The human race is reaching a tipping point -- where the decisions of the past can no longer be reversed by choices made in the future. The future is now. We must change mankind's dependence on oil and fossil fuels and look toward our future. If we do not act NOW, it is very possible that the 21st Century will be the last for human kind. We must all work together on a plan to conquer global warming.
by Matt Imber firstname.lastname@example.org
ROUGH OUTLINE FOR THE CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY
SAVING HUMANITY BEFORE THE CENTURY’S END
(OR APOLLO 13, A SUCCESS REVISITED - FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION)
KYOTO – A GOAL WITHOUT A PLAN
The Kyoto Protocol was the first international agreement of its kind and was the first such report that brought world attention to the threat of global warming. The intent of Kyoto was to bring about international governmental agreement on the threat of climate change facing the Earth, and to set national goals for reducing carbons emissions in a given timeframe (by 2013). While the agreement was historic and should be praised for its inception, Kyoto is remembered more for its shortcomings than for its benefits.
The agreement lacked a realistic plan to properly address the cause of human induced climate change – namely, the global burning of fossil fuels which have burned since the start of the industrial revolution. Kyoto also lacked a plan that lays out how to transition from fossil fuels to clean alternatives without creating costly market fluctuations and economic instability as a result of complying with Kyoto. Reduction goals were set onindustrialized countries, but with no plan for a transition phase for energy markets to transform, and no plan for the transportation and automobile markets to follow in order to comply with Kyoto.
It’s as if all the markets, which haplessly have created the problem of global warming, along with the consumers, were supposed to figure it all out on their own. The free, global energy and transportation markets were expected to initiate a plan to change without any real incentives or assurances of profitability from the risks taken in an unknown market. To comply with Kyoto, drastic changes to business practices were needed which seemed by some to be overwhelming, and unfeasible. But this is where we can get it right and DO what’s right!
I never was very fond of prophecies. I’ve seen too much science fiction to know that you can change the future if you know what’s going to happen. Just watch the 1973 sci-fi classic Soylent Green and you’ll get the point clearly. I think that if humans knew in advance of a giant asteroid or comet that would strike the Earth in 10 or 20 years that we would come up with a way to deflect it or destroy it before it struck our planet and caused a mass extinction, including the human race.
This is how I look toward the implications of global warming and what should be done about it. While some people wish to deny the science which proves human induced global warming, others use political posturing to blame the messenger, or sell the idea that global warming might be a good thing and debate the merits of action against climate change. Some even give up altogether and succumb to the defeatism of apocalyptic prophecies. Still, many others see this point in time as a moment to turn an apparent global cataclysm into something good for humanity’s future. Some see this point in time to alter the course we are on now -- to change the future, and do something really big, like going to the moon & back, when America answered JFK’s call to win the Space Race against its military adversary, the Soviet Union.
The expense and planning to address and conquer global warming will be very similar to Project Apollo, only much larger in scale. This plan must take an approach that’s similar to the one taken when the current interstate highway system in America was built. The country’s transportation system was mapped and planned out and constructed to address inter-city and interstate commerce transportation demands. So, if America’s national energy grid is to undergo an upgrade and transition to use clean renewable energies, it must be planned out and implemented in such a way. Future markets can be easily created by starting joint public/private ventures to build the new energy grid and supporting fuel infrastructure. But such a plan has not yet materialized. Many ideas and off-the-shelf technology are out there right now, but the funding and integrated planning has not yet been established. From what I can tell, even a rough outline of an implementation plan has not been put together by a governmental body to address global warming.
FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION
I think that it is well known to us all what we need to do. Americans don’t give up that easily! We need to take a page from John F. Kennedy and make something great happen in this world which benefits the entire planet! The smartest minds should pull together all their resources and make something big happen, as they did during the Apollo Missions to the moon. As Flight Director Gene Krantz, for Apollo 13 said when he mustered his team to save the crew and the crippled spacecraft and bring them home: “Failure Is Not an Option. “ We must heed his call and tackle global warming in the same way – by using the smartest engineers, planners, scientists the world over and work together with government and industry and brainstorm a plan out of this mess that we have created from the infrastructure of the industrial age. It’s time to blend together the best ideas in this world and make them all work together; free markets, free people, environmentalism, and uniting religious values working together to save the planet, in a noble, uniting goal! All of these values are what make America stronger. Above the American root values of freedom and equality, America has always stood for ingenuity, determination and hope. We got to the moon in ten years; we can get out if this mess too!
