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Old 01-20-2004, 04:47 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Green Diplomacy and Lower Energy Prices: Hopes for the Next Administration

If this article sounds overly prepared, it is. I wrote this for a liberal magazine, and I'd like to share it to see if anyone else has the hopes for new energy that I have, and thinks the govt. should take a more active role.

There are two major reasons why the United States should develop alternative energy sources. The first and most obvious reason is that alternative energy such as hydrogen power and fuel cells would be much cheaper and better for the environment than our current energy staple, oil. The second, and perhaps not as evident, reason is that it is in our best interest as a country to eliminate the constraints that our oil dependency has placed on our international relations and economy.
While the prospect of having cheap and clean energy may be impetus enough for some to stop believing in oil, the larger incentive should come from the greater flexibility it would give U.S. economy and foreign policy around the world. In the Middle East the United States compromises its own international ideology by supporting the feudal and chauvinistic Saudi Arabian Government; surprisingly, Saudi Arabia is also the top oil exporter to the U.S. Our support of Saudi Arabia has the added negative effect of making them a lightning rod for the political tensions in the region. Likewise in South America, we tolerate the corrupt and repressive regimes of Venezuela and Colombia in order to secure their oil exports which rank fourth and seventh respectively. Of course, the explanation for what many would see as bad foreign policy is that in these regions our oil dependency, and not logical ideology, governs our foreign policy. At the very least our oil policy is dangerous, as we depend on many politically unstable countries around the world for 60% of our oil; we have already suffered from two boycotts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which damaged our economy, and OPEC remains in a position to damage our economy further. Our oil dependency also limits our budget, as we import over 110 billion dollars of crude oil every year, which contributes to the 375 billion dollar U.S. trade deficit. To the extent that it is driven by our need to import oil our foreign policy is irrational because it draws us into dangerous and complicated situations where we do not belong. This fact, combined with the prospect of cheap and clean energy should provide enough incentive for every American citizen from the small-lot car dealer to the President to move away from oil.
The most attractive alternative to oil lies in the use of hydrogen, either in a fuel cell or as a fuel by itself. In fact, there are no great leaps of technology required to use hydrogen as a fuel or in a fuel cell. The technology for fuel cells and hydrogen fuel is fairly simple, and very green; the only byproducts from using hydrogen as a fuel are pure water and heat. A typical PEM fuel cell, a light variety best for use in cars and trucks, is composed of a Cathode and an Anode, which reacts with hydrogen, peeling off electrons and sending them through a wire to the Cathode, creating current. Such fuel cell systems are already on the market from the Ballard Company in Burnaby, Canada. A cell similar to this will also be used for the Daimler Chrysler Necar 4, which should be released to the U.S. market in 2004. Like the fuel cell, using hydrogen as a fuel in a combustible engine is already a reality. While slight modifications are needed, such as a new cooling system and a direct fuel injector to stop backflashing (where gaseous hydrogen is ignited before entering the carburetor) the benefits of such a clean fuel far outweigh the small cost needed for application.
One technological barrier lies in the way of a cleaner hydrogen-fueled economy, the availability of hydrogen. If hydrogen were to become what oil is today, methods of producing hydrogen must be looked into. There are many methods to isolate hydrogen in the atmosphere or in water, such as solar electrolysis and special varieties of algae; however, more research must go into extracting hydrogen before it could fill our energy needs.
Since there are so many benefits to be reaped from the relatively easy changeover from oil to alternative energy sources, one must ask, “What is the government doing to advance alternate energy?” The most recent House of Representatives hearing on foreign oil dependency was on June 20, 2002; while many energy issues were brought up, more effort was placed on securing more sources for oil than on alternate sources of energy. The only step taken by the Bush administration in the direction of alternate energy is the FreedomCAR program, which supports tax reductions for hybrid and electric cars.
A little known section of the U.S. Patent Laws reveals the true and longstanding attitude of the government towards alternate energy. Under U.S. Patent Law Section 181, with regard to an alternate energy patent, "the Atomic Energy Commission, the Secretary of Defense, and the chief officer of any other department or agency of the Government designated by the President as a defense agency of the United States" has the power to "withhold the grant of a patent." Only one patent has been let through this government hold, a cold fusion process that is owned by the CETI Corporation in Texas. All others who have tried have been sworn to secrecy under the Invention Secrecy Act of 1951.

