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rebuttal

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  • J.H. Crawford
    The NY Times has another idiot story on the hydrogen economy: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/15/business/yourmoney/15VIEW.html If you have time (I don t),
    Message 1 of 7 , Dec 16, 2002
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      The NY Times has another idiot story on the "hydrogen economy:"

      http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/15/business/yourmoney/15VIEW.html

      If you have time (I don't), please write to the editor to explain
      that the hydrogen STILL HAS TO COME FROM SOMEWHERE, an annoying
      fact that is perenially ignored in this discussion.

      Thanks!



      -- ### --

      J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities
      mailbox@... Carfree.com
    • Alex Farran
      ... Natural gas is one option. Apparently extracting hydrogen from natural gas produces less CO2 than burning oil. Fuel cell cars are more efficient than
      Message 2 of 7 , Dec 17, 2002
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        >>>>> On Mon, 16 Dec 2002 23:31:31 +0000, "J.H. Crawford"
        >>>>> <mailbox@...> said:

        > The NY Times has another idiot story on the "hydrogen economy:"

        > http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/15/business/yourmoney/15VIEW.html

        > If you have time (I don't), please write to the editor to explain
        > that the hydrogen STILL HAS TO COME FROM SOMEWHERE, an annoying fact
        > that is perenially ignored in this discussion.

        > Thanks!


        Natural gas is one option. Apparently extracting hydrogen from
        natural gas produces less CO2 than burning oil. Fuel cell cars are
        more efficient than petrol equivalents too. Fuel cells do at least
        make non-polluting cars a possibility, but even if that happens
        they'll still be large consumers of limited energy.

        I dislike the tone of the article though. This bit sums it up -

        "By making it possible to shift from petroleum to other primary energy
        sources, fuel cells could ease the threat of global warming without
        taking away the freedom and mobility that Americans and Europeans take
        for granted -- and the rest of the world is determined to get
        for itself."

        Too much like business as usual. Freedom=Car. This attitude needs
        questioning.

        Alex
      • Alex Farran
        The address for the NY Times is letters@nytimes.com Alex
        Message 3 of 7 , Dec 17, 2002
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          The address for the NY Times is letters@...

          Alex
        • Alex Farran
          ... Here s my rebuttal - Dear Sir, In Tom Redburn s article of December 15, 2002 A First Step to Cutting Reliance on Oil he puts forward the idea of a
          Message 4 of 7 , Dec 17, 2002
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            >>>>> On Mon, 16 Dec 2002 23:31:31 +0000, "J.H. Crawford"
            >>>>> <mailbox@...> said:

            > The NY Times has another idiot story on the "hydrogen economy:"

            > http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/15/business/yourmoney/15VIEW.html

            > If you have time (I don't), please write to the editor to explain
            > that the hydrogen STILL HAS TO COME FROM SOMEWHERE, an annoying fact
            > that is perenially ignored in this discussion.

            > Thanks!

            Here's my rebuttal -

            Dear Sir,

            In Tom Redburn's article of December 15, 2002 'A First Step to
            Cutting Reliance on Oil' he puts forward the idea of a hydrogen
            economy as the solution to the problem of global warming. He
            conveniently skips over the question of how the energy needed to
            extract the hydrogen will be produced. Without a serious investment
            in renewable energy, there can be no net reduction in CO2 emissions.

            I would also question the equation of cars with freedom. I want the
            freedom to live in a neigbourhood where I can walk or cycle most
            places, without the fear of being killed by dangerous motorists. I
            want the freedom to choose to travel by so-called 'alternative'
            transport modes, such as an efficient national or urban railway. If it
            takes an oil shortage to bring this about, then I can wait a little
            while before hydrogen takes its place.

