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Re: Fuel Cells

A little reality check here. While hydrogen and methane are ways to store
and redistribute direct solar, wind, and biomass energy it is also less
efficient to do this than to use these energy resources directly. This
means that it will take more wind generators, more solar farms, more acres
of crops to produce energy using fuel cells than to use the
electricity/chemical energy directly from these sources. There still are
many reasons to do this--converting wind and solar to 'energy on demand' is
certainly one as well as the fact that we will still need 'portable' fuels.
Hydrogen produced from these sources might also be piped (new pipeline
infrastructures required) and used much as natural gas is today and even
used to power electrical generation plants in densely populated areas such
as the Northeast. HOWEVER, before getting too excited about these
possibilities one needs to 'do the numbers' to see just how daunting the
task of converting from oil/natural gas over to these renewables actually
is. Remembering that we would be shifting the TOTAL energy use renewables,
and not just the electrical use, you end up with millions of large wind
generators, thousands of square miles of photovoltaics, hundreds of
thousands of square miles of farmland dedicated to energy crops, and tens of
trillions of dollars in costs. It is the magnitude of our current energy
demand (and the fact that 90% of it is currently met with the fossil fuels)
that is confounding.

Fuel cells offer a 'better' alternative to traditional batteries but they DO
need a fuel supply and that fuel must be processed using energy or crops.
The infrastructure will be expensive and massive to provide for large scale
fuel cell use.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Chuck Britton" <britton@NCSSM.EDU>
To: <>
Sent: Sunday, June 03, 2001 6:38 AM
Subject: Re: Fuel Cells

Methanol is looking good as a fuel cell source for the H2.
There are huge (Gummint subsidized) methanol plants out in the
mid-west corn fields.
Solar energy is transported in vehicles quite nicely in this liquid form.

(in the Appalachians, we specialized in ETHANOL instead of METHANOL -
and fought the Whiskey Rebellion - unsuccessfully :-(

At 10:25 PM -0500 6/2/01, David T. Marx, you wrote about Re: Fuel Cells:

>The answer to that one is to use a renewable energy source such as
solar or
>wind generated electricity to produce the hydrogen by electrolysis of
>Initially, this might seem silly. Why not just use the solar or wind
>produced electricity directly. However, hydrogen provides a way to
>the energy and use it as needed in certain applications such as motor
>vehicles. Using a hydrogen fuel cell in an electric vehicle provides
>greater range than storage batteries.

In addition, solar and wind are not always available at every
location, so hydrogen becomes the storage mechanism for these renewable
sources. We can envision a time when hydrogen replaces natural gas and
usage, at least in our economy.
As far as transportation goes, Ford and GM will begin selling
vehicles next year with fuel cells on board. Initially, they will run on
natural gas, but as a distribution system is set up for hydrogen, they
switch to that. Munich, Germany boasts the only hydrogen filling
It is completely automated. The driver pulls in, swipes a credit card,
a robot arm opens the fuel port and dispenses the hydrogen. CNN ran a
story on it about six weeks ago.

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