While there is still some work to do to begin using hydrogen for practical energy purposes, the benefits from energy security, better foreign policy, and a cheap and clean energy source far outweigh the cost of research. Obviously a changeover cannot happen tomorrow, and may not even happen in this century, but as oil supplies dwindle, prices rise, and more pollution enters the atmosphere, it must happen. Unfortunately, while the government is adamant about energy security, it is also apathetic towards alternate energy. As President Bush and Vice President Cheney are both former oil men with enduring links to the industry, there is little hope for any energy solution from this administration. Since we need the government’s power to help with the energy changeover, we who want cheap and clean energy must make our views known to our elected representatives today to prompt change tomorrow.
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Old 01-20-2004, 05:28 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Quote:
There are two major reasons why the United States should develop alternative energy sources. The first and most obvious reason is that alternative energy such as hydrogen power and fuel cells would be much cheaper and better for the environment than our current energy staple, oil. The second, and perhaps not as evident, reason is that it is in our best interest as a country to eliminate the constraints that our oil dependency has placed on our international relations and economy.
As a Republican I would rate ‘not as evident’ as VERY obvious. This is a big part of why we want more local drilling, so perhaps this is less evident to the left.
Quote:
While the prospect of having cheap and clean energy may be impetus enough for some to stop believing in oil, the larger incentive should come from the greater flexibility it would give U.S. economy and foreign policy around the world.
I wouldn’t say believing in oil. Oil isn’t something you believe in. I would change it to ‘believing that an oil based economy as the only viable economy.’
Quote:
In the Middle East the United States compromises its own international ideology by supporting the feudal and chauvinistic Saudi Arabian Government; surprisingly, Saudi Arabia is also the top oil exporter to the U.S. Our support of Saudi Arabia has the added negative effect of making them a lightning rod for the political tensions in the region.
This is true but I wouldn’t lay it all on the Saudi’s. You have basically described the whole region.
Quote:
Likewise in South America, we tolerate the corrupt and repressive regimes of Venezuela and Colombia in order to secure their oil exports which rank fourth and seventh respectively. Of course, the explanation for what many would see as bad foreign policy is that in these regions our oil dependency, and not logical ideology, governs our foreign policy.
You would need more evidence here. It’s a rather bold statement without anything to back it up.
Quote:
At the very least our oil policy is dangerous, as we depend on many politically unstable countries around the world for 60% of our oil; we have already suffered from two boycotts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which damaged our economy, and OPEC remains in a position to damage our economy further. Our oil dependency also limits our budget, as we import over 110 billion dollars of crude oil every year, which contributes to the 375 billion dollar U.S. trade deficit. To the extent that it is driven by our need to import oil our foreign policy is irrational because it draws us into dangerous and complicated situations where we do not belong.
No we do belong there currently as we do need the oil. I’d change it to ‘situations where we would rather not be involved.’
Quote:
This fact, combined with the prospect of cheap and clean energy should provide enough incentive for every American citizen from the small-lot car dealer to the President to move away from oil.
Get rid of the small-lot car dealer to president, just say every American.

Quote:
The most attractive alternative to oil lies in the use of hydrogen, either in a fuel cell or as a fuel by itself. In fact, there are no great leaps of technology required to use hydrogen as a fuel or in a fuel cell. The technology for fuel cells and hydrogen fuel is fairly simple, and very green; the only byproducts from using hydrogen as a fuel are pure water and heat. A typical PEM fuel cell, a light variety best for use in cars and trucks, is composed of a Cathode and an Anode, which reacts with hydrogen, peeling off electrons and sending them through a wire to the Cathode, creating current. Such fuel cell systems are already on the market from the Ballard Company in Burnaby, Canada. A cell similar to this will also be used for the Daimler Chrysler Necar 4, which should be released to the U.S. market in 2004. Like the fuel cell, using hydrogen as a fuel in a combustible engine is already a reality. While slight modifications are needed, such as a new cooling system and a direct fuel injector to stop backflashing (where gaseous hydrogen is ignited before entering the carburetor) the benefits of such a clean fuel far outweigh the small cost needed for application.
One technological barrier lies in the way of a cleaner hydrogen-fueled economy, the availability of hydrogen. If hydrogen were to become what oil is today, methods of producing hydrogen must be looked into . There are many methods to isolate hydrogen in the atmosphere or in water, such as solar electrolysis and special varieties of algae; however, more research must go into extracting hydrogen before it could fill our energy needs.
Change if to for in the bold sentence, and yes its true hydrogen isn’t ready, not to mention there is more to the cost of switching from oil based to hydrogen besides the availability of hydrogen. Also you should give the cost to convert a vehicle.

