Re: Alternative Energy Sources

Dan Clemmensen (
Mon, 01 Sep 1997 21:20:38 -0400

Abraham Moses Genen wrote:
> Abraham Moses Genen
> **************************************************************
> Being dedicated to the future progress of humankind
> should be the prime concern of all civilized beings.
> **************************************************************
> Dear fellow Extropians,
> The was a news item on the web several days ago that indicated that a
> German company (I believe it was Mercedes, but don't honestly recall.)
> announced that they had developed a prototype fuel cell for automobiles.
> They further stated that they believed that it would replace the internal
> combustion engine within the next decade. They claim that the fuel cell
> uses hydrogen as is source of energy.
> Obviously, this is outside my area of expertise. I suspect, however, that
> there are those among you with substantially more technological knowledge
> than I have who might understand the broad implications of this particular
> development.
> My concern is with its impact on social, economic and international
> relations initiatives.
> Your thoughtful responses would be appreciated.

The Hydrogen must itself be generated, generally from a more
traditional energy source. Since you can use electricity to
generate the hydrogen, you can make fairly efficient and clean
use of just about anything, notably including nuclear power.
However, the result still depends on large centralized
power generation. You can convert the electricity to hydrogen
locally or even within the fuel cell itself, in which case the
fuel cell is essentially acting as a battery. Or, you can
try to convert to a "hydrogen economy", with distribution
of hydrogen via pipelines. This is a non-trivial excersize,
since hydrogen/air mixtures are explosive in any ratio
from 90%/10% to 10%/90%, and hydrogen molecules are very
tiny, requireing specialized pipes and joints.

If you use coal or nukes, world energy potitics may change
dramatically. If you use oil-fired plants to generate
electricity, there's no big change at this level.