07/10/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What About Free Hydrogen? (Part 1)

Over the next couple of Green posts I will discuss the matter of free hydrogen. Yes, just make hydrogen free by, say, 2020, and let industry, with government assistance, develop the infrastructure and systems to handle the Age of Free Hydrogen. At first glance, the concept appears insane. For one, many (mainly government officials, actually) of the responses I received to this suggestion expressed concern that energy use would get out of hand, for then no one would conserve. Well, maybe that might actually be okay, but, clearly, the matter is complex. The details will need to be well thought out. For example, the hydrogen, in this context, must, of course, come from renewable energy. Then, will it be possible to differentiate between cheaper dirty hydrogen and the more expensive clean hydrogen? Also, who will be providing this free energy? As to be discussed, you will, the taxpayer. However, this simple solution should ultimately be able to eliminate the negative repurcussions of Peak Oil and onset of Global Warming. Interestingly enough, over the past year since the book was published, I began to appreciate the value of, possibly, a more logical sustainable pathway, to be revealed in the final post of this series. Anyway, the following is from Chapter 3 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth (see box on right):
On March 21, 2006, at the annual luncheon of the National Hydrogen Association (NHA) Conference in Long Beach, California, I received the Spark Matsunaga Memorial Hydrogen Award, usually given to an elected official. However, as I was the individual who U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga assigned in 1980 to write the first draft of his hydrogen bill, I guess I was considered to be close enough to qualify. The second recipient, in 1992, was U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, whose letter of congratulations was read by Jeff Serfass of NHA. Other awardees have included Congressmen and Senators, although Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger received this honor in 2004. Walking up to the podium, aside from the assorted obligatory thank you, I wondered what I was going to say. (Pardon me for mentioning all this, but a degree of credibility helps when one leaps beyond the edge of the envelope.) It then came to me in a moment of splendid inspiration, bursting forth from a third of a century of deliberation--MAKE HYDROGEN FREE. Deep in my memory might well have been a statement by Jeremy Rifkin in his book on The Hydrogen Economy, where he imagines a future a century away where the cost of producing unlimited amounts of hydrogen should virtually be zero. This sounds too much like atomic power being too cheap to monitor, but let me proceed.

Some say that hydrogen will always be a bit, if not a lot, too expensive. Then, too, this is a chicken or egg problem. The dilemma is in the infrastructure and free market system for what is an artificial commodity. Where do you start?

As great as, say, clean hydrogen sounds to some romantics, you can't force this gas on society just because it seems to them so logically sensible as the universal fuel of choice. If mankind is, indeed, at a decisive juncture, a means must be found to more effectively induce the world to quickly transition from a fossil economy to something better.

We'll come to the how later, but an ideal alternative worthy of discussion would be one powered by clean and sustainable hydrogen. The fuel would be produced everywhere. There would be no OPEC, no nuclear terrorism, and only a vibrant and healthy Planet Earth. World Wars would be minimized because most of the big ones, including the current action in Iraq, were fought over limited resources.

WHY NOT CONTROL THE ISSUE BY MAKING HYDROGEN FREE? What a heck of a simple solution for energy and our environment! If the perfect vision of 2020 is not possible, push the operational date back a bit. If the crisis is upon us, do it now. As opposed to waiting for economies of scale reducing the price to a competitive level in a century, start with zero and keep it there. There will be a transition period for the hardware to become available, but there are ways to administrate this process, and wouldn't it be wonderful if it works? The Free and Clean Hydrogen Age would eliminate our growing climate warming problem, while going a long ways towards preventing world wars forever (see Chapter 1 of Book 2 in box on right) and enable our civilization to hurdle over the Peak Oil problem.
(To be continued.)