            Yours Sincerely,

            Alex Farran
          • Mike Harrington
            I guess it is just human nature to indulge in wishful thinking, and nowhere is this more evident than the so-called hydrogen economy. Somewhere not mentioned
            Message 5 of 7 , Dec 17, 2002
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              I guess it is just human nature to indulge in wishful thinking, and nowhere
              is this more evident than the so-called hydrogen economy. Somewhere not
              mentioned by the fuel-cell people is the presumption that if you spend
              enough money researching engineering problems, you can solve all of them.
              Seems like there are a jillion articles about FC's, but as near as I can
              determine, once you get past all the hype, FC's will likely be more
              efficient for large installations, like power plants, large buildings,
              railway locomotives and perhaps things as small as a fifty-passenger bus or
              a big truck. There's been ongoing research on fuel cells since the first
              oil shock, and the reduction in cost has been quite impressive. In view of
              all the money that has been spent in the past thirty years on engineering
              FC's, from what I can determine, they're still nine times as expensive in
              terms of ownership cost as internal combustion. If you read between the
              lines on even the most laudatory articles, you can see the law of
              diminishing returns coming into play where the last two percent of any
              problem takes ninety-eight percent of the resources to remedy, if it can be
              solved at all. Business-oriented people, like economists and financiers,
              an otherwise generally pessimistic lot, make willing readers of these
              articles because they believe that if you throw enough money at engineering
              research that the problems will always be solved, regardless of the
              application, and, for the developers, hopefully at taxpayer expense. In
              view of the fact that this research has been going on for several decades,
              I'll be generous and assume that breakthroughs after some Apollo-scale
              federal expenditures allow FC cost for automobiles to be further reduced by
              a factor of four in another ten years. Since, on the average, automobiles
              consume twenty percent of family budgets, and in some cases more than the
              cost of housing for families commuting long distances to and from exurbia,
              and government "invests," i.e., subsidizes, at least another fifty percent
              of the household cost of cars and trucks over and above the diminutive motor
              fuels taxes, personal motor transportation costs will be prohibitive.
              Automobile ownership will revert to what it was a century earlier: something
              only the very rich can afford.

              All this would be only moderately interesting if it weren't for the fact
              that the most severe depression industrialized society has ever faced is
              coming into view. There won't be any rich people left after world oil
              production peaks, because money won't be worth anything. Although we're not
              at the top of the hill yet, it is clearly in view. New recoverable oil
              reserve finds in the US peaked in the 1930's, and forty years later the
              extraction from those discoveries similarly peaked, never to rise again, in
              spite of a quadrupling of exploration since 1973. The production in the
              UK's North Sea deposits peaked in 1999, in a record-low twenty-seven years
              after its start. Norway's portion should peak in the next year or two, and
              we will see a flurry of peak production points for the various reserves
              outside the Persian Gulf in the next five years. Peak production means the
              oil yield decreases in subsequent years. New discoveries world-wide peaked
              in the 1960's. The world currently finds one new unit of oil for every four
              it extracts. You can go with the pessimists like Campbell who say that
              Saudi Arabia's production will peak in 2010, or as early as 2006 if the
              global recession ends. Or you can lean towards the more rational among the
              optimists who predict the Saudi peak production year to be 2020. It doesn't
              seem that most oil experts take the US Geological Survey's peak prediction
              of 2030 to be anything but, again, wishful thinking. Most agree that the
              ultimate total exploitable world reserves are close to two thousand billion
              barrels, and that the USGS's figure of three thousand is not justifiable.
              Improved extraction techniques don't increase reserves, they just get the
              recoverable product out of the ground faster, which explains why the cost of
              petroleum has stayed so low. Supply today exceeds demand, particularly
              since the recession that started in 2000 has turned into a long one and
              winters have been much warmer, but the market forces will reverse themselves
              in the coming decade. Another interesting projection is that North American
              natural gas production will peak in 2020, before many of the gas-fired
              electric power plants, the only kind built in the past twenty years, are
              fully depreciated.