Quote:
Since there are so many benefits to be reaped from the relatively easy changeover from oil to alternative energy sources,
Whoa back the truck up. Changing how every vehicle (and many powerplants) operate will not be easy. You have not only the switch over of the vehicles but a change on how the fuel is delivered, stored, etc. Everything from gas stations, to fuel dumps would have to be changed.
Quote:
one must ask, “What is the government doing to advance alternate energy?” The most recent House of Representatives hearing on foreign oil dependency was on June 20, 2002; while many energy issues were brought up, more effort was placed on securing more sources for oil than on alternate sources of energy. The only step taken by the Bush administration in the direction of alternate energy is the FreedomCAR program, which supports tax reductions for hybrid and electric cars.
A little known section of the U.S. Patent Laws reveals the true and longstanding attitude of the government towards alternate energy. Under U.S. Patent Law Section 181, with regard to an alternate energy patent, "the Atomic Energy Commission, the Secretary of Defense, and the chief officer of any other department or agency of the Government designated by the President as a defense agency of the United States" has the power to "withhold the grant of a patent." Only one patent has been let through this government hold, a cold fusion process that is owned by the CETI Corporation in Texas. All others who have tried have been sworn to secrecy under the Invention Secrecy Act of 1951.

While there is still some work to do to begin using hydrogen for practical energy purposes, the benefits from energy security, better foreign policy, and a cheap and clean energy source far outweigh the cost of research. Obviously a changeover cannot happen tomorrow, and may not even happen in this century, but as oil supplies dwindle, prices rise, and more pollution enters the atmosphere, it must happen. Unfortunately, while the government is adamant about energy security, it is also apathetic towards alternate energy. As President Bush and Vice President Cheney are both former oil men with enduring links to the industry, there is little hope for any energy solution from this administration .
Good thing you are writing for a liberal mag, because a lot of people might take offense at your implication that the president and vice president would have loyalty to former business partners over the good of the nation. Its not like either of them need the money.
Quote:
Since we need the government’s power to help with the energy changeover, we who want cheap and clean energy must make our views known to our elected representatives today to prompt change tomorrow.
Or you could use market forces. If you came up with a cheap form of energy to run vehicles, I’d be first in line for it, I hate buying gas. Also while you get rather sinister sounding with the alternative energy patent thing, it’s a big world out there and I don’t see other sources of power coming from Europe or Asia, perhaps it isn’t a plot but there just haven’t been any new sources?
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Old 01-20-2004, 06:17 PM   #3 (permalink)
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thank god for thinking republicans... at least you care enough to read through a whole essay. I would most definitely keep the line that we don't belong in the middle east, and when I say we don't need to be there, I don't mean leave tomorrow. I know that we still need oil and lots of it for the moment, but with more effort put into alternatives we don't need to stay there more than a few years. As for belonging... its like saying that a goldfish belongs in a pool of piranhas, yes it needs to breath, but perhaps its not best to hang around somone that wants to kill you. Speaking of backing up the truck... The whole point of that paragraph was to show that not that much would have to change to use hydrogen fuel... a backflashing system, and actually the transport and storage would remain fairly simple. Hydrogen isnt as dangerous as people think, the Hindenberg just gave it a bad image. Lastly, I'm sure that change would be smoother if done by the private sector, and probably will be in the end, but right now its a painstakingly slow process, and govt. incentives and bonuses could seriously speed things up because the technology is not that hard for things like fuel cells and hydrogen fuel. My problem is that instead of spending money on alt. energy development, we're drilling for more oil in alaska. Without trying to sound to green here, I'd point out that in last years state of the union the president said he'd dedicateda whopping one million dollars to new energy. Not that much money, and I haven't seen any results from that. Well lets see what he has in store for us tonight. Id be happy to continue this debate in a new light tomorrow.
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Old 01-20-2004, 08:42 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Now isn't this ironic that this just came out.