The solutions to conquer global warming are similar to the solutions that helped rescue the crew of Apollo 13 from their perilous mission to the moon. But what helped save the crew was more than the available and experienced staff resources -- it was the dire immediacy in which the ground crew in Houston and elsewhere had to act in order to save the crew of Apollo 13. Mission Control knew that if they did not act with immediacy and brilliance to solve the problem, the crew would most likely die in space from lack of air or fuel to get home. They had real lives in their hands and the clock was ticking. Every minute spent on their part might potentially mean lives lost, and a national tragedy as front page headlines around the globe. We should all now pretend that we have to act with the immediacy demonstrated from Mission Control of Apollo 13. But this time, we should transpose rescuing a crippled spacecraft and its crew, with rescuing the planet from an environmental cataclysm. We all need to wake up and realize we are akin to frogs in a pot of water, sitting on a stove, while the water approaches the boiling point. We should all now hear the warning alarms and air sirens. The egg timer is nearing its completion.
The human race is reaching a tipping point -- where the decisions of the past can no longer be reversed by choices made in the future. The future is now. We must change mankind's dependence on oil and fossil fuels and look toward our future. If we do not act NOW, it is very possible that the 21st Century will be the last for human kind. We must all work together on a plan to conquer global warming.
(See: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a003300/a003307/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide
http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/hansen_12/ and http://maps.grida.no/go/collection/CollectionID/8E2DD5E5-0608-4F7F-87E5-77E0595E0FB9
Virgin Group President and CEO Richard Branson stated in a 2006 CGI meeting: “The only way global warming's going to be whipped is if we can come up with alternative energies that are profitable. "It's got to be sustainable. You can't just give the money away." I could not agree more with his statement. The question should then become: Where should the money be spent that would do the most good, and provide real results – and provide the biggest bang for the buck, while offering solutions that create clean energy and mitigate global warming ? We should treat global warming as the main threat to mankind and the enemy to beat in this century.
And we should use this moment in time as a point to declare war on global warming and air and water pollution. Facing great challenges like this can present an opportunity to reach an ambitious goal peacefully (as JKF did during the Apollo Missions to the Moon), or offer the chance to ignore and brush aside the overwhelming proof to see later what happens when mankind’s destructive environmental practices play out. Realizing that the problem is real is the first obstacle to overcome when facing mankind’s future in this century. But just like any multi-step recovery program, there are more stages to recovery that we must reach, and obstacles to overcome before we can reach this goal.
Speaking as an admitted environmentalist (tree-hugger) and as an avid techno-enthusiast (geek), I have studied this issue for several years in great detail and I am convinced that there is a multi-faceted solution that can be financed (publicly and privately) to address human induced global warming, air & water pollution, sustainable jobs and a solution that even contributes to world peace. But in order to work, this solution must be long term and aggressive in scope, with government leading the way, and with industry in complete cooperation with the plan. This is not a “silver bullet,” approach, but a national and global comprehensive and integrated plan to transition from fossil fuels to CLEAN, sustainable energy sources for electrical and transportation needs.
BEAM ME UP
I believe the plan should first look at the problem from this perspective: Suppose you, and a thousand others were whisked away by alien life from this planet and left stranded on an alien world. No harm was done to you and the others during your abduction. But suppose that this planet you and the others were left on is almost identical to Earth, except it has no oil or other fossil fuels, and the planet contained no uranium. Other than this, the planet has a vast amount of natural resources and a vast, thriving source of animal and plant life. You were left with some tools and all the technological knowledge from the early 21st century to use on this planet, so that you may replicate and create your industrial infrastructure that you wish to use in this new world. But 21st century technology is heavily dependent up upon electrical energy and oil-derived energy for transportation needs.
This means that the energy used to create the infrastructure for your new utopia must come from available planetary resources. How would you create this energy without burning coal or oil? No uranium means a nuclear plant is out of the question. I think humans are smart enough to find a way to do it. They wouldn’t succumb to the Stone Age. I’ve been around enough programmers and engineers in my life to know that if you told them: “...well, I’ll just find out if someone else can solve my problem…” that it can be done. Just tell an engineer that it can’t be done and he/she will prove you wrong. Engineers put us on the moon; they can help solve this problem too. To make the analogy simpler, just pretend you’re giving up smoking and switching to gum. Well, now is the time that we (human race) should buy the nicotine gum and lozenges.
The plan, of course is the Clean Energy Initiative 2020 Plan (or something catchy like that). Give the plan a phased approach, but announce a major timeline with milestones to reach a landmark goal, similar to what John F. Kennedy did when he was faced with the launching of Sputnik, and the prospect of Soviet space dominance. Kennedy announced a peaceful and competitive plan to deal with this threat. This was the Space Race of the 1960s and 1970s. This plan will address both sides of the energy and transportation markets – supply and demand, but in an integrated manner that builds the infrastructure from the ground up, all in accordance with the plan. To help kick-start the plan, America can introduce a new “Victory War Bond”, but call it a Clean Energy Victory Bond. These can be treasure bonds that mature 10 year or 20 years and can be offered as a means for future retirees to invest in, as a secure market in which they partly own infrastructure for. (This would be in addition to current social security benefits).
