What About Free Hydrogen? (Part 2)

07/11/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The following continues the discussion on a free and clean hydrogen age, as largely excerpted from Chapter 3 of SIMPLE SOUTIONS for Planet Earth.

Referring back to that National Hydrogen Association awards luncheon, the fact that I had the courage or idiocy to introduce this concept before giving any thought to it was, on hindsight, foolhardy. But, if I had cogitated over it, nothing would have happened. There is something unpredictable and serendipitous about such acts.

This extemporaneous message was suggested to the thousand or so in the audience. At lunch I sat next to Phillip Baxley of the Shell Hydrogen group, who was the incoming chairman of the board of NHA. The fact that I was one of the original organizers of this association and a past board member, I thought, would carry some credibility. I was particularly interested in how he would react because, on the surface, oil companies would seem to have the most to lose. In reality, Peak Oil is changing the topography of energy economics, and petroleum suppliers must start today to make monumental corporate decisions on what they will become tomorrow. A Free Hydrogen Age actually provides them a SIMPLE SOLUTION. I asked Phil to think about this for a year and later share with me his reasoned reaction. A year henceforth, still no feedback. (Still no response today, more than two years later.)

However, the luncheon setting was not conducive to questions and answers, nor comments. So, two days later, at the breakfast gathering of a fairly recently formed International Partnership for Hydrogen Energy (IPHE), I waited till the end of the briefing and discussion to again toss out the concept of what I then termed the Free Renewable Hydrogen Age. In a nutshell, I asked the stakeholders of IPHE to discuss this concept and, if they determined that the idea was patently ridiculous, please assign someone to e-mail me why. I received wide applause from those in attendance and the meeting ended. This reaction emboldened me to press forth. So I quickly drafted a Free Hydrogen paper and sent it to Graham Pugh of the U.S. Department of Energy and Thorsteinn Sigfusson from Iceland, who were co-chairs for the discussion, and asked for their impressions. More than a year later, no response. (Still none in mid 2008.)

The IPHE is ideal for this purpose because it is relatively new, has representatives from the U.S., European Community, Russia, China, India, Japan and other countries -- representing 85% of the world's Gross Domestic Product -- and meets several times each year. I noted, though, that their objectives and goals looked similar to sundry other international agreements of the United Nations and International Energy Agency, and they were already at risk of being bogged down by politics, protocol and assorted conflicts. I have personally been involved with a whole range of these types of activities, and they all just sort of turned into mush. Great for travel, mind you, but essentially ineffective and a huge waste of time. What they needed to do, I suggested, was forget about evolutionary developments and trying to appease everyone, but, instead, take a revolutionary approach to make a real difference. Start with the possibility of free hydrogen, or something grandly similar, and plot out an optimal strategy to get there.

(Alas, no response. At least the HuffPo readers are commenting and I made a hit with Such total disregard from experts in the field I guess must mean that they don't think much of the idea, and, worse, might signify that it is so beyond the pale that any reply is unworthy of their status. On the other hand, perhaps, they could not find fault and are paralyzed in their process of analysis. More probably, they are all too busy doing more important things. My sense is that the Free and Clean Hydrogen Age is but one of a million solutions with potential, and I remain in reasonable standing among my peers, for the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy has not yet kicked me off their editorial board.

(If you want the scientific validity of the Hydrogen Economy, go to SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth, Chapter 3, found in the box on the right. Parts 3 and 4 of this continuing series will provide some economic realities, and, perhaps, a better solution.)