Sunday, February 22, 2004

Hydrogen Economy: A Bad Idea?

In this article, A Hydrogen Economy Is a Bad Idea, David Morris argues that looking towards a hydrogen economy is probably a bad idea. The question of where the hydrogen comes from is a key concern. The petroleum and nuclear power industries would love to play a key role in the game--creating hydrogen by means of the same greenhouse-gas producing and toxic-waste producing methods they've been using for years.

Generating, storing, transporting and distributing the hydrogen to energize fuel cells may create more problems and inefficiencies than it solves, Morris reasons, and if the centralized distribution models that we've used for years for fuel are applied to the problem, that may be the case.

Alternatively, a decentralized means of generating hydrogen might sidestep the significant obstacles in producing hydrogen for powering homes and vehicles. A company in New York, Plug Power Fuel-Cell Systems manufactures residential units that burn natural gas or use other forms of energy to produce electricity, heat, pure water, and hydrogen. One of the partners in this effort is Honda and as they are set to rollout the hydrogen-powered Honda FCX during 2004, the potential for fueling these vehicles from a home-based system seems promising. If I'm reading the specs correctly, it also looks as though the fuel cell systems from Plug Power can be coupled with solar and wind power systems, which could alleviate many of the concerns that David Morris expresses in his article. More on this development as I investigate further.