“The Future’s going to happen.” — The Future and its Enemies, Virginia Postrel
In the last article I defined the problem, and will summarize it again below:
- Like it or not we are a high energy society — any city cut off from transport and energy is two to fourÂ days away from rioting and looting. (ala Katrina) We are dependent onÂ plentiful energy for transport, growing the food we eat, and pumping and processing the waste we make. Any future in which energy is limitedÂ even slightly createsÂ dim andÂ horrific lives forÂ most of humanity.
- The US is dependent on foreign sources of hydrocarbons for a large percentage of our energy needs.
- World demand coupled with politics has created high priced energy.
- Energy isn’t as plentiful as it needs to be if we want a clean environment.
- Current energy production methods create & disperseÂ carcinogenic pollutantsÂ widely.
So in a nutshell if we want folks happy and the environment clean, then we need plentiful, cheap, clean energy produced here. Ok, so cheap is a nice to have –Â if we just want to save the US, it can be expensive energy. However, if we want third world countries to improve then energy needs to be cheap.
Â Sounds like a tall order, but it’s really not. Every bit of technology needed is already here today, and tested. There are several solutions and in this series we will examine a few. Right now we are going to look into automobiles that run on water.
Positing unlimited, cheap electricity you can produce all the Hydrogen needed to fuel H2ICE engines. (Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engines.) If you have an H2ICE engine, you are basically burning hydrogen created from water, and creating water and laughing gas as the exhaust.
The NOx problem is one that they are tackling at the CRF lab atÂ Sandia near my sister’s old stomping grounds in Livermore, California. The problem boils down to theÂ classic problem that plagues most speed junkies and engine tuners, how to get the most efficient fuel / air mix at the right time. Fuel injection, timing, & carburation in other words.
Well, that’s interesting, but I said this technology exists, and is tested now… so here you go:
Â An if you really must have an H2ICE, you can go here and buy one:
Â Ok, so the horsepower isn’t the greatest, a 14 second 1/4 of a mile is nothing to take to a dragstrip. However, this technology though proven, is in its infancy. They are adapting existing engines to burn hydrogen, instead of designing hydrogen engines. Think back to the first gasoline engines — when they first came out any man on a horse could outrun them. The technology will mature quickly, and all that is needed after that is the fueling infrastructure.
Â Creating that fueling infrastructure is a big deal, but as Virginia says, “The future’s going to happen.” Here’s Arnie making sure it does.
Building hydrogen fueling stations is going to take some doing, but keep in mind that all it takes is electicity and water. Once the fuel stations are in place however, we still have to crack out that hydrogen from the water, and that takes… you guessed it, Energy. How do we get that?
Nuclear fission and fusion are the next steps on our energy path, like it or not. Fission is currently providing 20% of the power needed in America, and 32% of the power needed in the EU. While oil prices rise and fall, coal mines collapse, sulfur dioxide, fly ash, and radioactive material are spewed non-stop into the air, nuclear quietly continues on generally uninterupted. No greenhouse gases, no carcinogens pumped into the air, no worries about storms in the gulf, nor terror sponsoring nations withholding oil supplies. No worries about holes in piplelines, no worries about trains of coal derailing, no worries about oil-stained beaches, no worries about black lung. Nuclear Energy is a wonderful thing.