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Article Five

"Which Came First:
Infrastructure Or Market?" 

The dilemma we presently face with initiating the hydrogen economy is an age-old one: which came first – the chicken or the egg?  When speaking of converting from a fossil-fuel-based economy to one of clean, green alternative fuels such as hydrogen, auto manufacturers have been reluctant to invest in full-scale production of hydrogen gas- or liquid-powered or fuel-cell powered vehicles because the availability of fuel and fuel distribution that would naturally arise from an established reliable infrastructure for hydrogen mass manufacture has not been available.  In order to move on to a clean, green economy we must resolve this conondrum.


Fossil fuels, because of their nature are stored pools of energy lying within the Earth’s crust: impacted plants, vegetation and extinct dinosaurs.

However hydrogen must be produced in real-time. That is to say, separated from either water or hydrocarbon molecules prior to use. 


Right now, hydrogen is being produced by splitting hydrogen from carbon molecules contained in hydrocarbons of fossil fuels: petroleum oil and natural gas. The other methodology is by electrolysis, which is expensive in itself because it too requires a primary source of energy (electricity) to be produced in order to produce the hydrogen.  With these available two processes, there are drawbacks:

·        Both are too expensive to initiate as a source for producing hydrogen – enough of which to base a $14Trillion Dollar economy such as the U.S.A., or any other G-7 economy. 

·        We remain dependent upon foreign oil and gas

·        We remain energy insecure.

·        Contributes to CO2  and greenhouse gas load on the atmosphere acting as agent for global warming, climate change, meteorological catastrophy and resulting economic and life and property losses worldwide.

·        America’s sons and daughters will continue to be called upon to defend American oil and gas asset interests in foreign nations leading them to fight needless oil and gas wars of the 21st Century.  No doubt these wars will    multiply as bounded natural supplies continue to dwindle and the 6 emerging economies and 27 developing nations compete with the G-7 for their share of these last resources to support their growing populations and economies.

·        Continuation of environmental contamination and public health risks.

·        Homeland security is compromised with U.S. military abroad defending American oil and gas assets due to unpopular foreign policy among OPEC nations.


There are a number of non-fossil fuel or alternative energy technologies now in use:

·        ~20% from thermonuclear fission powerpalnt technology including the 12 new plants either in planning or construction phase

·        ~7% from wind, solar and geothermal, and biomass

·        ~5% from hydro


In the U.S.A. it is proabable that we would have to double our present day megawatt output generation of electricity in order to build a reliable infrastructure for production of hydrogen by electrolysis.  Either solar farms or thermonuclear fission powerplants would have to double in  number to increase this generating capactiy.


There are unresolved issues with the two technologies presently offering the best approach at this point in time in the absence of thermonuclear fusionenergy powerplant technology. 


Even if a national policy to proceed to a clean-green hydrogen economy were to be initiated by The White House by Executive Order,  building the necessary infrastructure that would rely upon solar and thermonuclear fission technologies,  present challenges ahead:    

1.     Solar requires expensive materials that have not yet been perfected for mass manufacture and are being researched at six American universities, presently.


2.     Solar requires constant human maintenance sophisticated elctronic controls and human verification of proper operation in the field, tilt and snow removal in the northern states.


3.     Solar requires huge tracts of dedicated land mass.


4.     Solar requires a back-up generating system to ensure utility grid reliability under the PURPA Law, usually by the fossil fuel, natural gas, requiring twice the expense for the electricity by which to produce the hydrogen.  

5.     With thermonuclear fission technology, there are siting objections to new plants, although these objections seem to be dissipating with the keen need to go "clean and green".


6.     With thermonuclear fission technology, the issue of waste burial has not yet been completely resolved in the U.S. Congress with Yucca Mountain as the final depository as national policy.


7.     ≥99% Pure hydrogen requires a technology that can reach 950° C. operating temperature. 


In Canada and the U.S., some very unique entrepreneurial companies have begun their own campaign to help develop the production of hydrogen on an individual home-by-home-owner basis.  While their efforts are commendable to begin integration of hydrogen-producing technologies, these home-based systems rely on natural gas to produce the hydrogen and are costly to the homeowner. 


Secondly, not everyone in the nation is a homeowner and not all homeowners have garages and/or laundry rooms set aside for such technology.  Local Department of Buildings Code requires ventilation and properly installed ductwork as an additional cost to the homeowner. Condo and cooperative apartment owners more than likely do not have the space or height capability for the required ventilation and exhaust ductwork.  Converting existing high-rise condo or cooperative buildings for such exhaust ventilation would be costly to the owner's association, if the space within the structures could be allocated to meet Department of Buildings energy and electro-mechnical codes.


These new technologies are expensive and place a big burden on the individual citizen in an effort to bring online what should be a national policy of a clean-green hydrogen economy. The individual homeowner’s efforts will not be adequate to support a G-7 national economy of $14Trillion Dollars based on fast-track reliable high-energy demand by the individual's manufacture of pure hydrogen at home. 


In-place infrastructure of reliable, sustainable hydrogen production is the number one challenge preventing us from moving into a hydrogen-based clean-green alternative fuel economy. 


What to do?  This question is addressed in the next article. 


Article Four                                                                           Article Six

Author: Diane A. Davis, Founder and CEO
The International Institute For Thermonuclear Fusion Energy Education, R&D, Regulation, Technology And Public Policy, Inc.