H2 And You: The Debate at TreeHugger


The Hydrogen Education Foundation "educates people about how incorporating hydrogen within the world's energy portfolio will simultaneously reduce our dependence on oil, while improving the world's carbon footprint by reducing greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, and spark worldwide economic development." It has also set up a website to promote hydrogen at ::H2 and You.

There is a reason Graham set up TreeHugger with correspondents all over the world; we might throw things at each other if we were in the same room. I called it blatant greenwashing, paraphrasing Mary McCarthy: Every word in it is a lie, including "and" and "the". Tim thought otherwise, as did John. I took the page "ten things to remember about hydrogen" and made a point about each. Tim responded with a counterpoint. I copy it below the fold.
H2: Did you know that the world produces enough hydrogen right now to fuel 130 million fuel cell-electric vehicles (FCEVs)? More than 40 billion kilograms of hydrogen are produced globally each year (the equivalent of 40 billion gallons of gasoline).

POINT (LA) and it is all made from natural gas, which we are running out of.

COUNTERPOINT: (TM) It could be made directly from solar and novel enzymes that split water into hydrogen far more efficiently than electroloysis.

53% of the hydrogen produced in the U.S. is already dedicated to transportation. It's used to make gasoline cleaner by removing sulfur from petroleum at refineries.

POINT (LA): where they actually need it, so if we run out of natural gas what are they going to do?

COUNTERPOINT (TM): If hydrogen production is bumped up using alternative sources this wouldn't be a problem.

A system of hydrogen fueling stations may not be as expensive as you think. A $10 - $15 billion investment would put you within two miles of the nearest hydrogen station in the top 100 metro areas (where 70% of the population lives).

POINT (LA): You can't pipe the stuff, it leaks out of everything, building an infrastructure will be completely unaffordable.

COUNTERPOINT (TM): Produce Hydrogen On-Site, from geothermal, wind or solar power only.

The bottom line: a hydrogen infrastructure is economically viable and doable.

POINT (LA): No its not. worst of all, it is not a fuel, if it is made from electricity it is a battery, a storage medium. If it is made from natural gas, why bother?

COUNTERPOINT (TM): ummmm...your right. It's not viable given the current state of technology. The primary problems are how to store hydrogen (as some type of fuel as opposed to a battery), and how to generate hydrogen at a source cheaply- both of which are just in the experimental stages.

John then piped in:
You're missing the point. Natural gas is a hydrogen carrier. Gasoline is a hydrogen carrier (1/3 of the energy liberated in gas combustion is in creation of water). Biogas is a hydrogen carrier and can be made very economically from biogas reactors using renewable inputs. The hydrolysis route is still impractical.

Editor Meg sums it all up:
Bottom Line: Hydrogen is an omnipresent element that could hold a place in our energy future. But it's not silver bullet, and at present it looks like it may even shoot itself in the foot.

What do you think? There will be a survey tomorrow.