Crude Oil Crisis … Hydrogen is the Answer

Water as fuel for your car …

If you “google” “water as fuel” a number of sites will come up offering plans for converting your car to use water as a fuel source. It sounds crazy … but it’s not.

Several years ago, President Bush proposed a national agenda to get a practical fuel cell into production to relieve the United States dependence on foreign oil. This has yet to become a reality and frankly may never be from a practical or cost effective standpoint. The technology is difficult and expensive requiring that cars be run on electricity or a “hybrid” mix of electricity and fossil fuels.

Congress began an initiative to use ethanol as an alternative fuel source not considering the implications of the use of feed grains as fuel in competition to their use as food. We are now seeing the result of this fiasco in rising food prices as the competition to use corn as fuel rather than food. Congress continues to support farm subsidies for ethanol production in combination with tariffs on imported ethanol from Brazil which continue to drive up the cost of food from eggs and cheese to beef and pork. It’s an insanity that only the politicians in Washington can pull off and then have the audacity to brag about.

Besides its use in a complicated fuel cell to produce electricity for electric or hybrid cars, hydrogen can be used as a fuel in an internal combustion engine. Pure hydrogen produces no greenhouse gases but pure water as the end product of it’s burning or combustion. Much of the research currently being done with hydrogen as a combustible fuel source is using pure hydrogen which has to be pressurized as a pure gas. This necessitates the need for gas bottles and fuel lines where leaks at connections can be seriously hazardous due to hydrogen’s low flash point which is the temperature that the fuel will ignite. Anyone who has had the slightest interest in history will remember seeing film clips of the Hindenberg disaster in New Jersey during the 1930’s, the consequence of Nazi Germany using hydrogen as its lighter than air gas to provide buoyancy for its fleets of dirigibles.

Besides the hazards of explosion and fire, pressurized hydrogen provides specific challenges in its’ delivery to the combustion chamber of an internal combustion engine (ICE). Pre-ignition because of the low flash point is one of the most challenging problems in getting pressurized hydrogen to be a practical consideration for ICE’s as well as timing delivery to the combustion chamber.

In addition, nearly all of pressurized hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels which, in essence, gives it no advantage over conventional fossil fuels since greenhouse gas production is an essential part of the process of producing hydrogen for fuel in this way. Because of this, environmentalists have had a valid objection to its use as an alternative fuel source or additive for conventional fossil fuels whether gasoline, diesel, natural or propane gases.

But, unpressurized hydrogen produced on demand by electrolysis or other means and used as an additive to fossil fuel bypasses the constraints and objections posed above. when mixed with the normal fossil fuel mixture the problem of pre-ignition is eliminated. The hydrogen can be electrically separated from oxygen in water molecules through electrolysis using the electrical system of the vehicle with no additional greenhouse gas production beyond what the vehicle is already producing and providing probably less load on the engine than running an air conditioning unit on the vehicle. It can be drawn into the fuel/air mixture through a vacuum effect eliminating the hazardous need for pressurization and eliminating its own separate timing requirements. Something of this sort is what is now being offered in the many advertisements on the internet.

Hydrogen, whether pressurized or unpressurized, when used as an additive can increase fuel efficiency by 20 to 30% as measured in miles per gallon. This past weekend, I spoke with one of my brothers-in law about this. He owns a business which sells tractor trucks. His initial comment was, “Well … that only amounts to one or two gallons per mile for a diesel truck … but, you know … one gallon per mile could make the difference in a trucker making a profit. ”

A 20 to 30% savings is … a 20 to 30% savings … regardless of where you start from.

In addition, it inhances the utilization of fossil fuels it is mixed with and markedly decreases both CO2 and nitrous oxide emmissions making the currently expensive emission controls on vehicles such as catalytic converters unncessary.

