Oil prices control everything; from the cost of transport to food we eat. Everything seems to be interrelated. The USA consumes more fuel than any other country in the world. For example, to produce the same amount of GDP, the USA requires three times as much energy as Japan needs. Transportation is one of the major forms of fuel consumption all over the world, and in the US, this form of consumption is at an all time high.
With gasoline and other petrochemical prices going through the roof and “gas-guzzling’ vehicles like SUV’s, pickup trucks and “muscle cars” running the road, the country is bound to fall victim to the exhaustion of these fossil fuels. (Newspapers, 2008) With an array of possible alternate energy sources before us, we need to develop one that will solve all our energy needs. Something that is cheaper and more abundant. Something for which the USA will not have to rely on the Middle East. An energy source that would bring the USA and the rest of the world out of this fossil fuel Dark Age.
The answer to all this is the hydrogen fuel cell. The hydrogen fuel cell can, one day, solve all of mankind’s energy problems and promise a clean and healthy future at the same time. Work Cited Newspapers, R. S. (2008, July 18). Hydrogen cars may be norm by 2050 – Study: u. s. could nearly eliminate gas engines. Retrieved July 22, 2008, from NewsBank: http://infoweb. newsbank. com. ezproxy. sfcc. edu:2048/iw-search/we/InfoWeb? p_product=NewsBank&p_theme=aggregated5&p_action=doc&p_docid=122041A94FE006A0&p_docnum=16&p_queryname=1
II. Sample Essay Revision The Hydrogen Fuel Cell: Drive into the future. From the time since when we were children, we have been studying about global warming, greenhouse gases and how the fossil fuels are going be exhausted. How cars emit the most greenhouse gases and consume oil and gasoline. It makes us want to make a difference somehow. We see suggestions like; take the bus, walk, ride a bicycle or carpool. But something a little more concrete needs to be done. Something that will revolutionize the way we consume energy.
A way through which we won’t have to rely on Saudi Arabia for oil, we won’t have to give up our fast cars and turn to slow and expensive hybrids and not stand in line at fuel station for hours only to pay a week’s salary for a full tank. The solution comes from the hydrogen fuel cell. If developed properly, it can become the fuel that drives us into a promising future. Automakers have been developing alternatives to the internal combustion engine, designing and building hybrids. Companies such as G. M and Toyota have come up with designs and prototypes but nothing concrete could be achieved.
Will gasoline prices skyrocketing and the amount of emissions; the internal combustion engine would soon become impractical. Most people will have to park their cars in their garage for good. Gasoline would become completely unaffordable for the lower-middle class. Automobile manufacturers have already begun discontinuing their lines of vehicles that require too much fuel to run. The internal combustion engine’s future is not a bright one. Another form of alternative fuel is the compressed natural gas (CNG) which is an abundant fossil fuel.
It is a clean and attractive source but the lack of storage in a vehicle and the lack of infra structure makes it impractical. Compressed air is another source, being developed by the French but it is even more impractical in terms of mileage and speed than CNG. Biodiesel can be homegrown and has low emissions. Commercially it can cost a little more than gasoline and is impractical due to the lack of diesel powered cars in the US. Hybrids are the most popular among alternatively fueled vehicles. Cars such as the Toyota Prius, Ford Escape and Honda Civic are extremely popular among consumers.
These cars switch between electric and gasoline automatically when needed. Consumers say the hybrid technology improves mileage, is affordable and the cars being built are an attractive buy. Many people think the hybrid concept does not live up to the hype and are still not enthusiastic about hybrid vehicles and are buying “gas-guzzling” SUVs. Hybrids are not cheap, they may use less gasoline but the insurance and other costs make it almost $6000 more expensive than a non-hybrid vehicle over a five year period.
Hybrids can be improved with the concept of flexible fuel tanks in which mileage can be improved a little if the hybrid car is plugged into a wall socket and charged. Further improvement can be made if the percentage of gasoline is reduced and methanol and ethanol is incorporated in the fuel mix. This way the mileage can be improved exponentially. But our cars will be driven into the future by another alternative – the hydrogen fuel cell. Unlike the other alternatives, it is the most widely abundant element in our universe and it burns cleanly, only producing water and heat as its byproducts.
A reporter, Elizabeth Kolbert, describes her visit to Bragi Aronson’s office, a chemistry professor, who had developed a fuel cell of his one which was used to produce electricity for his lamp and a little fan attached. The display was amazing, as Kolbert puts it. Hydrogen fuel cells first appeared on the scene in 1839 thanks courtesy a British physicist by the name of William Grove. But it was not until recently when the hydrogen fuel cell was started to be tested in vehicles.
Automakers realize the fact that the internal combustion engine powered by gasoline will render impractical in the future and are embracing the new fuel cell technology. The whole idea requires a level of commitment by the manufacturers to make the hydrogen future possible. Many projects have already begun all over the world with hydrogen powered buses operating in Europe and The Dallas-Forth worth airport area. Nissan, Toyota, Honda and G. M all have developed prototypes and designs for their hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles that may hit the markets sooner than we know.
The government is also showing its support for the development of hydrogen fuel cells by funding research and encouraging its development. The ultimate goal is to get the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on the road by 2020. Despite all the support, the nation is still far off from the automobile future we have in mind. Hydrogen as a fuel is impractical at the moment. It is more expensive than gasoline and there is no infrastructure available such as fuel stations and generating facilities. Steps like these may take many years.
Hydrogen may be abundant but it’s hardly available in free useable form. To separate it from its compounds, it has to go through costly processes. Many say that the energy required to produce hydrogen will be more than what we will in turn get from hydrogen. Sources include coal and fossil fuels but extracting hydrogen from fossil fuels will be very costly and the extraction process will emit large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Leakage of hydrogen is another problem and overtime it can contribute to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and change global climate.
A supporter of the fuel cell idea, Jeremy Rifkin, says we need to focus on the production of green hydrogen from renewable sources like wind and solar power, rather than black hydrogen from fossil fuels. Hydrogen fuel cells use platinum which is a precious and expensive metal, available in a limited and insufficient supply. Until alternatives can be found, the fuel cell will be an impractical idea as a regular fuel for vehicles all over the world. Hydrogen being a dangerous gas has worried many over the years. The Hindengurg disaster in 1937 is an example, when many lives were lost, though many controversies exist.
Hopefully, safety measures will prevent any such disasters in the future. Still many are optimistic and believe that the above mentioned problems can be overcome and the hydrogen fuel cell can certainly become practical. All we need is dedication and determination towards a goal. With the right targets and commitment, it will not be long before we will find ourselves driving one of the millions of hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles all over the world, experience a day when oil will is no longer needed and the vehicle gas emission figure drops down to zero.