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Encyclopedia > The Hype about Hydrogen

The Hype about Hydrogen, Fact and Fiction in the Race to Save the Climate is a book by Joseph J. Romm, published in 2004 (ISBN 1-55963-703-X) and updated in 2005 (ISBN 1-55963-704-8). Over 200 publications, including Scientific American, Forbes Magazine, and The New York Times, have cited this book.[1] Dr. Joseph J. Romm was born on June 27, 1960 in Middletown, New York. ... Scientific American is a popular-science magazine, published monthly since August 28, 1845, making it the oldest continuously published magazine in the United States. ... Alternate meaning: For the Boston Brahmin family associated with John Forbes Kerry, see Forbes family. ... The New York Times is a newspaper published in New York City by Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. ...

The gist of the book is that hydrogen is not economically feasible to use for transportation, nor will its use reduce global warming. Key problems are the cost and greenhouse gases generated during production, the low energy content per volume and weight of the container, the cost of the fuel cells, and the cost of the infrastructure. The author argues that a major effort to introduce hydrogen cars before 2030 would actually undermine efforts to reduce emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. General Name, Symbol, Number hydrogen, H, 1 Chemical series nonmetals Group, Period, Block 1, 1, s Appearance colorless Atomic mass 1. ... Global mean surface temperatures 1856 to 2005 Mean surface temperature anomalies during the period 1995 to 2004 with respect to the average temperatures from 1940 to 1980 Global warming is the observed increase in the average temperature of the Earths atmosphere and oceans in recent decades. ... Top: Increasing atmospheric CO2 levels as measured in the atmosphere and ice cores. ... A fuel cell is an electrochemical device similar to a battery, but differing from the latter in that it is designed for continuous replenishment of the reactants consumed; i. ... Greenhouse gases are gaseous components of the atmosphere that contribute to the greenhouse effect. ... Carbon dioxide is an atmospheric gas comprised of one carbon and two oxygen atoms. ...


Description of the Book


The Hype About Hydrogen aims to debunk the myth or misimpression that global warming and U.S. reliance on foreign fuel imports can be solved by the hypothetical hydrogen economy that has been advanced as a possible solution to these problems. The book states, "Neither government policy nor business investment should be based on the belief that hydrogen cars will have meaningful commercial success in the near or medium term." To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Hydrogen vehicle. ...

Early chapters

Chapter 1 introduces some of the difficulties of a hydrogen economy. Chapter 2 explains how fuel cells work, discusses different types of fuel cells and compares their advantages and disadvantages including costs and efficiencies.

Chapter 3 discusses the difficulties in marketing fuel cells for use as high reliability back up power, for the residential market, and for combined heat and power generation. In spite of these difficulties, the book argues that these applications are easier and more likely to happen soon than transportation applications. Itaipu Dam is a hydroelectric generating station Electricity generation is the first process in the delivery of electricity to consumers. ...

Hydrogen Production

Chapter 4 discusses history of hydrogen. Production of global hydrogen by production method:

Origin   Quantity  
Natural gas 240   48
Oil 150   30
Coal   90   18
Electrolysis   20    4
Total 500 100

The book argues that the most cost effective method of hydrogen generation is from natural gas, and that such generation emits CO2, which is a potent greenhouse gas. Furthermore, the electricity required to generate enough hydrogen to replace all the gasoline in the U.S. would be more than all the electricity currently produced. One cubic metre of concrete (representing the world annual production per inhabitant) The cubic metre (symbol m3) is the SI derived unit of volume. ... Many stoves use natural gas. ... Top: Increasing atmospheric CO2 levels as measured in the atmosphere and ice cores. ... Lightning strikes during a night-time thunderstorm. ... Gasoline, also called petrol, is a petroleum-derived liquid mixture consisting primarily of hydrocarbons and enhanced with benzenes to increase octane ratings, used as fuel in internal combustion engines. ...

