Saturday, January 13, 2007

Energy Independence and Energy Leadership

Whether cars are fueled by ethanol or gasoline, the traditional internal combustion engine, at best, is only about 30% efficient. This means that 70% of the energy we put into our cars is thrown away.

New hydrogen reformer technology is able to convert gasoline into hydrogen fuel for automobiles. This conversion equipment can be installed on-site at existing gas stations, using our current energy distribution infrastructure to provide refueling points for "early-adopter" consumers of hydrogen fuel cell automobiles.

Because hydrogen fuel cell automobile engines can achieve about 80% efficiency, as a long-term energy strategy this represents an achievable solution to our National problem with foreign energy dependency. Reformer technology is not, however, an instant solution.

These high efficiency ratings will depend on continued research into effective ways to manufacture and store hydrogen, including such technologies as polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells, wind turbines, supercapacitors, and possibly even metamaterials. Incorporating hydrogen into the electrical infrastructure could give consumers real choices regarding where they purchase their energy.

Furthermore, the jury is still out as to whether the use of ethanol puts more pollution into the environment than burning a similar quantity of gasoline, since, typically, most of the energy used to produce ethanol comes from coal-burning powerplants.

It took 20 years from the time reports of global warming first appeared in the popular press until the time when the general press decided to agree that global warming is a real problem. Neither America nor the Earth can wait that long before we thoughtfully examine our energy habits.

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