              This is the Late Auto Age, in which we'll see the government, auto, and
              energy sectors on a dead-end tollway with no off-ramp. I've lived in
              Houston for quite a while, and I've noticed that new refineries and
              petrochemical plants in South Texas and Louisiana, representing a third of
              US refining capacity, are non-existent, and that the oil companies have
              given retirement packages to much of their employment force. Why do you
              think that has happened? It's because the energy companies also understand
              the law of diminishing returns, and that it is all downhill from here for
              exploration and development. It is true that the claims made by energy
              conservationists in the seventies were off the mark, and they have been
              accused of crying wolf. I think this was an honest error, due to the fact
              that yesterday's conservationists based their forecasts on financial, not
              technical, recoverable reserves. They really are two numbers, the financial
              one being traditionally more conservative estimates than the true technical
              number. The financial numbers of estimated reserves, based largely upon
              what has actually been discovered in oil fields, build a financial cushion
              into the operators' financial performance, giving rise to a windfall to
              investors once the differential between financial and technical reserves is
              produced. Once you discard the financial appraisals required by the SEC for
              the technical estimates, you come up to peak production forecasts that are
              likely quite accurate. Some ostensibly technical estimates have proven
              overly optimistic themselves in the past ten years, particularly those for
              the former Soviet Union and Mexico.

              It is a shame President Bush and Congress are not being realistic about
              future oil production. For instance, they have refused to fund high-speed
              intercity rail and increase use of local mass transit systems,
              transportation systems either not based on internal combustion or providing
              a more efficient use of oil. They push for development of the Arctic
              National Wildlife Reserve, but if you read the fine print you'll see that
              the estimated recovery is fairly marginal, that it will never provide even
              five percent of US needs in any year and will have no significant impact on
              world oil prices. As non-OPEC reserves taper off, production will be met
              increasingly by Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The economic shake-up occurs when
              production hits its peak, not when the oil field is pumped dry. For the US,
              this means an increasing balance of payments deficit, exacerbated by the
              fact that the country has largely liquidated its manufacturing sector,
              providing less hard currency from exports to deal with a steadily rising
              percentage of oil imports to meet total US consumption. Right now, both
              Democrats and Republicans are grasping at straws, and the prospect that fuel
              cells will be anything but a minor mitigating factor in the coming crisis is
              becoming as clear as the estimated recoverable oil reserves.


              http://www.iclei.org/efacts/fuelcell.htm


              ----- Original Message -----
              From: "J.H. Crawford" <mailbox@...>
              To: <carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com>
              Sent: Monday, December 16, 2002 5:31 PM
              Subject: [carfree_cities] rebuttal


              >
              > The NY Times has another idiot story on the "hydrogen economy:"
              >
              > http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/15/business/yourmoney/15VIEW.html
              >
              > If you have time (I don't), please write to the editor to explain
              > that the hydrogen STILL HAS TO COME FROM SOMEWHERE, an annoying
              > fact that is perenially ignored in this discussion.
              >
              > Thanks!
              >
              >
              >
              > -- ### --
              >
              > J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities
              > mailbox@... Carfree.com
              >
              >
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              >
              >
              >
            • paulparma <info@venetianpassage.com>
              Sent my rebuttal. Probably too long, and too late and certainly too harsh for a direct contact. Is this Tom Redburn guy approachable for re-education? He s
              Message 6 of 7 , Dec 20, 2002
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                Sent my rebuttal. Probably too long, and too late and certainly too
                harsh for a direct contact. Is this Tom Redburn guy approachable for
                re-education?

                He's at redburn@...

                If he could be convinced some should contact him respectfully at

                "redburn@..."

                I found his email at

                http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/nytimes/nyt-staff.txt

                A helpful link to the group i think.

                My less than respectful rebuttal:
                ************
                Hey,

                Can I have a writing job at the NYTs? I used to think I wasn't
                knowledgeable enough, but hey if Tom Redburn can write an entire piece
                on how hydrogen can replace fossil fuels, I guess I may even be
                qualified to be his boss, at least on a comparative knowledge basis.

                Mr. Redburn and Mr. Redburn's editor,

                Hydrogen is made from fossil fuels! Presently it is thought that the
                most economical way to produce hydrogen will be from 'steaming'
                natural gas, a fossil fuel guys; just ask any fourth graders, they'll
                explain it to you. The other way is from oil, but it'll be a bit more
                expensive it is thought than from natural gas; although hydrogen is
                produced as a byproduct in most every oil derivative product process.


