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Hydrogen-fueled cars still far off into the future

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  • dubluth <dubluth@yahoo.com>
    It was in the state of the Union address and there are articles on the subject in some newspapers. The Sunday, Feb 2 Seattle Times published an article by
    Message 1 of 8 , Feb 4, 2003
      It was in the state of the Union address and there are articles on the subject in some newspapers. The Sunday, Feb 2 Seattle Times published an article by Dennis O'Brien from the Baltimore Sun. There may be articles in your local paper. It may be time again to fire up your pens.

      In a letter I just submitted, I pointed out that the auto-industry frequently uses the promise of some fancy technology to deflect criticism from environmentalists. Such technologies are never fully implemented. The article includes the paragraph:

      "Environmental groups praised Bush's announcement as a step forward for a technology that can reduce greenhouse-gas emissions created by burning fossil fuels."

      The article doesn't say what environmental groups, and I haven't searched around to find out. I know that a Sierra Club magazine from about a year ago featured H2 automotive power in an alternative energy issue. I think environmental organizations should be asked to reconsider any endorsement of the presidents H2 strategy. They should also avoid the fantasy of voluntary techno-fixes - a pure diversion.

      Bill Carr
    • Jym Dyer
      =v= The Shrub mentioned $1.2 billion so that the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free. With this turn of
      Message 2 of 8 , Feb 4, 2003
        =v= The Shrub mentioned $1.2 billion "so that the first car
        driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and
        pollution-free." With this turn of phrase, his speechwriters
        (1) reinforce the idea of car culture as a rite of passage (2)
        quietly, one might even say "subliminably," try to sell the
        idea of this technology being 15 years into the future, and
        (3) propogate the myth that hydrogen cars don't pollute.

        =v= I looked up the budget proposal, at least the part that the
        White House made available online to the public:

        http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2003/budget.html

        Hydrogen cars are mentioned prominently at the top of the energy
        appropriations, but we see that it's just the same old "Freedom
        CAR" venture that's already underway. This is basically a bunch
        of corporate welfare to Detroit automakers, who aren't held to
        any accountable goals.

        =v= Oddly enough, I can't find the $1.2 billion figure anywhere.
        There's a section for renewable energy referring to $9.5 billion
        in tax incentives spread out over 10 years. ($2.1 billion of
        that, by the way, is more corporate welfare for utilities that
        need to decommission nuclear power plants, which is pretty much
        the antithesis of renewable energy spending.)

        =v= You might also want to look at the transportation budget,
        which has the usual blather about gazillions going into the
        highways to make them safer (yeah right), but lots of griping
        about how Amtrak doesn't turn a profit.
        <_Jym_>
      • Mike Harrington
        In any case, fuel cells will be a joke after natural gas production peaks in North America, probably around 2020. Even now, North American drilling crews are
        Message 3 of 8 , Feb 4, 2003
          In any case, fuel cells will be a joke after natural gas production peaks in North America, probably around 2020. Even now, North American drilling crews are having a harder time keeping up with demand, with increasingly smaller production on new wells. The time is running out on personal transportation, because methane production in North America will peak not long after global petroleum production's peak. Rising energy prices will be the death warrant for the automobile industry as we now know it. What makes me even more skeptical of fuel cells for automobiles is that it is doubtful that a fuel cell vehicle's cost will ever come close to the price of an internal combustion-powered car.

          ----- Original Message -----
          From: <dubluth@...>
          To: <carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com>
          Sent: Tuesday, February 04, 2003 1:12 PM
          Subject: [carfree_cities] Hydrogen-fueled cars still far off into the future


          > It was in the state of the Union address and there are articles on the subject in some newspapers. The Sunday, Feb 2 Seattle Times published an article by Dennis O'Brien from the Baltimore Sun. There may be articles in your local paper. It may be time again to fire up your pens.
          >
          > In a letter I just submitted, I pointed out that the auto-industry frequently uses the promise of some fancy technology to deflect criticism from environmentalists. Such technologies are never fully implemented. The article includes the paragraph:
          >
          > "Environmental groups praised Bush's announcement as a step forward for a technology that can reduce greenhouse-gas emissions created by burning fossil fuels."
          >
          > The article doesn't say what environmental groups, and I haven't searched around to find out. I know that a Sierra Club magazine from about a year ago featured H2 automotive power in an alternative energy issue. I think environmental organizations should be asked to reconsider any endorsement of the presidents H2 strategy. They should also avoid the fantasy of voluntary techno-fixes - a pure diversion.
          >
          > Bill Carr
          >
          >
          > To Post a message, send it to: carfree_cities@...
          > To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to: carfree_cities-unsubscribe@...
          > Group address: http://www.egroups.com/group/carfree_cities/
          >
          > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
          >
          >
          >