Key Elements of a Hydrogen-Based Transportation System

In Chapter 5, The book estimates the hydrogen fueling infrastructure could cost half a trillion U.S. dollars. Liquefying would require 40% of the energy content of the hydrogen. Liquid hydrogen would evaporate at the rate of 4%/day. Just generating the electricity to liquefy 1 kg (2.2 lb) of hydrogen would release 8 to 9.5 kg (17.6 to 20.9 lb) of CO2 into the atmosphere. By comparison, burning a U.S. gallon of gasoline, which has a similar energy content, would release about 9 kg (19.8 lb) of CO2. The international prototype, made of platinum-iridium, which is kept at the BIPM under conditions specified by the 1st CGPM in 1889. ... The pound is the name of a number of units of mass, all in the range of 300 to 600 grams. ... Carbon dioxide is an atmospheric gas comprised of one carbon and two oxygen atoms. ...

Compressing hydrogen to 10,000 psi (70 MPa) would require about 10% to 15% of its energy content, and take about 7 to 8 times as much volume as the same energy in a gasoline tank. At 8,000 psi (55 MPa), a pressure tank would cost $2100 per kilogram of hydrogen. Pounds-force per square inch (lbf/in²) is a non-SI unit of pressure. ...

This chapter ends with a discussion of alternatives for generation, transportation and storage of hydrogen.

Commercialization of Fuel Cell Vehicles

According to Chapter 6, in 2002, Honda estimated that it would take 10 years to bring the cost of a fuel cell vehicle down to $100,000. Hydrogen-powered internal combustion engines, on the other hand, would use twice the hydrogen of a fuel cell, exacerbating the generation, transportation and storage problems of hydrogen. The book discusses the problems of using vehicle fleets as early adopters of the technology, and the dual use of hydrogen vehicles for transportation and electricity generation. For other uses, see Honda (disambiguation). ... A colorized automobile engine The internal combustion engine is a heat engine in which the burning of a fuel occurs in a confined space called a combustion chamber. ... Diffusion is the process by which a new idea or new product is accepted by the market. ...

Global Warming Issues

Chapters 7 and 8 discuss evidence of the reality and seriousness of global warming. Royal Dutch Shell projects that even with substantial effort, CO2 in the air will be double pre-industrial levels. Royal Dutch Shell plc/Koninklijke Nederlandse Shell NV is a multinational oil company , of Anglo Dutch origins, which is amongst the largest energy corporations in the world, and one of the six supermajors (vertically integrated private-sector oil, natural gas, and petrol companies), along with BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and...

Four reasons are given as to why hydrogen will not be the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:

  • Internal combustion engines continue to improve in efficiency.
  • Hydrogen is likely to be made from fossil fuel. Generally it would be better just to burn the fossil fuel directly.
  • Fuel cells are likely to be much more expensive than competing technologies.
  • Fuels used to make hydrogen could achieve larger reductions in greenhouse gas emissions if used to replace the least efficient of the electric power plants.

A colorized automobile engine The internal combustion engine is a heat engine in which the burning of a fuel occurs in a confined space called a combustion chamber. ... Oil power plant in Iraq A power station or power plant is a facility for the generation of electric power. ...

Hydrogen Partnerships and Pilots

Chapter 9, describes pilot projects in Iceland and California. Iceland plans a transition to a hydrogen economy based on hydrogen from electrolysis from geothermal power. Iceland has large amount of geothermal power which is used for electricity and to heat about 90% of the buildings. The California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP) has helped put about 30 fuel cell vehicles on the road with 8 fueling stations. Official language(s) English Capital Sacramento Largest city Los Angeles Area  Ranked 3rd  - Total 158,302 sq mi (410,000 km²)  - Width 250 miles (400 km)  - Length 770 miles (1,240 km)  - % water 4. ... Thermally active area, New Zealand. ... The California Fuel Cell Partnership is a public-private partnership to promote hydrogen vehicles (including cars and buses) in California. ...


The book concludes by stating that hydrogen will not be widely available as a transporation fuel for a long time, so, to combat global warming, we should:

  • Use low-cost strategies to reduce CO2 emissions such as mandating renewables for electricity production and capping allowed CO2 emissions in electricity generation.
  • Promote combined heat and power generation.
  • Use electricity and natural gas more efficiently.
  • Set CO2 standards for cars and trucks.
  • Prepare the public for the tough choices ahead, including mass transit.