Scientists estimate that human beings worldwide would need to reduce carbon emissions by 70 percent to 80 percent immediately in order to keep climate disruption from further worsening (see: Changing the Climate). Since America must be the leader and initiate the plan for the world to follow, the CEI 2020 must be more aggressive and set goals that are higher than 80% reduction. This is probably why Al Gore recommended to congress a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 90% by the year 2050 (see: Gore's Recommendations). In fact, we could use a lot of Al Gore’s ideas as part of this plan – especially his “ELECTRANET" idea, which is very much what I and others are offering in exciting ways to make a big plan work, and that’s by including everyone to work together and benefit mutually from such a plan.
THE DEMAND SIDE
Much of this letter is focused on the harder part of the new clean energy economy – the supply side. But first and foremost, we need to address the demand side of this economic model. It’s astonishingly evident that Americans can do many things on their own to save energy. This, by itself would reduce energy costs through decreasing demand by conservation. But now, mandates are needed to allow the American consumers more choice in energy efficient automobiles and electrical and energy consuming products, such as water heaters and HVAC units. CAFE standards for trucks and SUVs must be much more stringent and aggressive and the timeline to comply must be shortened. More hybrids must be mandated, or encourage with tax incentives.
In addition, technology like Pantone’s GEET device must be looked at. A modest gas tax could be implemented to help fund the overall project. Using technology like the GEET device or HHO generators may negate the need to raise gas taxes, however. With pinpoint manipulation and coaxing of key markets, Americans can reduce their consumption of fossil fuels to the point where we would not need to drill for more oil anywhere, thereby lowering the price of oil, but also allowing time for the current energy companies to use their profits to develop and build the infrastructure they will need to help supply the country -- and later, the world -- with clean energy.
BENEFITING THE ECONOMY
The first hurdle to such an endeavor is the notion that the economy will suffer as a result of addressing global warming. Nothing can be further from the truth. This idea is centered on the notion that government regulation upon energy companies or upon auto makers would hinder their performance against competitors. The flaw with this logic is that it assumes that non-American manufactures and energy suppliers would play by the same rules as they do now. Why not change the rules in key markets like auto manufacturing and give America a leg up on the competition? Regulation should not equate to punitive measures upon industry, but incentives with a plan and funding must be established for any major regulation to occur at all.
We can create manufacturing plants right here in America with federal investments and begin mass producing solar cells, solar stirling engines, fuel cells, dish arrays, wind generators, etc., while we invest tax dollars in GM, Ford and Chrysler (if needed as part of a bail-out deal and retooling loan) to build the next generation of clean cars. The 1st generation of these cars and trucks would still burn gasoline and be a combination of conventional & hybrids vehicles, but be flexible to also burn pure bio-fuels, or a combination. Pantone’s GEET device should also be implemented in mass. These would also be designed to maximize fuel economy. The 2nd generation of the new fleet would burn gaseous hydrogen, or HHO either entirely in the internal combustion engine, or in combination with an electric drive train for hybrid versions. Eventually, most cars and trucks would not be hybrids, but may run only on liquid hydrogen (the liquid storage being crucial to reducing tank size).
This would be possible once the cost of this fuel is lowered due to larger supplies. All the safety issues have been studied and are feasible to address. This can be done. All that is lacking is a plan and the funding to do it. (HHO looks like the most feasible option now, and can overcome all the safety and storage issues related with pure hydrogen used as a fuel).
I believe that any such plan to solve global warming should, at its most fundamental level, be comprehensive in nature in terms of addressing the clean energy supplies, and nature of its infrastructure. It must also be an integrated plan that clearly lays out a way to wean us off fossil fuels, while using the current energy market to help with the transition. The current national energy market must not get hurt during the transition, but must be helped to transition to the clean alternatives by planning, phasing and financing when necessary. To avoid costly market fluctuations during the transition phase of the plan, special attention to fuel types and energy supply and demand must all mesh together. For example, a large portion (about 70%) of grain produced in America is used as feed for livestock (cattle, swine, chickens, etc).
If a large portion of the agriculture market was switched to use the corn or other grain for bio-fuels instead of cattle feed, the livestock market would be affected from higher feed prices, due to the heavier demand for fuel resources. Many people may switch to less meat and seek less expensive protein-rich vegetables like soy, thus affecting the energy market that uses the competing grain for fuel, rather than for feed grain. The available agricultural land and supporting markets must be established and integrated into the existing markets as to avoid dramatic changes during the transition phase. Private farmers and conglomerates like ADM must negotiate the twists and turns of this brave new world together and follow the same playbook, initiate by the planners.