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • J.H. Crawford
          Mike Harrington said: I take issue with several of these points, which I regard as dangerous to our efforts. ... This is probably approximately correct.
          Message 4 of 8 , Feb 4, 2003
            Mike Harrington said:

            I take issue with several of these points, which I regard as
            dangerous to our efforts.

            >In any case, fuel cells will be a joke after natural gas production peaks in North America, probably around 2020. Even now, North American drilling crews are having a harder time keeping up with demand, with increasingly smaller production on new wells.

            This is probably approximately correct. However, this does not
            mean that a high-capacity solar-based fuel industry will not
            be in place by the time declining gas and oil production really
            begins to bite. If it is, then it'll be "cars forever" unless
            we have really made our case that it's the social and aesthetic
            issues that are most important and that cannot be fixed by
            technology.

            >The time is running out on personal transportation, because methane production in North America will peak not long after global petroleum production's peak.

            Volkswagen has road-tested a vehicle that gets 100 km/liter (about 250 MPG).
            IF we move to highly fuel-efficient vehicles, conventional fuels might last
            quite a long time. (I'll grant that as long as Bush is in the White House,
            there's little risk of that happening!)

            >Rising energy prices will be the death warrant for the automobile industry as we now know it.

            I doubt that driving would diminish by even 50% if gasoline cost
            $10.00 a gallon. People would probably buy smaller cars, but they
            would tend to keep right on driving.

            >What makes me even more skeptical of fuel cells for automobiles is that it is doubtful that a fuel cell vehicle's cost will ever come close to the price of an internal combustion-powered car.

            Don't bet on this one, either. I'll grant that it's a long way from
            a certainty, but techonology often surprises us. Remember that the
            computer I'm typing on now would have been worth *trillions* in 1940.
            Now it's not even worth thousands. I'll grant that there are issues
            with precious-metal catalysts, but they may find a way around this
            (and I hope they do, as it would make the fuel-cell tram feasible).

            The hybrids are here today, and they work fine. I've driven one a
            fair bit, and it's basically indistinguishable from other cars as
            far as performance is concerned, but it gets 50 MPG. If we set
            hardware speed limits of, say 60 MPH on all new cars (i.e., mandated
            that no car could be *capable* of speeds in excess of 60 MPH), then
            the huge engines now installed could be replaced with hybrids running
            on maybe 20 horsepower. These cars could get probably 100 MPG and
            could be on the road in a couple of years. If oil gets tight, that's
            what's going to happen (remember 1980, when the econo-box cars were
            all the rage, and people were *burning* their Cadillacs).

            I do keep hoping that oil prices will spike (remember that the
            all-time high is about $140/barrel in today's money), but it's
            a weak foundation on which to build an entire movement. Let's
            concentrate on the issues that technology can never fix, while
            certainly keeping mind those that it might fix.

            Regards,




            -- ### --

            J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities
            mailbox@... Carfree.com
          • Jym Dyer
            ... =v= Nuclear energy has never been affordable without massive government subsidy. =v= I don t remember whether I mentioned it to this list, but Former
            Message 5 of 8 , Feb 6, 2003
              > Why is everyone in this discussion omitting the energy source
              > whose use clearly will increase if oil prices soon soar?
              > That is nuclear, of course. You may not like it. But it
              > will happen, if the future unfolds as Harrington predicts.

              =v= Nuclear energy has never been affordable without massive
              government subsidy.

              =v= I don't remember whether I mentioned it to this list, but
              Former Governor Bush's comments about hydrogen cars, and their
              prominent mention atop the energy department budget proposal,
              are just window dressing for a budget that emphasizes fossil
              fuels and nuclear energy. The high cost of decommissioning
              nuclear power plants has been snuck into the "renewable energy
              tax credit" part of the budget.
              <_Jym_>
            • turpin <turpin@yahoo.com>
              ... Of course. But if the current sources rise in price as much as Harrington projects, that picture will change.
              Message 6 of 8 , Feb 6, 2003
                Jim Dyer wrote:
                > Nuclear energy has never
                > been affordable without
                > massive government subsidy.

