Can Hydrogen Replace Fossil Fuels Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1400 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Energy

White Pages: Hydrogen Fuel -- a Feasible Replacement for Fossil Fuels?

The manifestation of a Hydrogen economy holds much technical and political appeal. However, the realization of this vision is fraught with many complications and issues. Despite investment and political interest, especially among the Bush administration in the U.S., the hydrogen economy is far from a reality. Switching from fossil fuels to hydrogen fuel cells is not feasible in the near-term. A number of recent studies corroborate this conclusion based largely on technical and infrastructure hurdles.

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The Draw of Hydrogen is Significant but Not without Challenges recent study by the National Academies indicated that a transition to hydrogen as the dominant fuel in the United States would have a significant impact over the next fifty years. A hydrogen economy would change the U.S. energy economy, dramatically reduce air emissions, as well as expand domestic energy resources ("Hydrogen Economy Offers" par. 1). For these reasons, hydrogen is being touted as the fuel of the future. Major political momentum has already been attached to the development of hydrogen as an alternative fuel. Reducing negative environmental impact seems to be ancillary to reducing dependence on foreign fossil fuel resources. In reality, however, any hydrogen economy will depend on more than just the availability of hydrogen. Major technical and infrastructural issues remain -- such as how to extract hydrogen and how to store it -- that negate its feasibility ("Is Hydrogen" par. 6). In the end, hydrogen is not a reasonable replacement for fossil fuels, at least not within the next several decades.

The Appeal of Hydrogen: Political and Environmental Bonuses

Term Paper on Can Hydrogen Replace Fossil Fuels Assignment

Globally, fossil fuels dominate energy production. Unfortunately, that domination comes at a significant price both to the environment and to the majority of nations that do not possess their own reserves of fossil fuels (Crabtree, Dresselhaus, and Buchanan par. 1). Fossil fuel use can be highly polluting, especially of the quality of the atmosphere. Additionally, because fossil fuel reserves are localized in only a few parts of the world, access becomes a political issue around which major conflicts arise. A final issue with the continued use of fossil fuels is the fact that they simply will not continue to exist for much longer given current consumption rates. Reserves of fossil fuels are limited. Within only a few decades the cost of extraction of the remaining stores of fossil fuels are going to make the price of energy prohibitive.

For these reasons, hydrogen is considered to be the fuel of the future. Hydrogen, bonded with oxygen in the form of water, is widely available. Specific technology may be needed to extract pure hydrogen, but political access is not an issue (Crabtree, Dresselhaus, and Buchanan par. 3). The environmental benefits of hydrogen can be significant as well. When hydrogen is extracted from a non-fossil fuel resource like water using renewable energy such as solar or wind power, the energy produced comes at almost no environmental cost (Crabtree, Dresselhaus, and Buchanan par. 4). Superficially, at least, hydrogen appears to be a fuel source that could solve many energy issues by creating a readily available source of non-polluting energy.

The Freedom Car: Hydrogen on the Road Not All It's Cracked Up To Be In January 2003, President Bush proposed allocating $1.2 billion towards the development of what he dubbed the Freedom Car, an automobile that would use fuel cell technology and hydrogen instead of gasoline by the year 2020 (Lynn par. 1). Currently, the development of this kind of a vehicle has been the primary push of the proposed hydrogen economy. Automobiles are highly polluting and highly dependent on imported oil. Developing a vehicle that could utilize hydrogen instead of gasoline is an obvious solution, as well as one that is politically visible. However, a study by the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment found that even aggressive research into hydrogen cars won't make them any more efficient that a diesel-electric hybrid by 2020 in terms of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions (Stauffer par. 1-2).

The study also found that making the needed compressed hydrogen gas readily available would require significant infrastructure changes, compounding the cost of development (Stauffer par. 1-2). In other words, the idea… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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