capitalism,"Make it work!"
We as a nation are blessed with a brilliant population of intelligent
professionals. It has come time that we focus our collective intellect
on solving the looming shortage of oil. By sparking an already budding
industry we can focus on bringing the solution all the way to the
root of our problems.
Think of a world free from pollution,
free from war and global strife; a world where even the poorest
countries have enough energy for basic services we take for granted
like plumbing, clean water, sewage disposal, and electricity. Imagine
pulling our energy from natural resources such as the sun and the
earth, putting it into an energy dense liquid or gas and “burning”
it only to create pure water as exhaust.
It doesn’t take the threat of
global chaos to see opportunity. Capitalism is an amazing vehicle
for passing energy throughout society, enabling all the advancement
we have encountered over the past 200 years. At this amazing epoch
in history, it is time to apply our economic motives to creating
a cleaner, more energy-efficient world.
Money is the life blood of capitalism;
the flow of currency allows the world to unite as one collective
entity and grow civilization together instead of individually. The
system set in place allows the western world to live in decorated,
gas-heated apartments with hot showers, sewage disposal, and all
elements of comfortable survival. Isn’t it time we stop polluting
the world by using these luxuries? By focusing the next economic
revolution on developing inexpensive alternative energy sources,
we can make this a reality.
It is critical that our leaders recognize
the power that the flow of money has. Every new day represents the
next pinnacle of achievement because of it. Right now, there are
several options advancing everyday to help us contribute to conservation
and move towards a green future.
and Civilizations—per Jeremy Rifkin
In his book, The Hydrogen Economy, Jeremy Rifkin explains
the historical development—and downfall—of civilizations
around energy. In the days of the Roman empire, Caesar’s regime
annexed land in order to gain riches and land resources. At the
peak of their conquest the Roman Empire had accumulated so much
booty that coins were freely handed to the plebeians of Rome in
In 1859 when oil was first discovered
in the early days of the industrial revolution, it became the hottest
commodity on the resource market. Such a compact portable source
of energy allowed advancements which otherwise would not have been
possible with oil’s predecessors, wood, coal and whale oil.
The world was so quick to embrace this energy source that by 1916,
3.4 million “horseless carriages” were on the road in
the U.S. alone.
Oil was a critical factor in World
War I. Not only did it enable the British to stave off the Germans,
but from that point onward, oil became a central element to all
future military conquests—the newly developed tanks and warplanes
could not do their job without it.
In 1941 when the Germans invaded the
Soviet Union, Hitler had his eye on the Baku oil fields in Caucasus.
At the time, Germany relied on synthetic oil extracted from coal—an
inefficient and costly process. Fortunately for the allies, the
Soviets destroyed the oil pumps by the time the Germans arrived,
thus stranding German troops far from home and without fuel. Who
knows what would have happened had the Germans succeeded.
Now, in 2004, not much has changed.
Despite the fact that the U.S. represents only 5 percent of the
world’s population, we use almost 26 percent of the world’s
oil. This creates an interesting dynamic given that the U.S. is
about 30 years beyond peak production. Got oil? No.
rich real estate, Bush as our agent
Take a look at a map of the real estate the U.S. moved in on since
2001 in regards to the five leading OPEC producers—Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, and Abu Dhabi (in the United Arab Emirates.)
We used our military might to secure
political control over both Afghanistan and Iraq. That makes sense.
With 60 percent of the oil depleted from our homeland, and industrialized
nations like China working to raise their standard of living, the
competition for oil will be fierce.
Good, bad, or indifferent, George W.
Bush’s decision to secure Iraq in the hands of the U.S. will
enable us to drive our gas-powered vehicles for a few more years
while the rest of the world is forced to other options. Despite
the heated debate over the justification of the war in Iraq, each
time an American fills his or her gas tank, they support Bush’s
actions through economics.
Because of political uncertainty, impending
shortages, and the detrimental environmental effects of CO2 emissions,
America needs to look for solutions for the future before we find
ourselves left in the dark—literally. Fortunately, solutions
exist and if we are able to raise awareness and convince our policy
makers to consider it a priority, we can all look forward to a bright,
energy-rich future instead of one marked by environmental, political,
and social disaster.