                Of course. But if the current
                sources rise in price as much
                as Harrington projects, that
                picture will change.
              • tenpagyatso <tenpagyatso@yahoo.com>
                ... wrote: [...] ... While I might agreee with the ideology I don t think I want to live in the world that will be created when the oil economy we currently
                Message 7 of 8 , Feb 6, 2003
                  --- In carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com, "J.H. Crawford" <mailbox@c...>
                  wrote:

                  [...]
                  > I do keep hoping that oil prices will spike (remember that the
                  > all-time high is about $140/barrel in today's money), but it's
                  > a weak foundation on which to build an entire movement. Let's
                  > concentrate on the issues that technology can never fix, while
                  > certainly keeping mind those that it might fix.

                  While I might agreee with the ideology I don't think I want to live in
                  the world that will be created when the oil economy we currently live
                  in comes crashing down on our heads. In theory I agree that
                  automobiles, esepcially their use/production/socialization in the US,
                  *must* be changed very soon I'm left wondering what this will do to
                  the economy.

                  In other words: what is the functional difference between the amount
                  of wealth of the current US economy being tied up in gov't. support of
                  the auto industry and what would we would see in this regard with the
                  scenario being talked of in this thread? Any economoists in the house?

                  Cheers,

                  - Steven
                • dubluth <dubluth@yahoo.com>
                  ... automobiles, esepcially their use/production/socialization in the US, *must* be changed very soon I m left wondering what this will do to the economy. ...
                  Message 8 of 8 , Feb 6, 2003
                    > While I might agreee with the ideology I don't think I want to live in the world that will be created when the oil economy we currently live in comes crashing down on our heads. In theory I agree that
                    automobiles, esepcially their use/production/socialization in the US,
                    *must* be changed very soon I'm left wondering what this will do to
                    the economy.

                    > In other words: what is the functional difference between the amount of wealth of the current US economy being tied up in gov't. support of the auto industry and what would we would see in this regard with the scenario being talked of in this thread? Any economoists in the house?
                    >
                    > Cheers,
                    >
                    > - Steven

                    It's a good question. Let's see if I understand what you are asking.

                    A tremendous amount of capital is invested in the autmobile transportation system. Of course, the owners of that capital don't want its value to decrease - whether the capital is in the form of auto manufacturing plants, auto mechanic credentials, the established retail name and supplier connections of a car parts dealer, land which derives part of its value specifically from auto-traffic, etc. Other interests are those with rural land which stands to be developed because of sprawl.

                    The value of a piece of captial is derived from the value of the goods and services it produces. Without viable alternatives - or, at least, while failing to recognize that there are alternatives - more of consumers' blood, sweat, and time is spent on the transportation system and less on other things that could bring more pleasure and/or sustainability (things of value). The transportation and land use options our governments have let flourish are partly determined by organized economic interests, like ones mentioned above.

                    We don't need to worry that a decline in the value of automobile related capital would cause any harm to the US economy. The consumer who puts her money into something other than an automobile is still putting money into the economy. Enterprises that produce more value should be the ones that flourish. The huge amount of wealth in the automotive sector is a political matter. Its influence actually inhibits the growth of value in our economy.

                    Economic changes influence people. The effect on employees and workers is a prominant subject of such changes. Probably the worst response to potential change is the government intervening to maintain firms' viabilities.

                    +++

                    Energy after the end of the oil age is a frequent topic in this group. Turpin suggests that nuclear energy will come to the fore. I remember from a decade or so ago a newspaper article in which someone stated we only had so many years left of nuclear fission fuel. It was just as likely as not an erroneous statement.

                    Anyway I am persuaded that energy prices will continue to decline as Turpin suggests. I believe there is a lot of fossil fuel in the ground (coal) and probably the enginuity to extract it and make it readily usable. Price may continue to fall.

                    However, price is different from costs. Prices influence how much is produced and consumed. Costs which are passed on to third parties aren't reflected in the price. Total costs of energy consumed in this country may soon be on the rise, if they aren't already. Reasons include congestion, global warming, and failures to control smog and the runoff of toxic automobile wear products into waterways. Our national accounting system doesn't factor those external costs into calculation of the GDP.

                    Bill
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