Cogeneration (also combined heat and power or CHP) is the use of a power station to simultaneously generate both heat and electricity. ... In the United States of America, transit describes local area common carrier passenger transportation configured to provide scheduled service on fixed routes on a non-reservation basis. ...

Critical Reception

The New York Review of Books concluded that Romm's book is, if "flatly" written [2], an unbiased examination of the evidence for his argument.

A typical review in the environmental community press is supplied by the TerraGreen newsletter, April 30, 2006:

Romm makes it amply clear that the car of the near future is the hybrid vehicle, which combines a gasoline engine and a battery-driven electric motor (chapter 8) and will most likely become the dominant vehicle platform by the year 2020. He supplements the 2005 edition with a number of case studies that were published after the first (2004) edition, emphasizing that global warming is the major environmental threat facing us and hydrogen cars are unlikely to be a major part of the solution for the next three decades. Perhaps the words of Bill Reinert, US manager of Toyota’s advanced technologies group appreciates the rigour and tenor of the book to a great extent. When asked whether hydrogen fuel cell cars would replace gasoline-powered cars in January 2005, he replied, ‘If I told you “never”, would you be upset?’ [3]

The San Diego Union Tribune's 2004 review said, "Romm keeps his political leanings in check in this balanced assessment of hydrogen fuel cells and the many hurdles facing this technology. His logic is clear, and he reaches conclusions similar to an authoritative study issued last month by the National Academy of Sciences."[4] The San Diego Union-Tribune is a daily newspaper published in San Diego, California by the Copley Press. ... President Harding and the National Academy of Sciences at the White House, Washington, DC, April 1921 The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine. ...

In a 2004 review, however, three UC Davis scientists who were advisors to California and U. S. Government hydrogen research projects, noted their agreement with the book's main points but concluded that the author had made selective use of sources: [5]. The University of California, Davis, commonly abbreviated to UC Davis or UCD is one of the ten University of California campuses. ...

He [Romm] consistently relies on sources that tend to the high side of the cost range in the literature, and often cites only the highest cost case in referenced studies. Some of his hydrogen costs are roughly twice those in the recent National Academies study of hydrogen. Too often, he cites controversial research that has not been peer reviewed, ignores well-known studies that do not support his conclusions, or gives incomplete citations that leave the reader wondering about the source.

The reviewers also expressed their concern that Romm employed an unrealistically high estimate of the fuel economy of gasoline hybrid vehicles, which Romm and others have suggested are a better short- and medium-term alternative to hydrogen vehicles:

For example, to bolster a point about the near-term potential of advanced gasoline automobiles, Romm states that gasoline hybrids are approximately as energy efficient as hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. Yet careful simulation studies by Argonne National Laboratory, General Motors, Ford Motor Co., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and others suggest that gasoline hybrids would have no more than 1.3 to 1.5 times the fuel economy of a comparable gasoline internal combustion engine car, and that hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles would have 2 to 2.5 times the fuel economy.

The consensus of scientists, however, disagree with these oil-company sponsored studies. See hydrogen vehicle. A fuel cell powered vehicle from GM A hydrogen vehicle is an automobile which uses hydrogen as its primary source of power for locomotion. ...

Consumer Reports, in its June 2006 issue, found that actual mileage of current gasoline hybrids tested was roughly 40 percent below the EPA ratings. Consumer Reports is an American magazine published monthly by Consumers Union, a non-profit organization founded in 1936 by Arthur Kallet, Colston Warne, and others who felt that the established Consumers Research organization was not aggressive enough. ...


The book has many footnotes, with many of the sources available on the Internet. An updated edition was published in 2005 (ISBN 1-55963-704-8). The book has also been translated into German as Der Wasserstoff-boom.

See also

Who Killed the Electric Car? is a 2006 documentary film which investigates, in a murder-mystery style, the birth, limited commercialization, and subsequent death of the electric vehicle in the United States. ... The number of US survey respondents willing to pay $4,000 more for a plug-in hybrid car increased from 17% in 2005 to 26% in 2006. ...

External links



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