The most immediate option to help lessen the effects of depleting
and polluting fossil fuels is hybrid-electric cars. Car makers have
incorporated an electric motor with an internal combustion engine
to drastically increase the gas mileage and reduce emissions of
Employing a series of batteries, the
car is charged by the engine and never needs to be plugged in to
recharge. Additionally, the brakes attach to a feedback mechanism
that channels the car’s kinetic energy back to the batteries
Typically, gas mileage in popular models
range from 45 - 65 mpg. Current models available include the Honda
Insight and Civic; Toyota Prius; and several new SUV models due
out in late 2004 are the Ford Escape, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra,
and Lexus RX 400h getting about 28 mpg.
While the technology is very effective
in boosting gas mileage, it is still costly—and it still uses
fossil fuels. As it becomes more mainstream however, economies of
scale will drive the price down as we enjoy the benefits of reduced
emissions and middle eastern demand.
Another solution that is entirely viable today is bio-diesel. With
absolutely no modification, any diesel engine produced after 2000
can run on this remarkable renewable fuel. (Older cars need a slight
modification to refit the plastic belts and hoses that are corroded
What’s known as bio-diesel is
refined vegetable oil, such as soy oil. Amazingly, the oil used
to cook french fries at McDonald's can be put into your vehicle.
The emissions are significantly less toxic than that of pure petroleum
diesel and even said to have a pleasant smell.
Bio-diesel has several advantages that
make it a prime short-term solution to a long-term energy dilemma.
The first and most significant advantage is that consumers can use
their current vehicles with little or no capital investment. Whereas
hybrid electric cars are very limited in model choices and availability,
anyone can go out and buy any car that takes diesel fuel, like the
Volkswagen Gulf, and begin using renewable energy immediately.
The second greatest advantage of bio-diesel
is the ability to grow it. As petroleum prices rise higher and higher,
it will be more difficult for farmers to stay on the profitable
side of the very thin margins they maintain. This will be more and
more difficult as oil prices inevitably rise. If they were able
to grow their own fuel however, operating costs would actually go
down instead of up. In the grand scheme, this translates to producing
our own fuel, which would have far-reaching political ramifications.
Currently the United States spends millions
of dollars annually maintaining military bases in the middle east
to protect our supply routes. To eliminate the Achilles heel of
dependence, would allow the U.S. to reroute all those millions of
dollars to education, healthcare, or any number of pressing social
Another major advantage of bio-diesel
is the compatibility with the current petroleum infrastructure.
As you will see when we discuss Hydrogen, supply infrastructure
is a major factor in the feasibility of any fuel source. The fact
that we can simply fill up the same tanks with bio-diesel as we
do with petrol-gas eliminates a tremendous potential cost of entry.
The exciting news is that bio-diesel
is being looked at for large-scale use right now. On May 5, 2004,
Boston City Council began researching the use of cooking oil to
power public works vehicles. Rather than paying disposal fees, local
fast food restaurants are giving their used grease to the city for
free. The waste product is then processed and put into city vehicles.
Now we have less grease to dispose of and carbon-neutral energy.
What more could you ask for?
Jeremy Rifkin, in The Hydrogen Economy, envisions a world
where the entire structure of centralized energy economy is changed.
Fuel cells will be installed in various geographic regions and set
up as mini power plants. Many people will connect to create a Hydrogen
Energy Web (HEW) where power is freely shared to and fro from within
the web. Much like the worldwide web, it will not rely on the now
outdated, command-and-control hierarchy of the fossil fuel era but
rather will be a distributed energy network where we all contribute
and reap the rewards of the renewable energy.
Hydrogen produces power via a chemical
process unlike conventional power generation used today. First of
all, hydrogen is separated from the oxygen in water by electrolysis.
The electricity introduced to the equation breaks the covalent bond
holding the water molecules together and creates pure hydrogen and
pure oxygen: H2 and O2. When the hydrogen is reintroduced to
oxygen and an activation energy in a fuel cell, H2 combines with
O2, releasing one molecule of H2O, and one extra electron in the
form of usable energy. The only by-product is pure water. This release
of energy can be used for anything we currently use fossil fuels
for, in home, office, commercial applications, and also in automobiles.
In order to break through to the hydrogen
economy, one of three main constraints we must over come is creating
a fuel tank that will safely contain enough hydrogen to take a car
400 miles—the standard range of a passenger car. Not only
must this fuel tank contain the high-pressure gas or super cold
liquid (-423 degrees Fahrenheit!), it must be strong enough to withstand
a car accident and light enough to keep the vehicle efficient.