However, it should be noted that corn-based biofuels do have a major drawback – they can only meet a tiny fraction of the demand that the world energy market requires for transportation alone (leaving out fuel for energy production). In addition, increased production of bio-fuels has primarily been made possible via large government subsidies to American farmers. The increased demand for biofuels is now competing for the same grains which go to feed cattle and other livestock, for human consumption, thus driving up the cost of food by as much as 5% or more according to late 2007 studies. This may continue to worsen because the markets are not adequately regulated to properly balance food supply with energy supply, and other industrial uses. (See: Ref )
Another example of a potential market problem is the result of mass-produced PEM fuel cells driving up the cost of platinum and gold. PEM fuel cells (proton exchange membrane) are the only type currently able to operate near relative low temperatures, but require platinum to work, thus driving up the cost of this precious metal and making mass production less feasible. Therefore, other types of PEM fuel cells which use lesser expensive metals must be explored to avoid a collapse in this market (see: Ref). Nickel-metal hydride fuel cells are able to use pure hydrogen as electrical storage. A steady stream of pure hydrogen may also be able to be generated relatively easily using a device like this Hydrogen Cracker.
I feel that to help expedite this plan, this new clean energy market should be open to all, however. Let’s crack open the entire energy market and make it available to everyone. It already is deregulated in most U.S. states and allows for private energy generation from one’s own business or home. Residential energy for self-sustaining use is now possible and affordable. Using current technology, individuals can invest in solar and wind and generate enough power to run their houses and go off the grid. Many have already done this, and are living off the grid, and/or selling excess energy back to the grid. If the residential units generate more power than consumed, the energy is sold to the open market and profit is made this way – all from clean energy. Current sell-back rates are around $0.04/KHW. Many states around the country have deregulated their energy markets to allow for this.
I think all states should open the entire energy market for all to participate, and the current energy distribution system must be upgraded piece by piece, and take in all this new future, clean energy. Tax incentives and zero-interest loans should also be used to encourage this development amongst private residential energy suppliers. Big energy conglomerates should no longer be monopolies, but rather equal partners in a real free and open -- and fair energy market. Most of the energy generated may still come from large energy corporations, but a substantial portion can now be created by regular folks just like you and me. Entire urban and rural neighborhoods would have local DC energy banks that help use the power generated in a small area (e.g. one square mile), to use for hydrogen production using clean energy to create hydrogen gas or liquid H2 for fuel to use in the new fleet of automobiles that burn hydrogen. Rural areas would be a prime location to serve as DC energy banks, which transfer their loads at night to the suburbs, or to energy-intense industry such aluminum manufacturing. Rural DC storage can help to peak shave local or regional energy loads and stabilize the electrical grid by providing a large source of power when needed.
For this plan to work, I don’t see how deregulating industry, voluntary incentives and the like are going to kick start it. We also can not place punitive taxes on the energy or auto industry that only serve to punish these entities, rather than to encourage them to develop clean alternatives. And you must also earmark the revenues generated from any potential taxes (such as a carbon tax), or investment programs like Clean Energy Bonds to address the overall goal of reducing CO2 emissions. No more pork and no more waste of tax dollars! The funding has to come from somewhere, as it will most assuredly cost 100s of billions of dollars to finance. The only way I see such a plan to initiate is if it were funded as a national plan, which was invested in by all Americans. The new Clean Energy 2020 Plan will do just this.
Public/private ventures and joint partnerships between federal and private industry are nothing new. Civil and defense contractors such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Lockheed-Martin are continually working on civilian and military projects that are federally-funded. NASA is great example of a business that is owned by the people. Why not start a whole new industry based upon clean energy that all Americans can invest in and co-own? We can all work together to clean the planet and make some money while we’re doing it. Current energy and automotive industries would help too, as equal partners in the plan. They will re-tool, build new manufacturing plants, and put people to work again to recapture our manufacturing market. Just think of all the jobs that would come from having a mandate to mass produce fuel cells, solar-stirling arrays, large and small scale energy storage systems, residential and commercial installations, the maintenance and service related jobs, not to mention sales and marketing related jobs. This is the free people actually owning, powering and driving the free market -- not the runaway market driving the same old, tired market of fossil fuels and feeding the market with this resource.
The main obstacle to this kind of radical thinking is the notion that such type of thinking is radical to begin with. On some levels of thinking, it may very well be radical, but the American Founders were also considered radical by many, yet they were successful at creating a sustainable form of government that the new world later embraced, and has lasted for over 2 centuries. We must also avoid the obstacles of preconception and perception based upon misinformation and old-school thinking, mostly generated by industrial and corporate special interests. We must rethink all the things we have been told by the politicians, the polluters, the energy lobby, and the like and ask ourselves: “are they telling us the truth?”
We must reject labels like “extremist” and “radical” and open our minds to the possibility that maybe a “radical” or “extremist” might have something valid to say, and maybe we should listen. After all, the politicians of late have let us all down in the truth department. Once our minds are opened to listening to new ideas, we can safely say that we have progressed to the 2nd step in our recovery program. We must then look toward the Clean Energy Plan itself as the next stage in the recovery process, and we must embrace the plan by investing in it, and helping to develop it, implement it and help heal the planet with it, and hopefully, mitigate global warming before it’s too late. What better way to help such a plan than to have this new market be a free and open market to all whom wish to join in?
