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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Bush Energy SotU

Ethanol is a stop-gap at best. If you took ALL the farms in the USA, and only grew corn to ferment in to ethanol, you could maybe reduce the gasoline consumption by 1/3.

We could realistically have at least ½ the passenger cars in America running on electric or hydrogen power in a decade or so if we are willing to increase our nuclear energy output by a minimum of an order of magnitude, if you want a carbon-neutral solution.

As it stands now, the only way to get economically viable amounts of hydrogen gas to power anything commercial is by the catalytic oxidation of natural gas (methane) which in turn releases vast amounts of CO. Carbon monoxide prevents the dissipation of methane present in the atmosphere, (methane is about 23x more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2) therefore the only realistic way to produce green-friendly hydrogen is, at the present time, electrolysis; the physical cracking of water molecules with electricity. This takes a vast amount of energy, however.

The only carbon-neutral way to produce that much power is to build many new nuclear power plants, but will that help? The combustion of hydrogen produces water vapor as a result… yet another greenhouse gas. Can you imagine what it would be like in a city, 10s of thousands of cars spewing tons and tons of extra water vapor in the air every day? Fog every morning and evening rush hour along the highways. We could go with pure electric, but again: Are you willing to have that many more nuclear power plants built? I would vote yes.

And what about air travel? Think about that one for a bit.



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