A Great Hype: The Truth About Hydrogen

Hydrogen is no greener than the energy sources use to produce it.
March 17, 2004, 2pm PST | Abhijeet Chavan | @legalaidtech
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"Hydrogen cars are likely to remain inferior to the best gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius in virtually every respect—cost, range, annual fueling bill, convenience, safety—through at least 2030." "A fuel-cell car running on hydrogen derived from natural gas offers no significant greenhouse gas savings compared to running advanced hybrid vehicles on oil—as a 2003 MIT study concluded. The best new hybrids have sharply reduced their fuel consumption and hence greenhouse gas emissions. Running on low-sulfur gasoline, the 2004 Prius produces 90 percent less tailpipe emissions than the average new car. The least expensive hydrogen, however, is dirty. Based on the hydrogen fueling stations Royal Dutch/Shell has proposed to build, the total emissions of nitrogen oxides from a fuel-cell vehicle would be triple that of the best new cars. Equally important, such a strategy would divert natural gas from a variety of better uses. While vehicles running on natural gas-derived hydrogen won’t provide significant greenhouse gas reductions compared to the best hybrids running on gasoline, a switchover to natural gas can greatly reduce the emissions from electricity generating plants. A coal-fired generator releases more than 1,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide into the air for each megawatt-hour of electricity it produces. The best gas-fired plants, by contrast, release only about 350 kilograms of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour generated."

Thanks to Bud Laumer

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Published on Wednesday, March 17, 2004 in Technology Review
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