Profitability and sustainability are good catalysts for the plan, but it must also reflect the current and future sources of energy and related infrastructure around the nation, and it must first address the largest point sources of greenhouse gas emissions from the energy market, and the non-point sources from the transportation market (e.g. cars and trucks). The plan should look at large scale generation of carbon-free energy, and carbon free (or carbon-neutral) fuel for transportation or energy generation needs. Our energy and transportation markets must soon get an infusion of capital funding, in the form of 100s of billions of dollars to get going. Goals and deadlines must be set. Milestones for progress must be set and met, and the plan must be flexible to address the growing demands and changes in the energy market as it becomes transformed.
THE SUPPLY SIDE
Since clean renewable energy sources available today come from natural sources like wind and sun, the energy must be either be used up as it is generated, or stored, such as in a chemical or kinetic battery. Because of the nature of using clean energy renewables, and in order for the current system to transform smoothly and logically, the future energy and transportation system must be broken down into 2 components:
1: CLEAN ELECTRICAL ENERGY PRODUCTION, generated by solar, wind, hydroelectric, and from carbon neutral sources (e.g. bio-fuels such as sugar cane) and in the short term, existing nuclear energy, to be phased out in the long term. The manufacturing plants for solar cells (photovoltaic technology & solar thermal stirling technology) must be financed and constructed. The solar stirling dish manufacturing plants must be built and the staffing put into place for the manufacturing of these devices. Fuel cells and electrolysis devices must be mass produced, as well as hydro (wave) generators, wind farms, solar towers and nanotubes.
2: CLEAN ENERGY STORAGE: At the heart of the energy storage component is the most abundant element -- and potentially the most readily available clean energy source -- in the universe; namely, hydrogen. Hydrogen (in its pure form) can be used as a fuel to drive an internal combustion engine, power a hybrid car, power a fuel cell, or power a turbine or engine generator or even power a heating unit. Its only by-product, once the fuel is spent, is water.
Note: When I first was looking into the best alternative energy source out there now that fit all the criteria for what is needed, I believed that pure hydrogen gas, or liquefied hydrogen should become the primary form of energy storage for this century. This was before I discovered a relatively very similar fuel source that is much easier, cheaper and safer to create: namely HHO gas, using a water fuel cell. For more about this technology, please see the abridged version of this plan.
However, given huge resistance from academia and industry to this technology’s incredible merits, I offer this lengthened version to satisfy the traditionalists out there by simply offering conventional water electrolysis, for the hydrogen component, while offering a lengthy blend of other technologies that are cutting edge, and proven. Much more can be done cheaper, quicker by employing the 2 strategies discussed in the abridge version of this plan. For the traditionalists who care to read more or compare the two, please continue reading this section onward from here.
Aside from hydrogen as a means of storing energy for electrical needs, it will be considered as the primary fuel (or HHO gas) for hybrid cars, and as a fuel for heating. Other options for (relatively) clean energy storage are chemical based, such as sodium bromide redox batteries and high velocity (20,000 rpm+) flywheel generators. These and other means of clean energy storage and fuel must be found, but hydrogen, or HHO gas (for reasons explained here and in abridge version) later should be the primary source to consider for now.
There are currently several methods to create hydrogen now that are used all the time in the industrial arena. Some methods are much more efficient at generating hydrogen gas (H2) than others, while future technologies, such as nanotubes, hold much promise to increase efficiencies far beyond what is currently available. Gaseous hydrogen does not exist in this natural state on Earth, but it can be easily extracted through simple mechanical and chemical reactions (e.g. from fossil fuels). Hydrogen can also be generated chemically by several processes involving steam contact with iron, steam reaction with methane, or it can be generated electrically from water using an applied electrical current (called electrolysis), where the oxygen and hydrogen separate from water (with an acidic catalyst added) into their separate elements, and are then stored for later use (after the catalyst is removed). Electrolysis applies an electrical DC current to water, where the current breaks the molecular bonds of the water molecules and it separates the hydrogen and oxygen. Although electrolysis has been conducted on water for over a century, it’s not how most hydrogen is produced.