                By the way, fuel cells still are not economical even if we had a
                hydrogen distribution network in place. Fuel cells may be affordable
                some day, maybe not; they have been looking at this for a while and it
                hasn't happened yet, and if my degree in engineering has given me
                anything it's knowledge that you should never count on a miracle from
                technology. Fuel Cells look soft to me, but each investor to his or
                her own; I know that saying anything firmer is irresponsible.

                Regarding Mr. Redburns assertion that hydrogen could "ease the threat
                of global warming without taking away the freedom and mobility that
                Americans and Europeans take for granted" I must say an American and
                not a European road infrastructure precludes my freedom to choose a
                more human like life style. One in which I walk to work or to a
                transit stop and then walk on to work or my other destinations; Take a
                look at your gut Mr. Redburn; hows it hanging? That's why we have
                legs, to use them; I'm pretty sure about that (support; revisit one's
                American waist line). One where every generation is holding there own
                court in the same plaza, with older groups standing as models for the
                younger. A life style where I run into neighbors and hold
                spontaneous catch up discussions or I have to learn ways to avoid
                such encounters if I am the mostly rare lone wolf type. In fact I am
                that type I think, but how would anyone know, we all get in our
                insulated car and go to a church that reflects our views, politics,
                and even our personality; none of us have spontaneous discussions
                while transporting around town, unless it's a foul gesture to someone
                who angered us by their driving.

                If you are talking multiple options Mr. Redburn, I suggest you include
                high density mixed use community build outs or even rebuilds, as
                marketing experiments and work programs. My gosh, Mr. Redburn, do
                you realize that the entire million population of my hometown, Austin
                Texas which is now spread out over 200 square miles could be fit into
                20 square miles instead, leaving 180 square miles for farming,
                recreational and protected green space, lowering our energy
                consumption by from 40 to 200 times (not percentage but times; trains
                are that mush more economical than cars partly because they don't
                carry their fuel source with them; and they don't leave their selves
                behind, requiring parking space) depending on the transportation and
                planning choices made. And the funny thing is it would take no more
                time to get to work. And this is direction that Europereturning
                to Mr. Redburn. Visit Italy some day and notice how happy the people
                are, how much they are talking to local passersby, how much they are
                riding bikes and walking, and how they are pushing back the cars. The
                EU will walk all over us in the future, and it will partly be because
                they are set up for the coming fossil fuel crisis (2010?). Hydrogen
                will not avert the crisis Mr. Redburn, it is fossil fuel.



                Paul Parma,
                Austin, TX
              • paulparma <info@venetianpassage.com>
                ... wrote: The NYT has a 150 word limit on letters to editors, for publication anyway. So here s my 149 word version I sent to letters and redburn at
                Message 7 of 7 , Dec 21, 2002
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                  --- In carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com, "J.H. Crawford" <mailbox@c...>
                  wrote:
                  The NYT has a 150 word limit on letters to editors, for publication
                  anyway.

                  So here's my 149 word version I sent to 'letters' and 'redburn' at
                  nytimes 'dot' com.

                  NOTE: DEADLINE TO RESPOND TO Tom Redburn's incredibly misdirected
                  ARTICLE is SUNDAY 22 DECEMBER (TOMORROW); Some of you folks are great
                  writers, please try to find the time today.

                  *****************

                  The only known viable way to produce hydrogen is from fossil fuels
                  contrary to Mr. Redburn's major assertion that a 'Hydrogen Economy'
                  could work without burning fossil fuels.

                  Regarding Mr. Redburns assertion that hydrogen could "ease the threat
                  of global warming without taking away the freedom and mobility that
                  Americans and Europeans take for granted", an American and not a
                  European road (and parking) infrastructure precludes my choosing to
                  walk or take a fuel and space economic train to pursue my happiness.
                  We must drive our cars to all but scratch our noses, and cleaner cars
                  won't abate our waist line or community disconnection.

                  Denser, more mixed-use urban marketing options would do much more than
                  tweaking the fuel-wasting, space-hogging auto, and would render as
                  much mobility, and get you to work as quickly. Build-out would also
                  provide A LOT OF WORK to unemployed Americans like myself.

                  **********

                  Paul P
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