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A Proposal To End Our Addiction To Oil
Addiction To Oil
Our historical, national, addiction to oil is such that we cannot just stop using it and replace our current oil gasoline infrastructure quickly or easily. Building 11,000 alternative fueling stations and a new fuel infrastructure will not happen quickly and painlessly. But a new fuel infrastructure may be accomplished if the transition is an incremental one that makes economic and environmental sense.
One could also make an environmental argument that oil should not be burned and “permanently consumed”, daily creating CO2 as well as other toxins, but rather be used as the feedstock of the plastics industries where it could be recycled multiple times.
The attempt, herein, is to visualize a different energy future for the United States using hydrogen fuel for our vehicles, and the mechanism to make it a reality. Hydrogen often mentioned as a fuel of the future throughout my lifetime, to date has not realized its potential. Granted that it will not be as easy to accomplish, as it is to visualize. The beauty of using hydrogen for fuel however is that the waste product of the complete combustion of hydrogen is H2O (water).
There is a way to make hydrogen used as fuel happen today, utilizing our current energy infrastructure in a different way. We could have an independent hydrogen infrastructure fueling the nation's vehicles within a decade. Remember our national commitment to go to the moon, requiring many more resources and challenges, which was accomplished in less than a decade. We could do this because we have available everything necessary to make it a reality within a decade, except for the national will to "end our addiction to oil".
Hopefully, this discussion will create the synergy to make the proposed use of hydrogen as fuel for our vehicles a reality.
Many vehicle fueling alternatives are currently being examined.
Presently there is the attempt to create and sell expensive electric vehicles to reduce environmental degradation. ( That electricity production usually involves pollution created from coal burning power plants. ) Also there are problems with expensive and heavy batteries that use "rare earth" materials from foreign countries.
Various biofuels are also currently being experimented, with but don't appear to be commercially viable presently.
Natural gas is often touted as “our cleanest fossil fuel”. Though natural gas is plentiful and another possible alternative logical future fuel choice, it too has not been developed to date for large scale transportation implementation. The failure to create the distribution infrastructure for individual vehicle use has limited its widespread use.
Unfortunately, the production of plentiful natural gas is being facilitated through fracking; injection of toxic chemicals, water and sand under a couple thousand pounds of pressure. The pollution of ground water and the creation of “seismic events” (earthquakes) are currently appearing to be serious negatives in the increased production of natural gas through the process of fracking.
Currently the United States has neither the political will, nor the financial resources to devote to a national program of creating an alternate energy infrastructure. Imagine however if instead of a federally mandated and financed program the "business community" decided to create a new energy infrastructure using existing technology and resources. How could it be accomplished ?
Saudi Arabia of Coal
The United States of America has been called the Saudi Arabia of coal. However, contrary to coal industry promises of green “clean energy” from coal, for the foreseeable future using coal will continue to be very “dirty” (polluting). But still coal will be absolutely necessary for our country’s energy use in this century even the dream of "clean coal" may never be realized.
Since we currently have numerous coal fired electric power generating plants primarily located in areas of greatest population, how can we use that existing technology to create a new fuel distribution infrastructure ?
Thought you’d never ask.
Coal fired power plants currently primarily generate electricity for homes and industry. They could also used for creation of hydrogen fueling hubs.
The generating capacity and level of pollution created by burning coal varies presently by the demand for the electricity generated, as well as the kind of coal used. Always generating electricity at the same level irrespective of consumer demand creates a number of advantages. Plant efficiency is increased. Pollution is decreased.
One important advantage of garnering energy from the burning of coal is that large scale burning of coal in power plants for example, allows the use of scrubbers and technology to mitigate and reduce resultant pollution at one central location rather than discrete sources of pollution. It should theoretically be more efficient and cost effective to “reduce pollution” at one location from one source rather than effectively cleaning up and mitigating pollution from the multiple (millions) sources of pollution caused by fuel consumption in individual vehicles.
When consumer demand for electricity drops, the excess generating capacity is then diverted to the creation, through electrolysis (there are several different methods) of hydrogen. The resulting hydrogen is diverted for storage and may used as vehicle fuel.
If demand for electricity increases over the steady state level of electric power creation the stored hydrogen could be used for the necessary supplemental electrical generation.
Local Distribution First For Fleet Vehicles
The creation of hydrogen and its distribution would be facilitated for an area immediately adjacent to the power plant. No need for extended pipelines or extensive distribution networks. The hydrogen infrastructure could slowly be created locally and regionally as the demand increased. Using existing technology bi fueled vehicles (gasoline and/or hydrogen) could be an interim answer, and may in fact be necessary, until the number of hydrogen fueling depots expanded to enough sites to support hydrogen only fueled vehicles. Vehicles that can use gasoline / and or / hydrogen already exist or may be easily modified.
In the most likely scenario local fleets of buses and trucks would use the hydrogen fuel. Individuals and municipalities would "switch" to hydrogen/gasoline use or only hydrogen in time.