Of interest is the fact that all current internal combustion engines could be retrofitted with a hydrogen producing device at very little cost, probably less than the cost of the catalytic converter alone. One article I read stated that, if this were done a yearly savings of 25 BILLION gallons of gasoline could be saved … which amounts to the quantity of gasoline that could be produced from our entire importation of crude oil from the Middle East. Imagine that … retrofitting all vehicles with a hydrogen producing unit that would eliminate our need to import oil from the Middle East … at the cost of several hundred dollars each … at the most.

Recently, a man in Pennsylvania discovered that hydrogen could be produced from salt water, or sea water by using focused microwave. This was a serendipitous discovery but it could potentially provide what might turn out to be an even less expensive method of producing nonpressurized hydrogen for use as a fuel additive than the currently advertised electrolysis conversion plans.

Currently, millions if not hundreds of millions or billions of dollars are being spent on complex and complicated designs to use hydrogen powered fuel cells or pressurized hydrogen as the source of power for future vehicles whether automobiles or trucks. That means that there are a lot of people who have a vested interest in their pet projects who arent’ going to be too happy with someone coming along with a cheaper and simpler method to solve the energy crisis problem. So, while skepticism is a good thing in all cases the source of the skepticism should be considered.

Yes, water is a source of tremendous combustible energy. It is a very stable vehicle for storing hydrogen. Under the hood of every car are containers which hold an engine coolant, antifreeze, and windshield washing fluid. Isn’t there space for one more container to hold some tap water or a saline solution? How much space would an electrolysis device take … or a small focused microwave?

Occasionally, we don’t have to throw billions of dollars at a problem to solve it … simply a little common sense and initiative. Why try to re-invent the wheel or make a more complicated one when there is a simple economical one available to use?

(I’ve read a number of articles on the above topics and will be adding them to this post for everyone’s consideration. Some are purely commercial but others are based on very valid current research. All point to the practicality of my recommendations so far.)

The Crude Oil Crisis

I just turned to CNBC to see what the market is doing today. Why was I not astounded to see the price of crude oil up $2.21 to over $119 a barrel?

Over the past several years, I have closely followed numerous oil stocks and traded in them on occasion. One thing that I have noticed is that crude oil prices fluctuate wildly based on “news” … whether it be Nigerian rebels in Africa or the threat of hurricanes in the gulf. Weekly U.S. stockpile reports of crude oil and distillates add a predictable weekly gamble to investing in these stocks and any stocks which have been indexed by the investing public to the price of crude oil such as Fluor.

Appreciating the intricacies of how the investing public perceives the effects of how each news item will impact a particular stock in a subsector of the energy sector is essential to successful investing.

The simple fact that emerging and developing nations such as China and India are demanding more oil and competing with our economy for these resources will ensure that crude oil prices will never return to previous lows but it doesn’t mean that oil prices don’t have the potential for being much lower in the short term.

As I said previously, crude oil prices react to news. It’s apparent that recently there has been no news to drive the price of oil down to more realistic levels.

The U.S. Congress could provide the news and incentive to drive the price of oil down dramatically and drastically … if it had the political will. Unfortunately, we are in the midst of an election year and the possibility or probability of Congress doing anything productive and beneficial for the American economy and the American public other than self serving political posturing is simply nil.

First of all, Congress could pass legislation to provide incentives and tax credits for people to use alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power. In addition they need to force the individual states to do likewise. Many states including the one that I live in simply don’t have any incentives for people to invest in these alternate sources. The federal government is good at threatening to withhold funds from states to achieve expressed agendas such as lowering speed limits and legal alcohol levels. It could do the same regarding alternate energy sources which are now available.

Congress could also provide incentives for power companies to build nuclear power plants. It’s ridiculous that think that France can have an accident free nuclear power program for more than 50 years and we can’t.

Congress should also override the roadblocks presented by special interest groups or individuals such as Senator Ted Kennedy to expedite the development of wind and solar farms wherever they may be the most efficient. The needs of the many should outweigh the selfishness of the few. Senator Kennedy should be able to look out from his Cape Cod home at a wind farm in Nantucket Sound and feel proud that he is doing something for his state and nation … but it simply isn’t in his nature.

