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H2Oh
By Rick Hoar
June 6, 2010

Clean, renewable energy isn’t just an eco-liberal pipedream. It’s vital to a life of self-reliance, and it would go a long way toward increasing human productivity and global security.

My goal would simply be to live “off the grid,” granted access to a ready supply of saltwater (the most abundant substance on earth, right?) and a decent means of generating electricity from solar, wind, water and/or geothermal energy. The idea is to produce clean-burning hydrogen gas through the electrolysis of the natural saltwater, aided only by renewable natural resources.

Perhaps the biggest argument against adopting hydrogen en masse as a source of power is that its production generally requires more energy than it produces. However, I believe that the value of an infinitely renewable, safe, clean and portable energy product would far outweigh its inefficiency relative to the current toxic and diminishing alternatives – especially in non-commercial applications like home and personal automotive power.

So, why bother to make hydrogen instead of using our solar-cell / wind / hydroelectric / geothermal generators to store electricity in simple batteries?

Flexibility:

Contemporary chemical batteries of any worth are too bulky and tend to be comprised of toxic substances themselves. They are difficult to produce and need to be replaced periodically. So, just as with the mercury in those fancy little swirly bulbs we all used to rave about, battery-reliant “green” energy methods still adversely affect the environment, you hippies!

What’s more is that the weight of common chemical-electric batteries creates issues of space and mobility that electric vehicle designers have already started to encounter. So, that’s why I say, ditch our big battery systems and use nature’s battery: The H2 molecule!

Safety:

Like nuclear power, Hydrogen suffers from a lot of bad press, often conjuring up images of Hindenburg and H-Bombs at its mention. The ironic truth is that Hydrogen gas is combustible, but surprisingly, not very explosive. I wouldn’t want to zeppelin around strapped to the bottom of six million ft3 of the stuff, but I’d much rather get rear-ended in a Hydrogenmobile than risk an engine fire in a petroleum-powered car!

When Hydrogen does burn, it releases energy and just pure water vapor – not carbon monoxide. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with environmental stewardship, right? Even the most business minded conservatives tend to think that a clean Earth is a good thing – there’s just disagreement as to how close we are to an industrial ecological meltdown. So, whether or not you believe we are killing mother earth every day, wouldn’t you rather live in a city with more green and less smog? Imagine never having to hear about carbon footprints again!

To me, burning gasoline and coal in everything is like lighting your home with candles. It made sense a hundred years ago when technology had not progressed to give us reasonable alternatives. We may continue to use fossil fuels to power industry and high-performance machines like fighter jets and fire trucks, but there’s not much cause for using a hyper-efficient yet ever-diminishing energy source to drive ourselves to work each morning or wash our dishes each night. It’s like gathering firewood for a half-hour to power a microwave for heating-up your leftovers. Really?

Tranquility:

It’s already clear that the demand for resources causes culture clashes at best, and national security issues at worst. In a world with ever-increasing demand for power, and ever-decreasing availability, it’s only a matter of time before we’re just fighting over dead dinosaurs. Some would say we already are.

This point alone is reason enough to seek a better way. No human life is worth a "more efficient" power source. I’d raze a forest if it meant saving a single human being, but God clearly had a plan when he built this ecosystem of Hydrogen around us that insured we would have enough energy to thrive in abundance for the rest of our days.

In the end, it’s just the same old story of the easiest thing not always being the best plan. We should strive for more than efficiency: Sustainability should be core to all our endeavors. It’s one thing to accomplish a feat, but it is our reality that we must plan for the future in all we do. Seek out the alternatives and innovations in energy today, so that you’re in a better position tomorrow.