Quote:
Fuel Cell Technology Has Combat Uses

Tue Jan 20, 3:32 PM ET

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By MATTHEW KORADE

ANNISTON, Ala. - Imagine a fuel as cheap and available as gasoline that could get 90 miles to the gallon. If scientists at Auburn University have their way, cars of the near future may get just that — and the technology is already here.


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Fuel cell technology is the future of the automotive industry, and soon could be part of the Department of Defense (news - web sites)'s next wave of combat systems.

The cells run on the same thing rockets use — hydrogen. Fuel cell technology takes a regular fuel and pulls off its hydrogen molecules, which are stored as gas. The electrons from the hydrogen then power a battery. The process is chemical, and there is no combustion. The primary byproduct is water.

The process is three times more efficient than regular fuel, and would do for automobiles what power plants do for cities. Instead of powering toaster ovens, the fuel cells would turn a car's wheels.

As a military application, the technology has the potential to save the Department of Defense a considerable amount of money, experts say. Fuel in the military always is at a premium. Defense officials have determined it costs about $40 to move one gallon of diesel fuel from Kuwait to Baghdad.

But with a fuel cell, a truck with a given amount of diesel can run three times the usual distance, delivering more food, more men and more supplies where they are needed.

"That's a tremendous leverage factor," said Bruce Tatarchuk, a professor of chemical engineering and director of the Center for Microfibrous Materials Manufacturing at Auburn University. He is deeply involved in fuel cell development.

Scientists have known about the advantages of hydrogen fuel since they began using it to power rockets. But super-cooled liquid hydrogen is difficult to store and move.

Thus, converting to widespread use would be expensive and take years, and would require creating an alternative to the world's trillion-dollar infrastructure.

But they realized there is already a lot of hydrogen in hydrocarbon fuel — diesel fuel, jet fuel, gasoline. All they would have to do is invent a process that removes the carbon and sulfur and they could take advantage of the oil industry infrastructure.

And that's exactly what scientists at Auburn University did.

In December, they held a demonstration. They took jet fuel, which is very similar to diesel, and catalytically converted it, separating out the sulfur, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, and the fuel cell ran.

The university had been working with Department of Defense officials to procure funding for their research. Those present, including military officials from around the state, were impressed.

"Auburn has what I believe is a doggone unique concept," said Gen. Gerald Watson, who serves in part as a military liaison for the university. Watson said Auburn is "dialoguing significantly" with the Army's Tank-automotive and Armaments Command, which supervises the Anniston Army Depot.

Almost all the depot's work is done on diesel engine systems, which are prime candidates for fuel cell upgrades.

Auburn's demonstration was only a working design, but the day of seeing hydrogen-powered tanks may not be far off. On a technological-readiness scale of one to 10, one being the theory stage and 10 being ready for mass market, the design of the hydrogen-based fuel-cell is at a four or five, Tatarchuk said.

For widespread military applications, however, a lot of work needs to be done, he said. That work entails re-engineering of the entire military inventory and upgrading the legacy fleet.



"You can't do that overnight," he said.

There are about five kinds of fuel cells. Some are available right now.

For example, the Stryker infantry transports use a hybrid engine that runs on fuel cell power or combusted fuel. General Dynamics builds the vehicles at the depot. Auburn's hydrogen fuel cell technology has incredible potential, officials said. It could be used to generate electrical power the way coal and other fuels are doing that today.

Eventually, it could find its way into every automobile. It could also mean great things for Alabama, with its booming auto-manufacturing industry, and for Calhoun County, with its depot, Watson said.

"It shows the relationship, if you will, the partnership that industry and academia and the community has, what we're doing to come together, to pull a program together and to create in this community a very efficient military operation down there at the depot," he said.

How fast the technology will get here will depend on how much the national, state and local leadership focus on making research dollars available, he said.

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