A must-read for hydrogen junkies. A position paper from the Global Warming Policy Forum.
Current enthusiasm for hydrogen is a desperate measure that will jeopardise the long-term promise of hydrogen for the sake of short-term political optics.
Because of the accelerated timetable required by arbitrary targets, it is necessary to manufacture hydrogen via two expensive and energetically inefficient commodity production processes, the electrolysis of water, and the reforming of natural gas.
Electrolysis is extremely expensive, and the reforming of methane emits carbon dioxide and so requires Carbon Capture and Sequestration, which is not only costly but unproven at the required scale. Both these commodity processes imply high levels of fresh water consumption.
The prudent approach, obvious since the 1970s and still the official long-range policy of the government of Japan, is to aim for hydrogen production by the thermal decomposition of sea water employing advanced nuclear reactors, which alone might conceivably make hydrogen cheap. This is, however, very difficult chemical and nuclear engineering, and its realisation lies well into the future.
The paper also notes that hasty introduction will not give enough time for safe societal adjustment to the inherent dangers of a fugitive and readily ignited gas that has a strong tendency to technical detonation (combustion with a supersonic combustion frontier). The learning experience could be needlessly painful and deadly.
BONUS. Fascinating items on The Browser. Among other items Iris Murdock reviews a book on the feats of assorted swimmers. Did you know that the world high-dive record is still held by Alick Wickham, a Solomon Islander, who in 1918 dived 205 feet 9 inches from a platform on a cliff above the Yarra River? He was offered a hundred pounds for the feat, so it was a professional affair; and he was not so much bothered by the height or water depth as by the chances of hitting the opposite bank. He was successful, however, although the many bathing costumes he wore for protection were ripped off by the impact, and he lay in a coma for a week.