Various Notes and Comments

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology May Have a Price Tag.

Much is expected from Hydrogen fuel cell technology. In fact, I remember that as a teenager the case was made even then, in the late seventies that Hydrogen power will one day replace oil fuel. This was a recurring theme everytime some political situation interupted the flow of oil into the United States. Back then there was for awhile a rising interest in alteranative fuels, just as there is now, and Hydrogen fuel was one of the favorites just as it is now. However, many have realized that Hydrogen fuel cell technology may not be as enviromentally safe as it would first appear. Since the major “pollutant” would be nothing more than steam at first it would seem to be a small price to pay for the use of such an abundant fuel. But as one examines the problem more closely we can see that such a byproduct produced by millions of automobiles round the world would itself pose a threat to the environment. Firstly the steam will add increased heat to the atmosphere. Global warming may continue if only for that reason. Secondly the steam by product could actually be condusive to trapping heat in the earth’s atmosphere. Therefore we stop using fossil fuels only to use hydrogen power which will have the same effect of trapping heat in the atmosphere, and thus causing global warming.

A quandary it is. Though I cannot be certain of these claims, I can see quite clearly that problems will not necessarily be solved without a cost. It seems to me that no matter what the fuel source, no matter what the energy source there can be unexpected environmental repercussions.

An interesting example would be the hydro-power plant in Niagra falls. As Nagra Falls grew into a major attraction for millions of tourists the authorities realized that something had to be done to slow down the progression of the falls which was slowly but surely moving upstream into Canada.
So they got the bright idea to build a power plant there which would serve to slow down the cascading water, and therefore slow down the progression of the falls, as well as to provide energy to millions of people in and around the falls area. Thus far it all seems to be a win win situation, yet the fat lady has not yet sung. Those millions of tourists in the area are themselves a polluting source to be sure. It is also true that we really cannot know what the environmental impact might ultimately be for slowing down the progression of the falls. How has that power plant really affected the people downstream, or rather how will it affect them in the decades to come? The same is true of the hoover damn in Las Vegas, Nevada. To be sure without it there could be no Las Vegas, but do we really know what the long term consequences are? Even now some minor effects of the stagnating water held back by the dam are an annoyance, but these minor setbacks may only be the beginning. My point is that we really dont know what the ultimate costs will be. All too often we assume there are no costs, and then we find ourselves paying the piper far more than we at first imagined we might owe. The truth is we need lots and lots of energy, and no matter what the source might be, the sheer quatity will likely have an impact on the environment. We should never assume that anything comes without a price tag.

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Global Warming: Vulcanism