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Friday, November 25, 2011

SIMPLE SOLUTION ESSAYS: The Free and Clean Hydrogen Age (Part 3)

Today I continue the serialization of SIMPLE SOLUTION ESSAYS, following the 1October2011 posting on Part 2 of my series on hydrogen:


The Free and Clean Hydrogen Age (Part 3)


This discussion continues the concept of Free Hydrogen (with updates as necessary).

Many of us demand free education through high school, good roads, a functioning military, public safety, etc. Michael Moore's Sicko reveals that even medical care is largely free in Europe and rest of the world. We pay for all of this, of course, through taxes. Is there something universal about a similar energy entitlement? We get very close with electricity, anyway, as prices are controlled by public utility commissions.  The one exception is Hawaii, where our electricity rate is 300% of the national average.

SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth provides most of the details in Chapter 3, but, to get to the current bottom line, the average family in the coming years will annually spend about $5000 on gasoline and pay $25,000 in taxes. It is possible that free hydrogen can be supplied if this household provides this same total, that is, $30,000 in taxes each year. The transition will be messy, and the devil will no doubt be in the details, but free transport fuel with the added benefit of a cleaner environment and more secure world would be worth it, even if a few extra dollars (in the form of a carbon tax) might initially be required. Ignore the semantics, call this an investment for your future and that of Planet Earth.

The total analysis, would, of course, need to include all energy factors, so let us look at the entire picture. Over the coming years, there will be more than 120 million households on average spending $8000 for powering ground transport, heating and electricity, or nearly a trillion dollars each year for energy. A 10 cent/pound carbon dioxide tax would increase gasoline prices by $2/gallon (even with this increase, the domestic cost at the pump will still be only HALF what is paid in Europe today) and coal-fired electricity by 8 cents/kWh. Note that under those conditions, wind power, solar thermal and future paint on solar photovoltaics can compete against coal-fired electricity. There is that added matter of nuclear power that needs to be considered in this mix. This extra carbon investment revenue to be generated could, thus, in addition, be more than a trillion dollars/year. This grand total of $2 trillion/year can thus be applied towards developing a free hydrogen economy, as outlined in SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth. In time, the hydrogen jetliner, too, can be accommodated.

This is just a gross calculation, but the point of all these numbers is that government won't need to suffocate the economy to produce sufficient revenues to support a free and clean hydrogen economy. Remember, according to Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, just the Middle East war will cost you, the taxpayer, at least $3 trillion.

The role of industry will be as an equal associate, possibly in government-company partnerships. Ultimately, by 2020, or certainly by 2050, when the technologies/infrastructure becomes available for hydrogen, either government will merely tax you an amount that you would otherwise be paying for energy anyway, partially subsidized by the savings to accrue from a lower defense budget (see HuffPo on "Well, Barack, We have a Problem...", or, more recently, "Cutting Back on Defense Spending Will Make the World Safer"), or a means will be found to continue the one-to-one relationship between the consumer and public utilities/energy sector. We thus can hopefully sidestep Peak Oil, remediate global warming, circumvent a global economic depression and minimize future world wars.

There is, of course, one huge problem with this analysis. We could be faced with these environmental and economic cataclysms today, or very soon, while it will take decades for a hydrogen infrastructure to develop, even under emergency conditions. Thus, while we must act now (and we really should have in 1980 during the aftermath of the second energy crisis), there, unfortunately, is a Catch 22 dilemma -- a free hydrogen solution, even if deemed optimal, can only be invoked AFTER any mega crisis. That's the reality of our democratic free-enterprise society. How, then, faced with this fatal flaw in our civilizational make-up, do we implement this plan? No, a benevolent dictatorship is unlikely. Maybe the answer is not hydrogen, or perhaps we are doomed, but Part 4 is yet to come.
(This is #3 of a 4-part series.)

Comments (2):  There only two comments, but Part 4 is yet to come.

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On a short trading day, the Dow Jones Industrials dropped 26 to 11,232, with Europe doing well, but not the rest of the world.  Gold fell $13/toz to $1682 while WTI oil is at $97/barrel and the Brent Spot at $107/barrel.

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[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patrick-takahashi/the-free-and-clean-hydrog_b_111323.html

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