September 05 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy Year: General Rating: 9 Hot
By Dick Pelletier
Energy is the life-blood of America – it affects our economy, standard of living and national security. And our prime current energy source – oil – is a product we can no longer afford.
High gas prices, air pollution, and global warming are part of the problem, but more important are the tensions brought about with countries that supply this non-renewable energy. For decades, these tensions have directly or indirectly been at the root of most global conflicts.
In a “Wired Magazine” article, Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall say concerns about oil supply are indirectly responsible for our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and have caused strained relationships with our allies. And clashes with the Muslim world, mired in oil interests, finally brought the unthinkable to our shores – the “9-11” World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.
Schwartz and Randall believe there’s only one way to insulate the U.S. from oil’s corrosive power. “We must develop an alternative energy,” they say. “Hydrogen stores energy more effectively than batteries, burns twice as efficiently in a fuel cell as gasoline does in an internal combustion engine, and leaves only water. It’s plentiful, clean, and capable of powering cars, homes and factories.”
Today’s energy situation is reminiscent of Soviet cold war times. In 1957, Russia launched the first satellite into space, and in 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human in orbit. Afraid Soviet space domination would make our country unable to defend itself, President Kennedy announced Apollo, a 10-year, $100 billion program (in today’s dollars) to land a man on the moon. Eight years later, Neil Armstrong made his “giant step for mankind” and America quickly regained world leadership.
Schwartz and Randall believe we face a similar threat today from foreign oil dependency. “As President Kennedy responded to Soviet space superiority,” they said, “Our next president must respond to foreign oil by making energy independence a national priority to be achieved within 10 years.”
Although starting slowly, hydrogen energy development has already begun. FreedomCAR is a government-industry partnership with the Department of Energy (DoE), Ford, General Motors, and Daimler-Chrysler. Hybrid vehicles are being produced that run on both gas and electricity derived from hydrogen fuel cells.
Hybrid vehicles cost about $4,000 extra, which dampens enthusiasm. Later all-electric models will include a 15-year hydrogen fuel cell; no need for replacement during the car’s lifetime.
Will this hydrogen future happen? “Absolutely,” say DoE officials. “America could become a hydrogen society by 2030.” But critics say this is not fast enough. Bush only requested $1.2 billion for hydrogen development. What’s needed is an Apollo-like effort with a $100 billion budget to make America completely hydrogen-powered in the future. Schwartz and Randall detail this budget in their article.
What’s beyond hydrogen? Experts believe by 2050, satellites could send solar rays to Earth providing free energy; and by 2100, exotic antimatter energy could power huge spaceships to distant worlds at faster-than-light speeds.