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Saturday, February 28, 2004

Is The Oil End Game Here?

M. King Hubbert
We have or will soon reach Hubbert's Peak; based on geophysicist M. King Hubbert's theory. This is the term for the global tipping point when the world will start producing less oil each year than was produced in the prior year. It happen to the United States in 1971 just as Hubbert predicted in 1956. Many believe the world has reached or is about to reach its Hubbert's Peak. Oil prices have been very strong lately. Some think Bush took the US to war with Iraq because of a need to bring their reserves on line in order to postpone the tipping point for a few more years. Is $50 a barrel oil coming soon? If it is then alternative forms of energy like hydrogen will become very popular. Here from Armory B. Lovins of The Rocky Moutain Institute are Twenty Hydrogen Myths:

1. A whole hydrogen industry would need to be developed from scratch.
2. Hydrogen is too dangerous, explosive, or "volatile" for common use as a fuel.
3. Making hydrogen uses more energy than it yields, so it's prohibitively inefficient.
4. Delivering hydrogen to users would consume most of the energy it contains.
5. Hydrogen can't be distributed in existing pipelines, requiring costly new ones.
6. We don't have practical ways to run cars on gaseous hydrogen, so cars must continue to use liquid fuels.
7. We lack a safe and affordable way to store hydrogen in cars.
8. Compressing hydrogen for automobile storage tanks takes too much energy.
9. Hydrogen is too expensive to compete with gasoline.
10. We need to lace the country with ubiquitous hydrogen production, distribution, and delivery infrastructure before we could sell the first hydrogen car, but that's impractical and far too costly-probably hundreds of billions of dollars.
11. Manufacturing enough hydrogen to run a car fleet is a gargantuan and hugely expensive task.
12. Since renewables are currently too costly, hydrogen would have to be made from fossil fuels or nuclear energy.
13. Incumbent industries (e.g. oil and car companies) actually oppose hydrogen as a competitive threat, so there hydrogen development efforts are mere window-dressing.
14. A large-scale hydrogen economy would harm the Earth's climate, water balance, or atmospheric chemistry.
15. There are more attractive ways to provide sustainable mobility than adopting hydrogen.
16. Because the U.S. car fleet takes roughly fourteen to turn over, little can be done to change car technology in the short term.
17. A viable hydrogen transition would take 30-50 years or more to complete, and hardly anything worthwhile could be done sooner than 20 years.
18. The hydrogen transition requires a big (say $100-300 billion) Federal crash program, on the lines of the Apollo Program or the Manhattan Project.
19. A crash program to switch to hydrogen is the only realistic way to get off oil.
20. The Bush Administration's hydrogen program is just a smokescreen to stall adoption of the hybrid-electric and other efficient car designs available now, and wraps fossil and nuclear energy in a green disguise.

Rocky Mountain Institute
"Hubbert's Peak" [Princeton University Press]

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