At present, 95 percent of America's hydrogen is generated mechanically & chemically; using steam methane reformation, hydrogen is produced from natural gas (see The Truth about Hydrogen). This process uses high temperature and pressure to break the hydrocarbon into hydrogen and carbon oxides — including carbon dioxide, which is released into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. This is the fatal drawback of this type of hydrogen extraction – it creates carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases. So, using ANY fossil fuel (all of which are carbon-based) to extract hydrogen will generate CO2, and aggravate global warming. Therefore, the best (most proven) method we have today to generate hydrogen that does not create CO2 or other greenhouse gases is conventional water electrolysis, applied to water by using electricity. A secondary method is to create steam cleanly (e.g. using free energy like solar or wind power), and pass the steam across iron, whereby the oxidation gives up the oxygen bond from the steam to release the hydrogen (see: ref)
The key to using either of these alternative methods of producing hydrogen (steam reformation or electrolysis) is that you need energy to create the steam or electrolysis energy. More importantly, the electricity that is used to “crack” the hydrogen from the water must also NOT generate CO2. So this means clean solar, wind & hydro power must be the primary energy sources to power the mass process of electrolysis to generate hydrogen. Solar can get you most of the way. Hydro power is also more available than most think. Another promising technology for clean hydrogen production is the nanotechnology that can recreate the way natural plant life remove carbon from the air, photosynthesis. Nanotechnology can now reproduce artificial photosynthesis using nanostructures and porphyrins (See Nanotech)
In the short term, however, we must use the most efficient and available means to create hydrogen (or HHO gas), and start mass produce hydrogen electrolysis equipment, and fuel cells, which convert the hydrogen and oxygen into electrical energy to power electrical motor or hybrid drive trains. The energy which powers the electrolysis must be clean, which means that solar, wind, hydroelectric, kinetic, and even nuclear energy must all be considered. A pilot project can be set up at an existing nuclear facility with a large portion of its energy planned to generate power for water electrolysis. The resulting hydrogen (or HHO) can be stored and shipped locally for use in the transportation market.
Using nuclear energy for this will allow for mass production of hydrogen – similar to a large oil refinery, only a lot cleaner in terms of carbon emissions. Nuclear power plants should be discouraged in the long term however, due to the dangerous byproducts they produce, and the carbon they indirectly put into the air from enriching the uranium which powers the plants. But in the short term, existing nuclear power can help to jump start the hydrogen fuel market.
It should be noted, however, that nuclear power plants require uranium fuel, which must be processed and enriched. This requires a colossal amount of energy and most of this currently comes from fossil fuels, offsetting most of the non-carbon benefits that nuclear power provides.
Once other energy generation infrastructure across the national energy grid comes online, the nuclear plants can be decommissioned or retrofitting as part of a worldwide nuclear ban, which America must initiate. A way to deal with the nuclear waste may also be under our noses. For more on this, please see the abridged version of this plan, and the benefits of HHO.
In order to supply and store energy on a massive scale, all leading edge technologies such as nanotubes, HHO Generation, the EEC and the GEET, and must be researched and developed, but in the interim, we’ll need to use the best option available to mass produce hydrogen (or HHO), and this is electrolysis. Some major solutions already exist in off-the-shelf technology, while other emerging technologies may provide a much more efficient way to generate hydrogen cleanly, and with no carbon emissions. The trick is to generate hydrogen in a way that does not create carbon or other greenhouse gases. Obviously, this leaves out fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.
So, the list boils down to the following technologies: Solar Power, Wind Power, Hydroelectric & Wave (tidal) Power, and (initially), Nuclear Power. All of these energy sources can be used to generate electricity, which can be used for electrolysis, which produces gaseous hydrogen and oxygen from water (or HHO0 gas).
Of these existing technologies, solar energy is the most promising in terms of its potential -- that is, IF the technology was exploited to its fullest extent. Many wind farms are now in existence and more are on the way, but wind power, although reliable, is intermittent and not as reliable as solar energy, which you can count on as long as the sun is shining. I believe wind power should be promoted and invested into on a massive scale, but much more focus should be put on developing solar technology. Investing heavily into the manufacturing of solar photovoltaic technology (PV, or solar cells) and investing equally or more into thermal solar stirling technology would accomplish three things:
- Lower the cost of solar cells and solar stirling dish arrays to make it more affordable for public and private use. Exploit great solar ideas like the solar cube.
- Allow for exploitation of the most efficient means of generating free solar derived power to mass produce electrical energy for on-demand needs and for production of hydrogen for use as a fuel for transportation, heating and electrical energy via conversion of the gas into electricity using a fuel cell. Solar-stirling generators have twice the efficiency of PV technology; and
- Allow world governments to pool the resources of new solar technology for public and private energy usage and for hydrogen electrolysis using municipal potable water and install the energy infrastructure to sustain and grow the plan.
BRANDING & SPIN OFFS
So much technology has been gained from the peaceful American missions of manned space flight and the journeys to the moon and back. Much of this technology (including fuel cells) can help us now in the effort to address global warming. But a much broader mission was also accomplished by the American and Soviet Space Race – a peaceful competition and cooperation between two foreign countries, which were both deeply entangled in an escalating nuclear arms race with each other. Kennedy faced down two major threats from the Soviets: the Cuban Missile Crisis and Sputnik, and he achieved success with both challenges without firing a shot.
It was a shame Kennedy did not live to see his mission to the moon come to fruition, or see the birth of democracy in Russia years later. I believe we must now have a new mission that is just as vital and just as noble as the ones faced during the 1960s. And for starters, let’s explore the noble mission to lower the cost of solar technology and how to mass produce it.
THE SOLAR CATCH 22
A recent KPMG study was commissioned to research the proper funding it would take to lower the cost of solar PV energy. In the report, KPMG states that the price of solar power could be made competitive for houses and buildings on the national grid by increasing the scale of production of convention PV technology to 500MWp (megawatts peak) per year - about three times the size of world sales of solar technology in 1998. The report estimates that construction of 500 MWp/year production will cost in the order of US$660 million.
