Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Bush Administrations "energy plan"

Bush pushes his energy policy (Saturday, April 16, 2005 Posted: 10:06 AM EDT (1406 GMT) CNN.COM)

Bracketed by a gas-price sign in San Fransisco that reads $2.99 per gallon, CNN offers a writeup of the Bush Administration energy policy. It is coming up for a vote this coming week, the major difference being that in the House version are provisions allowing drilling in ANWR and protecting the oil and chemical industries from MTBE lawsuits.

"Today our energy needs are growing faster than our domestic sources are able to provide," Bush said. "Demand for electricity has grown more than 176 percent in the past decade, while our transmission ability lags behind. And we continue to import more than one-half of our domestic oil supply."

Well, duh. It's them gas guzzlers and other wasteful ways of living that's the root cause. And, we continue to import more than 1/2 of our oil needs because, well, the U.S. hit its oil peak in 1970. He seems to want us to believe ANWR will save us, when it won't. It'll just be a drop in the bucket, and he's spending a lot of political strength trying to piss into the wind when he ought to be pushing for reasonable alternatives.

Instead of continuing our dependance on oil, we need to develop alternatives. Alternatives that can be fielded today, and are known to work. The hydrogen fuel cells he's pushing are a ridiculous option.

Sure, when a fuel cell runs hydrogen what comes out is electricity and water. That sounds great, what could be polluting about water? Well, there are two problems:

  • Where does the hydrogen come from?
  • How can you store enough hydrogen in a vehicle for decent range?

And a third glaring problem is that the car companies are predicting another 10+ years before fuel cells will be ready. Okaaaaay, so is this just another way for them to continue their duopolistic dance with the oil industry?

Where does the hydrogen come from? Well, hydrogen is not an energy source. It takes energy to extract hydrogen from whatever material it's embedded in. It's well known that if you crack water to make hydrogen+oxygen, and later reform the hydrogen+oxygen to make water again, you end up with a net deficit of energy. This comes from breaking the atomic bonds, and is true no matter where you get the hydrogen from. This means that any system you build around hydrogen will suck energy from elsewhere. Where are you going to get that energy?

Hydrogen storage The car companies seem to believe that Americans won't buy a car unless it gets 300 mile range and refuels within the five minutes (or less) you spend at a gas station. Hence, electric cars aren't suitable because they take hours to recharge, but you can imagine being able to fill a hydrogen tank within a couple minutes. The problem is that hydrogen tanks at 5,000 psi pressure in a car with a hydrogen fuel cell end up with a 100 mile range. To get a 300 mile range the pressure needs to be more like 15,000 psi. And the higher the psi (pounds per square inch), the greater the danger the tank presents (e.g. in a collision), and the more energy is required to pump the hydrogen to that pressure. One tank alternative exists that doesn't require high pressures, but it's made of solid metal that's able to absorb hydrogen, and the metal needs to be heated to 600 degrees centigrade to re-extract the hydrogen, and the metal itself is rather heavy.

Democrats have criticized the measure for failing to deal with gas-guzzling automobiles. They also oppose drilling in the Alaskan wildlife refuge -- an item that likely would be left out of the Senate's energy bill because it would attract a Democratic-led filibuster and could jeopardize passage of the legislation.