Why hydrogen? Because hydrogen is a clean universal fuel that can be used to power cars, trucks, planes, trains, buses, boats and ships. Hydrogen can heat homes and commercial buildings, and generate electricity. Hydrogen can replace all forms of fossil fuels. A nation that has converted all of its power systems to run on hydrogen will no longer be dependent on oil because hydrogen can be extracted from water. Over 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by the oceans of the world—the average ocean depth exceeds two miles. With modern technology—desalination and electrolysis—human civilization will never run out of water or hydrogen.
Water molecules can be separated into pure hydrogen and oxygen through the process of Electrolysis—using electricity as the source of energy to drive the reaction. The electricity can be produced from many different carbon-free sources of energy such as wind, solar, biomass and geothermal as well as nuclear energy. A nation powered by hydrogen will be free to choose from many sources of energy, all of which will produce the one universal fuel: Hydrogen.
Pure hydrogen gas does not exist as a natural resource like oil. You cannot drill for hydrogen or discover it anywhere as a pure gas. Hydrogen produced today is extracted from natural resources like water (via electrolysis), coal and natural gas (via water-gas shift). In order to extract hydrogen from these existing resources, energy must be spent. For this reason, Hydrogen is considered a carrier of energy like electricity, or a store for energy like a battery, rather than a source of energy like oil.
It is important for every American to know that it is possible to completely replace gasoline with Hydrogen gas produced by electrolysis. Anyone can prove this by understanding a unit of measure called Gallon of Gasoline Equivalent or (GGE) and perform the following arithmetic exercises:
A typical gallon of gasoline has an energy value of about 114,000 BTU per gallon (LHV). Convert 114,000 BTU to equivalent in Kilowatt hours. The result is: 114,000 Btu = 33.410 kilowatt hours. This means that one gallon of gasoline has an energy equivalent of 33.4 kilowatt hours of electricity.
In a similar way the energy equivalency between gasoline and hydrogen gas can be found. Convert one gallon of gasoline to the GGE in hydrogen. The result is: One gallon of gasoline has about the same energy as one kilogram (1000 grams, which is about 2.2 lbs.) of hydrogen gas. Why is this important? Because the previous example proved that 33.4 kilowatt hours of electricity is equivalent (in energy) to one gallon of gasoline (114,000 BTU); this means 33.4 kilowatt hours is also equivalent (in energy) to one kilogram of hydrogen gas. Scientists know this because the common unit of energy, the joule, can be used to measure all the seemingly unrelated types of fuel and energy, and convert the energy value of one to another.
Electricity can be used to produce hydrogen gas from water at about 70% efficiency (33.4 divided by .7 equals 47.7), which means about 50 kilowatt hours of electricity can produce one kilogram of hydrogen gas, having the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline.
Safe storage of hydrogen onboard your car is another question/problem; one company, Plasma Kinetics, is developing a technology based on optically enhanced metal hydrides (“laser hydrides”) for storing, transporting, and releasing hydrogen. This new science may solve the problem of safe and affordable hydrogen storage.
How does this information apply to American Energy Independence? It provides the mathematical foundation for proving that, if the USA wanted to spend the money, all 140 billion gallons of gasoline consumed each year could be replaced with 140 billion kilograms of hydrogen gas. Why would the USA want to do that? Because the internal combustion engine can use hydrogen gas in place of gasoline. And, all of the internal combustion engines on the road today, that use gasoline, can be converted to use hydrogen gas. (see: eTec-Roush Hydrogen ICE Silverado Truck and American Fuel Vehicles)
Americans may not want to convert their cars to run on hydrogen gas, but know that it can be done using existing technology. Yes, there are problems and considerations, but KNOW that it can be done.
50 kilowatt hours multiplied by 140 billion kilograms = 7 trillion kilowatt hours (per year) to replace our existing gasoline consumption with hydrogen gas to power existing gasoline internal combustion engines. However, hydrogen fuel cell cars will be twice as efficient, and therefore would only consume half the amount of hydrogen than does an internal combustion engine of equal power.
Where will we get 7 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity per year? From the sun—solar energy.
Seven trillion Watts produced continuously for 1000 hours equals 7 trillion kilowatt hours. The Solar Energy web page provides detailed information about how to generate more than 7 trillion kilowatt hours per year in the Southwestern USA desert using concentrated solar power (CSP) technology.
Hydrogen and Synthetic Fuels
As the above example proves, America has more than enough renewable energy to produce 100% replacement for gasoline. However, Americans do not need to use hydrogen directly as a fuel; hydrogen extracted from water using renewable sources of energy (or nuclear energy) can be combined with coal, oil shale or tar sands to make synthetic transportation fuels—Diesel, Jet fuel and alcohol.
The United States can produce over one trillion barrels of synthetic fuels from its vast coal and oil shale reserves. One trillion barrels of synthetic fuel, at the current rate of oil consumption, could replace 100% of U.S. oil requirement and would last the USA for more than a century, long enough to develop renewable alternatives to completely replace hydrocarbon sources of fuel.
Opponents of synthetic fuels believe its production will double the amount of CO2 produced by the coal industry, because coal or other hydrocarbons would be burned to produce the hydrogen needed to make the synthetic fuels.
If that objection is genuine, and not merely a ruse designed to block future use of hydrocarbons solely for ideological reasons, then the opponents have nothing to fear. If they become proponents of synthetic fuels produced by a hybrid process that uses renewable hydrogen exclusively to convert heavy hydrocarbons to synthetic fuel via hydrogenation and gasification, then no CO2 would be released to the atmosphere during the production process, because hydrogenation is done in the absence of oxygen. The hydrogen can also be produced by nuclear energy which, like renewable energy, produces no CO2 emissions.