The investment required to break the solar "catch 22" is equivalent to one half of one percent of the US$89 billion spent by oil companies on exploration and production from new oil and gas reserves in 1998. For a company like BP Amoco, the solar factory is only a 10th of what is spent on looking for new oil and gas each year.
THE QUEST FOR OIL -- IS IT WORTH IT?
In early 2007, the United States was estimated to be spending more than $1 Billion per week on military efforts in the Mid-East and the “War on Terrorism”. Any beneficial results of this investment have been few and far between. Even if Iraq and Afghanistan stabilize and democracy somehow flourishes in the Mid-East as a result of military and political intervention, the global energy market would still be left with just one more steady supply of a substance that is contributing to the destruction of the Earth’s ecosystem – more oil, and more air and water pollution and more global warming.
What aggravates this scenario further is that terrorism -- and the anger which helps fuel it, are indirectly fueled and funded by countries purchasing the dirty commodity of oil from oil-rich, autocratic countries, which in turn, oppress their people and keep the oil wealth from their masses. In an effort to keep their autocratic governments from being toppled, some Mid-East oil money is directed toward some disgruntled groups in the veil of religious schools and charities. These groups then use the money to teach the youth hatred of the West, buy weapons and spread religiously-based, radicalized militant terrorism – all in an effort to shift focus away from the real problem, which is a lack of representative government and the oppressive and corrupt nature of their own governments.
If the free, industrialized nations of the world switched from oil to clean renewables, then disgruntled people in repressive oil-rich governments would have one less reason to blame these nations or their foreign policies, but they’d also have very little or no more funding to spread the destructive policies of militant terrorism. A clean energy plan of this sort won’t wipe out such forms of terrorism, but it surely would help to reduce it. Diplomacy would do much more.
It’s time to face the fact: A fossil fuel is a fossil idea. Why not invest a fraction of the money spent on war into new solar cell manufacturing plants? And instead of investing the $660 Million in the PV manufacturing, why not invest 5 times the amount and bring the price of solar technology down even further? It’s for these reasons that I point to solar technology as the centerpiece of the long term energy plan. It’s a current technology that can be mass produced right away if only the proper funding were in place. This detailed implementation plan could be analyzed, revised, researched, planned invested in, and spread by its own ambitious goal and the uniting optimism which flows from the plan.
To leave an energy source like fossil fuels in favor of a clean and renewable source like hydrogen would not just mean being less dependent upon foreign oil (and all of its negative consequences), but being free of oil itself. It would mean being completely independent of not only just foreign oil, but being free of this dirty substance almost to the point where oil and fossil fuels are used on a scale that rivals the pre-industrial revolution of the 20th Century. It would also mean that we would develop the new infrastructure and clean industrial revolution that the world would have to conform to in order to follow our lead, and to compete with in our new economic and energy plan, and the infrastructure that supports it.
One other hurdle of this Apollo-style energy plan is the storage of energy on a massive scale. Using hydrogen itself is one way to store the large amount of solar and wind energy that’s created from the plan. However, other means should be used and mass produced as part of this long term clean energy plan. One form of off-the-shelf technology is the high speed vacuum flywheel generator. Essentially, these are spinning magnetic discs that are balanced to precision, floating inside a vacuum, held in place by a strong magnetic field. They spin at 15K-25K rpms and store energy in the form of kinetic energy, but convert the spinning kinetic energy into electricity when the magnetic discs discharge across the coils.
The efficiency of these devices is well over 95% and they can last practically forever. When used as a kinetic battery, a typical single story house with a small wind powered generator and new thin-film PV solar panels on the roof can generate and store enough power to not only run the home off the grid, but also sell back the excess energy back to the grid (e.g. a 10KW steady generation system, with 5 KW energy sell-back commonplace). It can also be used for electrolysis on tap water to produce hydrogen, which can be used to power the family car, or burned in the home furnace. The possibilities for this technology are many, and have only just begun. See also CTE TV. Eventually, the cost of such residential energy systems will around the price of a car, or much lower.
