Hydrogen As A Clean Fuel
When hydrogen burns in air, it produces nothing but water vapor. It is therefore the cleanest possible, totally nonpolluting fuel. This fact has led some people to propose an energy economy based entirely on hydrogen, in which hydrogen would replace gasoline, oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear power. The idea is that hydrogen would be prepared by the electrolysis of sea water in remote coastal areas and sent to the cities in pipelines similar to the pipeline that brings natural gas from Alaska to the lower states. In addition to being used as a fuel, the hydrogen could be used in factories to produce a variety of useful chemicals (see above). The problems, however, are that hydrogen is a dangerous gas, and piping it around the country has its hazards. A more serious problem is that hydrogen is currently expensive, both in money and in energy cost. After all, where is the electricity supposed to come from in the first place, to electrolyze the sea water? It would have to be produced by burning coal or oil, which are hardly nonpolluting, or by nuclear power. In any energy-production scheme, the entire process must be considered, from beginning to end, with all of its ramifications. Only then can we decide whether or not there would be a net saving of energy or a reduction in overall pollution.
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Robert L. Wolke