I saw an episode on television recently where a person was developing and installing wind turbines at airports, using the backwash of jet airplanes taking off to generate electricity. What a simple idea. Embracing innovation is critical.

Drilling for oil in all offshore locations where practical and where oil is available should be approved. Simply approving the drilling of oil would probably have a dramatic and long term effect on crude oil prices. This was temporarily exemplified by the discovery of oil in deep areas of the Gulf last year.

Roadblocks to increasing our oil refining capacity need to be removed. There is no rational reason for this country to import refined products such as gasoline.

Environmentalists and other special interest groups need to make short term concessions to achieve long term goals of energy independence and moving our country away from such a great dependency on fossil fuels.

Using grains as biofuels is not the answer. The pending world food crisis is in part a result of the increased price of grains both as a primary source of human nutrition and as the feedstock for livestock. Using carbon based substrates from the forestry industry makes more sense since our cars will be competing with pine beetles and termites and not other humans or ourselves. I, for one, vote for eating over driving down the road.

This country has, for at least the past 50 years, been dismantling its mass transportation infrastructure while spending billions of dollars to accommodate the luxury of individual transportation. For nearly 100 years, roads, bridges, urban, suburban and commercial development has been geared toward the wasteful and inefficient use of automobiles and costly domestic air travel while rail and more efficient means of urban transportation have, for the most part, been neglected.

Urban and suburban planning needs to be regeared to be more friendly to pedestrian travel and access as well as mass transportation. The “old time concept” of neighborhood access to shopping and services needs to seriously be reconsidered. Mass transportation to jobs needs to go further than “carpools”. Walking or cycling to the nearby grocery store or pharmacy without the fear of being run over needs to be a realistic expectation.

Global warming is a long term reality … a historical fact. I’m not convinced that a human produced greenhouse gas crisis is a reality, though. There’s too much conflicting data and a fat ex-politician demagogue ridiculing people who question him doesn’t make it so. Buying “carbon credits” is a cop out for business as usual.

The crisis being created by the price of oil and food grains is real and palpable. It’s immediate and calls for immediate action.

Creating “news” and eliminating subsidies for producing biofuels could go a long way toward alleviating the immediate crises. Then some immediate steps toward serious and productive long term planning are essential.

If our government wants to decrease or eliminate our dependency on foreign oil and markedly reduce our dependency on fossil fuels specifically, it isn’t a unrealistic goal and doesn’t necessarily have to diminish our quality of life. In fact, it would most likely greatly increase our quality of life as well as our health.

It won’t happen overnight, but positive steps can be taken immediately if the will and courage exists. Unfortunately, we’re in an election year. And, nothing productive is going to happen other than politicians fulfilling self serving agendas with a lot of rhetoric and no action.

Al Gore Says People Who Don’t Believe in Global Warming Believe the World Flat

Well, He’ probably right in general but the question really wasn’t posed correctly by Leslie Stahl.

Al Gore’s position is that not only is global warming occurring, but that it is being accelerated at an alarming rate which is being caused by humans, and that greenhouse gases, primarily in the form of carbon dioxide, which are being produced by humans, are creating that acceleration.

In support of his contention which is being sold wholesale … no … at full retail in the form of his book … to the public, is the consensus of scientists who concur with his hypothesis.

The only problem with a consensus of scientists being in agreement is that it only takes one scientist being right to prove the rest wrong. Think about that.

The controversy that Leslie Stahl was alluding to in her interview with Al Gore was not really Dick Chaney’s doubts about global warming … which gave Al a good sound bite … but the fact that during this period of time that the CO2 (carbon dioxide) levels have been rising so dramatically according to Gore and the consensus of scientists, global temperatures have actually been decreasing. That’s right. Since 1998, global temperatures have actually been decreasing.

According to Gore and the consensus, as CO2 levels increase global temperature will increase and, since CO2 levels have increased more rapidly recently, global temperatures should be correspondingly increasing more rapidly … the greatly expounded greenhouse gas effect … creating a crisis for humanity in the near future. Therefore, we need to take dramatic and draconian actions to protect humanity from itself since humans are the cause of the rapidly increasing CO2 levels.