Using the kinetic energy of spinning magnetic flywheels for safe, reliable energy storage is one good method to address energy storage. Yet another safe and clean method exists that allows for enough energy to power a small city in the form of a large salt-based battery called a Sodium Bromide Flow Cell. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanadium_redox_battery). (See also: http://www.mensetmanus.net/windpower/no-green-giant2.shtml In general terms, these devices use the chemical differences between two chambers of salt-based chemicals to store an electrical charge, and then dissipate and convert this energy through special fuel cells. This type of energy storage system could be installed along the nation’s future solar energy grid and public easements to serve as giant batteries for energy use during non-daylight hours, or in the event of on-demand energy needs. It will look very similar to water reservoir tanks or fuel tanks, but produce no pollution. These can be used in conjunction with flywheels, hydroelectric and other power generation systems installed through the grid. The life expectancy of the chemicals in a flow cell battery is estimated to last for decades and can be easily replenished. These giant salt batteries would serve as a redundant energy source of stored energy throughout a national energy grid. This technology is still rather new and not yet fully tested for full scale use, but shows a great promise. See also: http://freeenergynews.com/Directory/Hydrogen/index.html
For this new energy initiative to expand beyond off-the-shelf technologies, and become even more efficient in creating hydrogen from water, other emerging technologies must be explored. Aside from electrolysis as a primary means of cleanly producing hydrogen from water, at least one other method offers a promising solution to this challenge: nano-scaled molecular sieves. See: http://www.gonano.psu.edu/research/energy.asp and http://www.physorg.com/news6870.html
One other promising technology that can easily be exploited, especially along the global coastal areas, are generation systems that convert the kinetic energy from waves into electricity. One such example is now in use off the shores of Ireland. See: http://www.oceanpd.com/Anims/pelamis_V4.html and also: http://www.discover.com/issues/dec-05/features/ocean-energy/ Devices such as the snake like Pelamis can be put throughout the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, replacing the oil rigs and generate enough power to run major cities. Other groundbreaking technologies may lie under our very noses. Some more cutting-edge inks to non-carbon producing hydrogen extraction include:
If such a national or global plan were to be put into place, another key component to the plan’s comprehensive nature is to deal with the nuclear energy component. I believe -- as well as many others -- that nuclear energy and its byproducts should be discouraged and phased out in the long term. The byproducts that nuclear energy create amount to an assault up the global environment, due to the toxic nature of the tons of radioactive materials they produce every year, but also because of the potential for nuclear weapons proliferation. Yet, in the short term, the existing nuclear power plants around the world can use their energy to produce hydrogen from water and then use this commodity on the open energy market. Once more efficient and large scale means are put into place to create hydrogen cleanly, then the nuclear power plants should be phased out, decommissioned and the waste dealt with and disposed of in a safe and verifiable way across the globe.
I believe that America should start toward this long term goal and invite all nuclear nations to follow our lead. The phase-out of nuclear technology would be in concert to rid the world of most nuclear weapons, and the two nuclear powers who started the Cold War must be the first ones to work toward this goal and announce it to the world.
As far as what to do with all of the nuclear waste generated, there may be ways to treat it safely: HHO gas may hold the answers, if this technology was allowed a chance to prove this with further testing. See also: http://pacenet.homestead.com/Transmutation.html
One more nuclear alternative that should be explored for future needs is fusion. Although the technological hurdles to achieving fusion seem daunting and almost impossible, the benefits of fusion are worth the cost of research & development. In fact, we are getting very close to feasibility with this technology. Nuclear fusion, once possible, would have far less destructive forces on the environment because, unlike nuclear fission, fusion by its very nature, does not generate the huge amounts of radioactive waste and byproducts you find with fission, and a sustained fusion reaction also does not create greenhouse gasses. The fuel for fusion might be a rare isotope called Helium 3, which may exist on the lunar surface, and may be possible to collect by decommissioning nuclear weapons. In addition, there are other large scale experiments being conducted to test other means of achieving a sustained fusion reaction, such as the NIF experiment.
LET’S DO IT
This comprehensive plan I speak of is something that is achievable, but only if it has the backing of, and the understanding of the real need for it. We can no longer rely upon the free market to start this plan on its own. We could have never gotten to the moon if we waited on the markets to start the project – that was Kennedy’s job. But we could not have done this without our industrial ingenuity that built the technology to get us there. We got to the moon with government and industry working together, but with government leading the way, and establishing the goals and objectives in a set time table. We cannot wait for the free market to start the plan, but we need free enterprise to make it all happen. This initiative must start from our elected officials, and this starts at the top. We need to have an American president make the call to arms on this war against global warming, and let the free market, along with the free people, help with the overall solution. And we can all make some money while we clean the air, and save the planet.
The current global energy market is locked into an oil-driven supply and demand structure that is only sustaining itself because it is based upon oil itself. It will never change on its own unless it is forced to. Change can invoke fear from its unknowns, but can be a positive thing if the goal is noble, achievable, and feasible and fair.
This aggressive Clean Energy Plan, I speak of must be started by government, and implemented and regulated by government, with transparent coordination with the global energy, transportation and semiconductor industries. The existing energy companies would not be put out of business, but rather, would change their businesses over time – and their investments and infrastructure and resources would go toward something which will benefit mankind on a global scale, and profit from in more than monetary measures. It would be a new form of capitalism I like to call: “Green Capitalism”!
For an idea of what a typical house using green energy for self generation and surplus energy sell-back looks like, click here to a PDF file which is hyper-linked to vendors or developers of the equipment. Just click on each component in the PDF to learn more. For a schematic of a more cutting edge design using components from the abridged energy plan click here.