapter 33 the use of hydrogen and oxygen to replace coal. Here is the text:
“It is to be hoped so,” answered Spilett, “for without coal there would be no machinery, and without machinery there would be no railways, no steamers, no manufactories, nothing of that which is indispensable to modern civilization!”
“But what will they find?” asked Pencroft. “Can you guess, captain?”
“Nearly, my friend.”
“And what will they burn instead of coal?”
“Water,” replied Harding.
“Water!” cried Pencroft, “water as fuel for steamers and engines! water to heat water!”
“Yes, but water decomposed into its primitive elements,” replied Cyrus Harding, “and decomposed doubtless, by electricity, which will then have become a powerful and manageable force, for all great discoveries, by some inexplicable laws, appear to agree and become complete at the same time. Yes, my friends, I believe that water will one day be employed as fuel, that hydrogen and oxygen which constitute it, used singly or together, will furnish an inexhaustible source of heat and light, of an intensity of which coal is not capable. Some day the coalrooms of steamers and the tenders of locomotives will, instead of coal, be stored with these two condensed gases, which will burn in the furnaces with enormous calorific power. There is, therefore, nothing to fear. As long as the earth is inhabited it will supply the wants of its inhabitants, and there will be no want of either light or heat as long as the productions of the vegetable, mineral or
animal kingdoms do not fail us. I believe, then, that when the deposits of coal are exhausted we shall heat and warm ourselves with water. Water will be the coal of the future.”
“I should like to see that,” observed the sailor.
Hydrogen as the coal of the future is kinda like what they are saying about hydrogen replacing oil today. The whole thing is fanciful as Verne, nor any scientist at the time, understood Energy Returned on Energy Invested. That is still a problem today with many people, namely politicians.
During Nixon’s years in office there was a push to move toward a new energy future using Hydrogen as stated in a great speech that Bush Jr repeated. (Sorry I looked for the speech but I could not find it.)
Why is Hydrogen a waste of our time and money?
- Hydrogen is not freely available as it is usually tightly bound up with other things and it is not easy to pry free.
- Currently Hydrogen is obtained by pulling it from its bonds in Natural Gas which releases a huge amount of Carbon Dioxide.
- To pry Hydrogen from it bonds requires a huge amount of energy and often a high temperature steam. (To get hydrogen from coal for instance requires nearly one thousand degree temperatures, high temperature and pressure steam which leaves behind pollution. Not exactly a clean energy.)
- To convert Hydrogen to electricity wastes even more energy and the end result is you get much less energy out than put in. This means that you always need more hydrogen, and more hydrogen, and….
- To store Hydrogen either requires very large tanks, high compression to 10,000 pounds per square inch which also requires it to be cooled to -253 degrees Celsius (about -424 F) and that requires special handling and storage.
- What sort of environmental implications are there? If we convert sea water to hydrogen then how is sea life impacted? How will weather be impacted with all this new water vapor floating around?
- Also, who will pay for the Hydrogen Infrastructure?
- One example given (see link below) it would be better to use the electricity produced by a renewable source than the hydrogen as you would lose around 85 – 90 % of the original energy in the process. Having said that I do admit it could be used to store energy. But how would it compare to compressed air as a form of energy storage?
- Hydrogen cars cost a million dollars currently and that price will not come down anytime soon for you to afford one before the oil runs out.
There are other reasons as you can see in the links below. Hydrogen is not our answer to replacing oil or any other fossil fuel. All the money currently spent on hydrogen would be better off being put toward giving all of us free Solar Photovoltaic panels so we can produce our own electricity to help us move off fossil fuels. I would imaging it would actually be cheaper to give us Solar panels than to keep wasting it on hydrogen.
We should be more sensible than heading down a make believe path that has no hope of taking us anywhere.