Of hydrogen, development, and security
By Jeffrey Havens
Of hydrogen, development,
…Yes, my friends, I believe that water will one day be employed as fuel, that hydrogen and oxygen which constitute it, used singly or together, will furnish an inexhaustible source of heat and light…
The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne1874
One hundred twenty-five years after Jules Vernes words were written, we have come to the point in our history where we must begin to make his ideas a reality. We need to make this idea a reality because our national security now depends on it, as well as the need to curb the negative effects of global warming. The events of September 11th, 2001 have underscored and perhaps even catalyzed our move toward a hydrogen-based economy rather than our current one, which is based on fossil fuels. The question remains, if we Americans have the fortitude to do what we must to make ourselves more self-reliant to assure our prosperity?
It has been widely reported that Osama bin Laden became violently anti-American in 1990 after King Fahd invited the United States and its allies to station forces in Saudi Arabia to help defend the oil-producing kingdom against an invasion by Iraq. Mr. bin Laden and others feel that the presence of our troops in that region is a defiling of the land where the prophet Mohammed once lived. The obvious reason why we sent, and still have troops, in that area is to protect our supply of oil that the Saudi government is all too happy to sell to us. The money Mr. bin Laden has amassed to fund his network of terror was generated through his familys money in the Saudi construction business. The bin Laden family generated its wealth by being awarded exclusive contracts to construct many buildings and roads, by the Saudi government, whose wealth was created by our own thirst for oil. It is reminiscent of Frankensteins monster. Now, we have been hurled into a war that is not winnable by any real definition, even if we become totally energy independent.
Our best hope is to minimize the potential for future terrorist attacks by implementing governmental policies that will move us quickly toward a hydrogen-based economy along with the other solutions, such as increased airline security. The problem is, most government officials dont think beyond the next election, let alone 20, 50 or 100 years from now. One need only look to the mayor of Loves Park, Darryl Lindbergs, most recent display of myopia indicating that he thought there was no need for inter-governmental cooperation for development planning. This type of thinking must stop if we are to continue to prosper and minimize the problems of shifting from one energy source to another. Private industry and big corporations wont be paving the road to energy independence either until the oil becomes so expensive, due to diminishing supply, that most of us can not afford it. Only then as their profits begin to drop, share-holders complain, and the environmental damage is done, will they begin, in earnest, to implement energy independence measures. Government must act now to implement policies that will help us begin this shift.
The age of fossil fuels as a source of energy is rapidly coming to a close. Fossil fuels will be prohibitively expense within the next 20-50 years. Therefore, policies must be implemented today that will promote hydrogen as an energy carrier. The process to achieve independence requires us to develop solar, wind, geothermal and hydrodynamic energy sources that will be used to rotate turbines that create electricity that are used to split water molecules into their constituent gases of hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is then transported, by pipeline or contained within fuel cells, to the areas where it is needed. The technology is already here, and has been for many years, but it has not seen fruition due to many reasons, among them being ignorance and greed. However, one nation, Iceland, in cooperation with DaimlerChrysler, Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Norsk Hydro, is already moving toward a hydrogen-based economy. Had hydrogen been used to fuel the jets that were crashed into the World Trade Center buildings, those structures would still be standing, and scores more would not have been killed or injured in the ensuing petroleum fireball, due to hydrogens unique properties.
In addition to these actions, a comprehensive approach to securing our needs could be fulfilled by implementing a new urbanism type of land development in combination with a modified Henry George approach to taxing land instead of buildings. In this way, we could also slow or cease the scourge of suburban sprawl and all its detriments and replace it with more attractive and functional structures and neighborhoods.
The time for building a hydrogen-based economy was actually 100 or so years ago when the oligarchy of the time drove off viable public transportation and sentenced us all to a dependency on fossil fuels. However, we have the opportunity to not pass on this tragic tradition, and leave our children with a sustainable and safer future if we have the courage to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve these goals. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and is the fuel that makes stars shine. Observe the stars, and you shall see the future because one day our economy, too, will be fueled by hydrogen…sooner or later.