Except … it isn’t happening that way. CO2 levels are increasing and the temperature has been decreasing, the opposite of what has been touted. The “controversy” that Leslie Stahl was alluding to isn’t really a controversy at all. It’s based on substantial data which basically brings into serious question the entire contention of Al Gore and a lot of scientists who are starting to look like they have egg on their face.

Al Gore is pushing a hypothesis which is based on computer models of climate change which aren’t being supported by current data. Al Gore just doesn’t want to admit he might be wrong and Mother Nature just isn’t cooperating with him.

CO2 is, all of a sudden, being vilified as some noxious agent which is going to kill all of us and the environment.

Let’s think about it for a little bit and review some of that basic science we were taught in school. Humans, and other animals, inhale O2, oxygen, and exhale … that’s right, CO2, carbon dioxide, while plants absorb CO2 and give off O2 … a nice, mutually beneficial cycle.

What has also been documented but has totally gone under the radar of Gore and this concensus of scientists is the fact that, as the CO2 level has increased, the rate of plant growth has correspondingly increased.

Plants are critical to our survival … for that balance in nature that we need. Rain forests are a significant factor in this balance and need to be protected and better managed since they have covered significant portions of the earth’s land mass. But … land mass is only a small portion of the earth’s surface. More critical is the part of the earth’s surface which is covered by water. And … water contains algae … which, like land plants, absorbs CO2 and produces O2. Marine plant life plays a more critical role in the CO2/O2 balance.

Global warming has been going on since the Ice Age. Humanity has adapted,increased and prospered. The warming hasn’t occurred in a straight line. Hopefully , children are still being taught about Washington crossing the Delaware River which was almost frozen over during a period frequently referred to as the Mini Ice Age. I can remember when scientists were swearing that the world was cooling back in the 1970’s. I can also remember frequent snowfalls in the 1950’s in middle Georgia as well as yearly ice storms in the early 1960’s.

Weather changes and the climate is changing. Hurricanes occur with a cyclic frequency. Are they getting worse? Look at the historical reports of hurricanes on the Atlantic coast during the 1700’s and 1800’s to find the answer to that question.

I appreciate Al Gore’s reference to the world being flat, but he may have it pointed in the wrong direction. In spite of Viking expeditions to North America which were generally unknown outside of their culture and possible earlier Phoenician trans Atlantic voyages, also unknown to 15th century Europe, the conventional wisdom … that consensus of contemporary scientists … was that the earth was flat. And one person proved them wrong.

When scientists form a consensus, a red flag should go up … especially when opposing views are ridiculed and suppressed … because the scientists have stopped being scientists … because it’s always the responsibility of the scientist to question, doubt, prove … question, doubt and try to disprove … over and over again … period. That is the only way that science advances.

Al Gore isn’t a scientist … and he’s promoting “bad” science, pseudo-science … and worse than that he’s ridiculing the true scientists … the people that are questioning the validity of his hypothesis. It’s their job, their responsibility as scientists.

The world is warming and where it will stop, no one really knows. Humanity does need to change it’s ways to protect the world we live in, but rich people like Al Gore “buying carbon credits” so he can go his merry way while the less financially fortunate return to living in unlit caves isn’t necessarily the best answer.

The American public needs to be ever diligent for egocentric demagogues who claim to have “the answer” and scientists who form a “consensus”.

I recall a science class that I took. On the first day of the course, the professor told all of us to “just sit and listen” … and began lecturing … for 50 minutes. We then took a ten minute break and returned for the next hour of the lecture. The professor began by saying, “What I told you during the last hour was what was true last year. Now I’m going to tell you what’s true this year. Start taking notes.”

I’ve never forgotten that lesson.

All the scientists in the world agreeing on something which isn’t proven can’t make it a fact … an irrefutable truth. One scientist with irrefutable facts proves a truth.