Once a fuel tank solution is fine-tuned
enough to become an industry standard, we can tackle the second
constraint, mass production of fuel cell vehicles. Until auto makers
produce roughly 10 million cars, the price of such vehicles will
be significantly higher than that of conventional autos. Mass production
is therefore crucial; economies of scale will get these vehicles
to the public at a reasonable cost.
Finally, while fuel tank and mass production
opportunities are being resolved, we need to bring fueling stations
on-line—because a hydrogen car is no good if you can’t
get fuel for it. Luckily oil companies like Shell, Exxon, and BP
have been working on this technology for over a decade. In California,
this is already underway. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed
an order to create a network of 150-200 hydrogen filling stations
throughout California by 2010. While this is very optimistic, according
to some experts, the important thing to realize—this is happening
These three constraints—fuel
tank viability, a mass production plan, and refueling infrastructure—are
significant obstacles. However it is time to make it happen.
Currently, the nation of Iceland is
showing the world how to create a non-polluting hydrogen energy
economy. To support their commitment to become fossil-fuel free,
the vast geothermal energy of Iceland is now being used to power
hydrolyzers, machines that use electrolysis to produce hydrogen
from water. The country is already launching its first hydrogen-powered
fleet of busses and installing prototype fueling stations.
In addition to geothermal energy, many
other techniques are available to create electricity for electrolysis.
Photo voltaic solar cells, wind generators, and hydroelectric plants
are prime examples of how energy can be pulled from the earth and
sun and store it as clean energy.
What needs to happen to make this happen? First the opportunity
must be recognized. We have to get the word out—and the full
understanding—to people who are making decisions.
Think about what we’re spending
right now on this war. For $87 billion we could build for the U.S.,
a hydrogen-friendly supply line, overcome the technological constraints,
and set up the basis of the hydrogen economy that would grow self-sufficiently
along the same lines the fossil fuel economy grew—by supply
demand economics. Once we get past the upstart, we’ll be a
society pulling clean energy into hydrogen and then dispersing it
equally and cheaply to everyone. The dramatic portability of power
plants and energy will enable a non-geographically central grid
of electricity supply. We will drive hydrogen powered cars emitting
pure distilled water which would moisturize the world instead of
chocking it in carbon exhaust.
Once the technology hits a useable
level, millions of people could be employed building the new infrastructure
of vehicles, filling stations, and hydrogen production plants—where
energy is taken from wind, sun, geothermal, and other natural sources
to perform the electrolysis reaction where hydrogen is extracted
and water is turned into super dense liquid energy.
Energy will be extracted on the user’s
end via a fuel cell—another product that will need to be manufactured
and improved, hence employing our stateside knowledge workers.
We’re quickly coming to a point
where there will be no oil left. But if we adjust our economic focus
now, we’ll all be thriving off energy from the earth. Energy
will be captured from the sun, wind, and geothermal sources, converted
to hydrogen, then “burned” to release only pure water.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
Hydrogen Economy awakens
This is a world where everyone wins. Instead of invading countries
to secure political real estate, we can ease up on our concern for
the middle east, because the reliance will be over. Just imagine
what happens when we stop shipping that region millions of pounds
of bombs, tanks, and other war implements that never come back.
No bombs being dropped is a good place to start to end war. If we
no longer need the black gold under Saudi Arabia and Iraq we can
withdraw hundreds of thousands of troops worldwide as we no longer
will have critical supply chains to protect. The U.S. will become
totally energy independent. And we can let those people be free!
But before this happens we need to
start thinking about it now, today. Each time you fill up your gas
tank think about how you can do it less. Can I find an alternate
technology to get me around that doesn’t take petroleum fuel?
How can I conserve more?
Take just ten minutes out of your day
to send your congressman an email telling him that you want the
next $87 billion to go to hydrogen research and not tanks, missiles,
bombs and soldiers. Support
the Liberman-McCain climate stewardship act going through congress
Marley was right, there’s “so
much trouble in the world.” But we have the opportunity to
attack the problems at the source. This is really worth thinking
about—for all of us and for our children’s children.
“We the people can make it work!”
Schwartz, Peter, Doug Randall, “How Hydrogen Can Save America.”
Wired, April 2003.
“Schwrzenegger promises California ‘Hydrogen Highway’
by 2010,” Salon, April 20, 2003.
Rifkin, Jeremy, The Hydrogen Economy, Tarcher/Penguin books,
Harris, Lissa, “Grease Guzzlers: City Looks to Convert Used
Fat to Clean Fuel.” Boston’s Weekly Dig Vol. 6 Issue
19 (May 12, 2004): 7.