Hydrogen is not an energy source.

I’ve long felt like I need to walk around with a sandwich board declaring this, because nobody seems to get it and it’s so important: Hydrogen is not an energy source, it’s a battery. There will be no “hydrogen economy.” (Via /.)

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

5 replies on “Hydrogen is not an energy source.”

  1. The “Hydrogen Economy” is a smokescreen created by the oil lobby to win the war on nature by playing the “time” game. We’ll wait for 20 years for the “Hydrogen Economy” to mature, while the oil companies do what they do: destroy wildlife habitats, break up unions, start and profit from wars, and ignore the world-destroying climate crisis. Then, after 20 years, it’ll be too late and the oil and war profiteers will die along with the rest of the world’s mammals.

  2. I think what folks mean when they say we’re moving to a “hydrogen economy” has something to do with the molecular structure of the fuels we use, and specifically the carbon:hydrogen ratio of those fuels.

    For instance, one of man’s first fuels was wood which has like a bajillion carbon atoms to every hydrogen atom. From there it goes through coal and natural gas, which, I think, have correspondingly less C per H atom per molecule.

    Finally, so the theory goes, we arrive at Hydrogen-powered fuel cells which burn no C at all.

    Or, it could be that I’m a History major way out of his league.

  3. Finally, so the theory goes, we arrive at Hydrogen-powered fuel cells which burn no C at all.

    And that’s the very, very common misconception. Manufacturing hydrogen (or capturing it) requires more energy than is found within the hydrogen. At best they’re on par — converting solar energy to hydrogen, for instance. But then you are, as I say, using hydrogen as a battery. But it’s not a source of energy.

    Much like with corn-based ethanol. Corn is a really, really stupid thing to make ethanol out of because it’s more like a hugely inefficient battery. Any politician that supports it either a) doesn’t know what they’re talking about b) is from Iowa or c) wants to run for president and needs Iowa’s support.

  4. Ah, I see. Could we get to a point where the amount of fossil fuels necessary to recharge the hydrogen battery in a automobile is a lot less than what we currently use in gasoline?

  5. Nope, there can be no greater efficiency in that process. That’s because energy can’t be created, it can only be captured and transferred. If you want 1,000 kilocalories of hydrogen energy, that’s going to require 1,000 kilocalories of energy input. If that energy input is from fossil fuels, there has been absolutely no reduction in pollution or reliance on foreign oil. If it’s from solar energy, wonderful, now we have some clean energy. But in either case we’re using the hydrogen as a battery, not as a source of energy.

    I hope that makes sense.

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