>Hydrogen fuel cells have come a long way and are quite efficient
>now as well as being light weight enough to almost completely offset
>the lower output obtainable than that from fossil fuel engines.
The problem is that making hydrogen is not very cost-effective yet.
Hydrogen is made in large quantities industrially by reducing water with
coke (producing carbon oxides). There has recently been a major advance
in catalytic technology, which allows small, efficient production of
hydrogen from a variety of liquid fuels, for use in the new, more
efficient fuel cells. The advantage of a vehicle based on this
technology will be ability to run on modest batteries, recharged at home
for short trips, or charged by the fuel cells during long trips.
>If every one agrees that the continued use of fossil fuel is
>a major cause of the global warming, and also that we are rapidly
>exhausting the world supply of these fuels, why is there so
>little effort now being devoted to converting to alternate
>sources of energy? Anyone care to comment?
I was just out in the Pacific Northwest, and visited my uncle, who works
at the national lab in Richland, WA. He is part of a gigantic (I mean
BIG) effort to develop systems to produce chemical feedstocks and fuels
from starch and cellulose. Several approaches are feasible, and can
compete with petrochemicals right now, at least in niche feedstock
markets. Oil prices are the lowest they have ever been. They will
start to creep up as oil gradually becomes scarce. I have no doubt,
that in 50 years, most of our liquid fuels will be made from biomass.
This will be inherently sustainable, since every bit of carbon burned
will have been sequestered from the atmosphere.
The other big technology waiting in the wings is photoelectric power.
People have been quietly improving these systems. A few square meters
of photocells on your roof can supply all the power you need for your
home. The cost of commercial power won't have to go up too much before
people start buying these systems.