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Obama administration cuts another stupid fucking Bush project

Fuel Cells: Something only the Bush administration could think this is a good thing. People were screaming that he should do something about renewable energy so he promoted "the hydrogen economy" concept: millions of cars running on "fuel cells" full of clean, efficient, hydrogen. The only exhaust is clean water! The problem is that the best place to get hydrogen is from (wait for it... wait for it...) NATURAL GAS! That's right! Fuel cells are a fossel fuel! The whole thing was a way to look good to stupid voters that don't know better AND line the pockets of his fossel fuel buddies in Texas.

"The Obama administration will also drop spending for research on the exploration of oil and gas deposits because the industry itself has ample resources for that, Dr. Chu said."

Yeah, you don't have to be a scientist to know that one either.

Sadly the are increasing funding for a coal gasification pilot project. That shit'll never work and coal mining fucks up huge tracts of land and polutes down-stream rivers and farms.

Two steps forward, one step back. Pretty good after 8 fucking years of nothing but backward steps.

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Huh, I thought fuel cells could be filled from any electric energy source.

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There are projects today working on solving two problems:
- clean, efficient, renewable centralized power production. Wind farms, solar, nuclear, "clean coal" (*spits*), whatever, all of these attempt to add power to our energy grid without hurting the environment.
- clean, efficient, renewable vehicles. Hybrids, fuel cells, biodiesel, NG, plug-in electric cars.

The second problem is much, much harder than the first, and at least two of the solutions listed are really just a way of transforming the first type of power into the second type of power. Better batteries for plug-in electric (and I don't see anyone poo-pooing those - even Google likes those) is kind of related to fuel cells, if they can make fuel cells chargeable from a plain old electric charge.

From what I understood, fuel cells were supposed to be charged using electrolysis;I'd not heard of the NG dependency til this LJ post.

[edit:] Furthermore, it's much easier to apply extremely expensive high-quality scrubbing at a central location, so you could have, for enough money, an environmental coal-powered car this way. Note that clean central power production is extremely expensive, and unlikely to happen unless there are breakthroughs (and science never has breakthroughs, right?), but there really is NEVER going to be a coal-powered car.

Oh, unless that weird coal gasification thing ever bears fruit. Hmm. Who knows?

Edited at 2009-05-13 02:51 pm (UTC)

Out of those two problems, I would say that the second is the easier problem, because economics will soon favor electric vehicles over gas.

Fuel cells are like batteries in that they are energy storage rather than a fuel source, and the end product they provide is electricity. The major practical differences:

- The fuel for fuel cells (hydrogen) is cheaper to produce industrially than at home. If we went to hydrogen cars, you'd still be visiting gas stations, assuming you could find one that had hydrogen. For batteries, the electric can come from anywhere at about the same price--most people with electric vehicles do 95+% of their charging at home.

- You can fill a vehicle faster with hydrogen than electricity (assuming today's long range batteries), and the energy density is better, so given an amount of weight you can have more range with a fuel cell plus hydrogen tank than today's batteries. This makes fuel cells great for space vehicles.

- Improvements on fuel cells have been much slower than improvements on batteries, and conversion efficiency is far better for electricity->battery->electricity->propulsion than electricity->hydrogen->fuel cell->electricity->propulsion

- Fuel cells are ridiculously expensive, while fully-battery-powered cars will be within the reach of average Americans in the next few years.

I don't think it's a bad idea to continue funding good non-automotive research into fuel cells, but Bush's efforts were largely to be an effort to derail battery-powered electric vehicles.

Without some kind of data to back us up, neither of us are going to convince the other. I can assert "hydrogen can be generated at home with a simple electrode, you might have done it in junior high chemistry class" and "batteries are heavy, expensive, and hard to dispose of properly" and you can make your assertions, til we're blue in the face...

I need to go read something written by a neutral party. If only such a thing existed :-/

I'm close to a neutral party; i'm a sysadmin :). My main stake in this is that i'd like to replace my 93 civic with some wickedly fast non-fossil-fuel family sedan. Long ago at Stanford, i TA'd classes on electric power generation and conservation, so I have a good technologically-neutral background and interest in the topic.

Anyway, i'm not disagreeing with you, just trying to provide some practical information about the current state of things.

Hydrogen can be generated at home, but it's currently far cheaper to centrally generate it, thus a hydrogen infrastructure would look a lot like the gas infrastructure where you go to a station to fill up. To run the same thing at home, you would need some hefty and expensive equipment in your garage to process either NG or electricity to generate the hydrogen and a tank to store it.

Electric vehicle batteries are heavy and expensive, and easy to recycle--spent batteries are very valuable so disposal isn't an issue. Battery tech improves steadily at about 8%/year (in energy density or price)--the battery industry is huge.

Huh, cool. This makes something like Tesla seem to make a lot more sense... Good to know!

A significant portion of the new renewables funding in the Australian Federal Budget released last night is going to carbon sequestration. Coal is very big business here and our government is unwilling to do anything that might have any adverse effect on anyone in the shorter term.

(The longer term isn't their problem...)

Running cars on electricity or "fuel cells" doesn't prevent the use of fossil fuels, but it does reduce carbon emissions.

Obama's right that this isn't the way to go now and you're right about Bushs's motivation. But I think you'[ve got the fundamentals of the scientific situation wrong.

yes. interesting and depressing.

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