The ability of existing coal burning power plants to generate additional revenue from the creation of hydrogen would create additional money and an economic motive to pay for extra pollution control devices to further cut pollutants produced by the burning of coal ; further reduce small particulate matter, sulfur dioxide SOX, nitrogen oxide NOX, and mercury from the burning of coal. The lower the levels of escaped pollutants the reduced risks to the population from the burning of coal. Coal ash disposal (arsenic, lead, and mercury) would still be an issue needing attention.
Additionally the "dirty coal" issue would be mitigated by the "clean green energy" that the power plant was capable of providing with the creation of hydrogen fuel.
Coal is Dirty
Burning coal is the largest source of carbon dioxide (CO2) currently produced. “Green Clean Coal” doesn’t exist because resultant carbon dioxide pollution is not “carbon captured” or “sequestered” presently. The technology may in fact never be realized since current test projects are in their infancy and unproven theories.
In the future building new coal burning power plants using coal gasification technology, may still another way to further "green" coal and create hydrogen as a useful by product of the process.
The use of coal fired power plants to create a hydrogen infrastructure does not solve the problems associated with coal use. However, since coal fired power plants appear to be a necessary part of the energy infrastructure of this century, and most likely the future, it does provide a mechanism to facilitate the conversion to the use of hydrogen for vehicles, in our country in the short term, and provides long term environmental benefits.
We could create a new energy infrastructure using hydrogen to fuel all our vehicles in less than a decade using existing technology. Without using limited Federal resources, private industry and "the citizens of the United States could end our addiction to oil".
The resources listed below make clear that presently vehicles in the United States are inefficient and polluting. President Obama has recently raised the standards.
Currently the few hydrogen fueling stations, for example two for all of Los Angeles with 6+ million vehicles, are unavailable to most vehicles and/or inadequate.
Coal burning power plants could create hydrogen which would mitigate "dirty coal".
Vehicles that burn gasoline and/or hydrogen would be less polluting and more efficient until hydrogen only vehicles are possible.
Eventually, the hydrogen for our vehicles could be created by solar or wind power reducing the use of fossil fuels forever.
The author encourages you to share this idea with anyone who will listen. After all it is "our" future and world that we want to make more livable. If not for us, then consider our grandchildren, and those who come after us.
Our national addiction to oil means we are dependent on the political, economic vagaries of other countries and individuals who do not share our values and beliefs. Our use of fossil fuels is destroying the environment globally. Our energy independence will help the United States regain control of our destiny. Ending our continuing national " oil addiction " will benefit the entire world reducing the demand for non renewable resources while improving the environment.
What individual, group, or politician will lead us this century to finally ending our national "addiction to oil" ?
Resources to explore
Here are a few Resources you will find informative if you want to consider this issue more fully :
Fuel economy currently is very poor.
Fuel efficiency for the modern automobile is extremely poor.
An unattainable extreme example of hydrogen fuel efficiency ...... “The PAC-Car II set a new world record in fuel efficient driving during the Shell Eco-marathon in Ladoux (France) on June 26, 2005. Running on hydrogen, the PAC-Car II achieved the equivalent of 5,385 km per liter of gasoline (12,665 MPG!)”
On the day I checked the web page, this website listed currently only fifty eight (58) Hydrogen fueling stations for all the United States. Most facilities currently are for “Private access only” or “fleet service “. In the environs of Los Angeles California for example, with its over 6.6 million cars, only two (2) hydrogen service stations exist that are available and those state ..... “Access: Public - call ahead” .
“How many cars are there in Los Angeles?
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), there were 7,533,131 automobiles, commercial vehicles and motorcycles registered in the County of Los Angeles as of December 31, 2015.”
"There were just under 6.2 million cars registered in Los Angeles County in 2014. Only three states, excluding California, had more registered cars than did Los Angeles County: Texas (8.0 million), New York (5.1 million), and Florida (7.4 million). Source: DMV & Federal Highway Administration
In 1920, there were 161,846 automobiles registered in Los Angeles County and 170 gas stations to service them. By 1930, there were 806,264 automobiles registered Los Angeles County with more than 1,500 gas stations to service them."
See Page 13.http://www.laalmanac.com/transport/tr02.htm
This website details how a hydrogen fueling station should be configured.
Automobiles in the United States now are mostly using the internal combustion engines fueled by gasoline or diesel fuel made from oil.
Details the negatives of coal use and its necessity for modern America.
Coal gasification discussed.
Author's Final Thoughts
Thank you for taking the time to read and think about this issue of national importance. Would we be involved in a number of wars in the Middle East if not for our insatiable thirst for oil ?
All of the photos are from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. What a national treasure.
All Rights Reserved
Written : Fall 2011
Hub Published : January 23, 2012
Hub Re-Visited : August 26, 2013
Hub Re-Visited : April 2, 2014
Hub Re-Visited : November 15, 2014
Hub Re-Visited : August 9, 2015
Hub Re-Visited : December 30, 2016
I still feel passionately about this proposal and still see it as feasible. The impact internationally would address Global Warming.
David J. Neuendorff
Revisiting My Hub Later
After writing this article I have come across another article written (2006) by some University of Michigan students covering some of the same material. In some ways they did a much better job making the case. It is well worth your time to read this academic effort promoting hydrogen :
However, the point of the article I have written was the attempt to get us started and make it happen. We need to think globally but act locally. Spread the word please.