Dear Dan:

Long time no see. I like your idea of having a societal discussion  of energy.  Perhaps it could start with Rifkin's article.

Hydrogen as a source of energy is big with our local Green party (in the Bronx -- I spend 6 months of the year there, the remainder in Florida -- isn't retirement grand !!). However, I suspect that the enthusiasm over hydrogen comes from an uninformed background (like mine).  Just a few points to try to get things going.

1.The steam-reforming process mentioned by Rifken obviously is useless for large scale use of Hydrogen. First, using natural gas to produce hydrogen must be low efficiency (I don't know the details of the process), but the First Law of Thermodynamics must say something about this. Second, producing more carbon dioxide hardly solves anything.

2. Can renewable sources of energy ever produce enough hydrogen to fill a substantial fraction of  existing energy use, let alone projected energy use in the future?

3. Under some conditions hydrogen is explosive. ( A explosion in the Physics building while I was an undergraduate almost killed a friend). I assume that this is not a problem in highly industrilized countries, but I am not sure about about hydrogen's use in villages in emerging countries.

4. Assuming that large-scale use of hydrogen is feasible, how do we get from here to there?

Comments would be appreciated.

Joe Shapiro




>"Adkins, Daniel" <[log in to unmask]>
>Sent by: Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
>12/10/2002 08:06 AM
>Please respond to Science for the People Discussion List
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> Subject: Re: Nation Article on Hydrogen Economy

>One of my first tasks working for the government was to write the hydrogen 1975
>chapter of Mineral Facts and Problems by the Bureau of Mines (no longer exists).
>It was the heaviest fuel they would trust me with.  I ended up in the Department
>of Energy (Energy Information Administration) and for a while was on the Hydrogen
>Energy Coordinating Committee.  In the long run a distributed solar future is
>possible using hydrogen as an energy medium like electricity.  However much
>research was focused on generating hydrogen form nuclear power.  There has been
>some solar hydrogen focus too.  One of the ideas that was explored was running
>nuclear reactor flat out and using the non peak electricity to produce hydrogen.
>The main element that kept this and other plans from being developed is the low
>price of oil and natural gas. As long as the price of petroleum is low and we do
>not pay its true price (the defense, social and political costs) a solar future
>will be postponed until there is a real crisis.  However these articles could be
>a great start of a societal discussion of energy, social organization and

>-----Original Message-----
>From: Phil Gasper [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
>Sent: Monday, December 09, 2002 5:20 PM
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Nation Article on Hydrogen Economy

>Dear EmailNation Subscriber,

>In an explosive report from the December 23, 2002 issue of The Nation,
>Jeremy Rifkin argues that the fossil-fuel era is entering its sunset years
>and a new energy regime is being born that has the potential to remake
>civilization along radically new lines: hydrogen.

>For the full story:

>Hydrogen: Empowering the People by Jeremy Rifkin

>Depending on a variety of well-balanced research studies, Rifkin's basic
>premise is that the world must switch from a fossil-fuel economy to a
>hydrogen model and that hydrogen offers a way to wrench power from ever
>fewer institutional hands.

>Drawn from his new book, The Hydrogen Economy, this report makes clear the
>urgency of recreating the global economy around sustainable fuel.

>For info on The Hydrogen Economy (Penguin Putnam):

>For more on Jeremy Rifkin and the Foundation on Economic Trends:

>Finally,  please remember to regularly visit The Nation website
>( for new weblogs, editorials, columns, essays,
>reviews and activist ideas.

>Best Regards,
>Peter Rothberg
>Associate Publisher, The Nation