Current CO2 concentration in the atmosphere

Two policy head-shakers

Green Car Congress: US DOE to award up to $20M for research on methane hydrates [emphasis added]:

The US Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory has issued a solicitation (DE-FOA-0000891) for up to $20 million in funding for projects that focus on the following three technical topic areas: (1) characterization of methane hydrate deposits; (2) response of methane hydrate reservoirs to induced environmental change; and (3) response of methane hydrate systems to natural environmental change.

Selected projects will be intended to support program goals to determine the (1) likelihood of methane hydrates as a potential energy resource and (2) their role in the natural environment. The objective of the program is to fund research that significantly advances the current state of knowledge or technology with respect to methane hydrate science.

Methane hydrate — molecules of natural gas trapped in an ice-like cage of water molecules — represents a potentially vast methane resource for both the United States and the world. Recent discoveries of methane hydrate in arctic and deep-water marine environments have highlighted the need for a better understanding of this substance as a natural storehouse of carbon and a potential energy resource.

The volume of methane held in methane hydrate deposits worldwide is immense. A frequently quoted estimate of the global methane hydrate resource is 20,000 trillion cubic meters, or about 700,000 trillion cubic feet. In addition, methane is itself a potent greenhouse gas, remaining in the atmosphere for about a decade before it is converted to carbon dioxide. Clearly, methane hydrate has a significant role in the global carbon cycle, and it is gaining recognition as an important player in global climate processes and climate change.

So… is this effort meant to figure out how close we are to liberating hideous amounts of methane, or is it an attempt to figure out how to exploit yet another carbon-based energy source? I wholeheartedly support the former, but as for the second? Absolutely not.

It is hard when reading the above quotes not to assume that the people who run around the Internet claiming we’ll burn every lump of coal, every drop of oil, every wisp of natural gas we can get our greedy, myopic hands are correct.

DOE starts planning H-Prize, a hydrogen refueling station competition:

The US Department of Energy is considering sponsoring what it calls an “H-Prize” competition that would find quicker ways to develop viable home-based hydrogen refueling stations. Such stations would then be developed for single-family or multi-family dwellings, with prizes given out for what the DOE categorizes as “production, storage, distribution, utilization, and prototypes and transformational technologies.” The DOE, which didn’t give many details on when and how much prize money will be doled out, appears to be getting ready for the hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles that a number of the world’s largest automakers are planning to debut by 2015.

Yes, you read that right: They’re talking about residential hydrogen fueling stations.

This is simply mind blowing. There are only two reasonable ways to produce hydrogen: Electrolyze water and water-shift reform natural gas. Neither one of which seems remotely like something I or anyone I know would want in a home or garage. But for the sake of argument let us assume they can find enough people will to put such a contraption in their home. What will they cost? As people commenting in the above article point out, the natural gas refueling gizmo Honda sold to people who bought/leased a Civic
NGX natural gas-fueled vehicle cost about $4,000, and it was little more than a glorified compressor. A home hydrogen station would not only have to be a compressor that produced gas at much higher pressure than the Civic NGX fueler, but it would have to create the hydrogen supply. If anyone can figure out a way to mass market such things for less than $10,000 ($15,000?) each, with the installation of water and/or natural gas lines additional, of course, I’ll be stunned. Anyone here want to run the numbers and figure out the payback on that investment, including all up-front and per-mile costs? Yeah, me neither.


2 comments to Two policy head-shakers

  • With you on the first.

    On the second, though, we already pipe natural gas into the home. Could we replicate (or better yet, repurpose) that system? That means the home system is just the compressor.

    In the amusing movie version of I, Robot set in the near future, Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan) is reluctant to get on Del Spooner’s (Will Smith’s) motorcycle, screeching “There’s gasoline in that thing! Do you know how explosive that stuff is?”

  • There’s an off-grid house belonging to a rather wealthy individual on the US east coast somewhere which stores energy by electrolysis and hydrogen storage. Big tanks at around atmospheric pressure.

    Couldn’t immediately find the discussion I saw before of this but did find:

    Not convinced but domestic hydrogen production should not be written off completely. Of course, compressing it for use in a vehicle would be another step.