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This is a position paper concerning hydrogen as an alternative energy source to replace U.S dependency on fossil fuels. Issues relating to the 1st and 2nd laws of Thermodynamics, where the hydrogen will come from as well as energy needed to produce it are brought forth.
Hydrogen fuel as an alternative
Due to the fact that IPCC have proved beyond any reasonable doubt that global warming is in large part as a result of burning of fossil fuel, America is striving to have in place alternative sources of energy to fossil fuel, one among many of the alternative include hydrogen fuel (Gleick, 2001). President Obama during his campaign trail promised to cut down emission of green house gases; this could only be done by using alternative energy sources that have lower emission of such gases to the environment.
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Although America want to go green when it comes to energy consumption, adopting hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuel with the rationale that it will help cut down carbon-dioxide won't work, in my opinion.
First, extraction of hydrogen from hydrocarbon entails burning of the substance which in turn releases hydrogen and carbon-dioxide, having in mind that the entire plan and process of capturing the greenhouse gas and burry it underground is complex, it will thus be released into the atmosphere, this beats the initial purpose of tremendously cutting down such emissions (Rifkin, 2002). Additionally, it is expensive as it requires more energy to produce it, for instance to produce 100 cubic ft of hydrogen, about 17kwh of electricity is needed.
At present, there is no enough capacity of handling new load as a result of hydrogen production. If we adopt hydrogen fuel, it is not capable of supporting the present energy demand in the country. This will call for construction of new power plant which is an expensive venture. Engines running on hydrogen are capable of releasing other substances as HCN, HNO3 that are equally a threat to the environment (Allen, 2006).
The issue of it safety also raises eyebrows. Hydrogen is has a very wide explosive range when mixed with air. This implies that whatever the proportion of it in the air, leakage of it results to explosion especially in enclosed regions.
Comparing hydrogen to gasoline, it has been termed as the least efficient in automotives. This is because it yields a thermal energy efficiency of about 60%, gasoline stands at 80% while electrical distribution is 95% efficient (Kondepudi, 2008).
Sources of hydrogen
It is worth noting that hydrogen does not exist in separation in natural world. As a result of a process known as reforming a.k.a steam reforming in which hydrocarbon fuel such as coal, oil and natural gas are reformed; hydrogen and carbon dioxide are formed. This process accounts for 94% of hydrogen while the rest (4%) is as a result of electrolysis which is the separation of hydrogen from water.
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Energy consumption in its production
According to Rifkin (2002), despite the fact that the process of extracting hydrogen by electrolysis is simple, it is very expensive and consumes a lot of energy. It has been approximated that for every 100 cubic ft of hydrogen produced, about 17kwh of power (electricity) that cost approximately $1.70 is needed. The same amount is capable of fuelling a cell car for almost 20miles.
More energy is still needed for compressing hydrogen into tanks in cars to over 5000 psi. Additionally, since cryogenic hydrogen boils at -423F more energy is required to refrigerate as well as to compress and liquefy H and also to maintain the same temperature in a super-insulated storage tanks.
From this review, adopting hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuel at present is not rational. A lot need to be done before using it for instance cutting down cost of production, addressing safety issues among others.