Hydrogen Energy: The Lost Option?

Back in January I gave a keynote address at the Northwest Energy Innovation Summit in Boise, Idaho on the topic of Empowering Excellence in the Smart Energy Ecosystem.  Other speakers at this excellent forum included former CIA Director James Woolsey, GE Power and Energy president Steve Bolze, Rocky Mountain Power president Rich Walje and the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner Woodrow Clark. Good company to say the least. Kudos to organizer Mark Rivers who did a great job pulling this conference together with its focus on global energy, including:


  • Impact, trends and applications to the American Northwest;

  • Highlights and discussion of innovation in the energy sector, as new technology, resources and ideas emerge; and,

  • The marriage of venture capital, technology transfer and public investment as a new generation of energy entrepreneurs emerge.

There were many great sessions on renewable energy and the problems and opportunities that lie ahead.


During the conference though, an interesting thought occurred to me and unfortunately only now am I getting around to giving it more attention.


My thought: Where has all the talk about Hydrogen as a fuel source gone? It’s been eclipsed by wind and solar. (And even nuclear seems off the reservation in recent talks about renewables, but that’s the topic of another blog!)


Anyway, what struck me was that not once at the Summit did any of the distinguished speakers mention hydrogen as a fuel.


Now I am far from an expert concerning hydrogen energy but I think the fact that today, almost all the world's hydrogen is produced by "reforming" fossil fuels by creating carbon dioxide emissions, contributing to global warming, and continuing the world’s dependence on oil.


Why isn’t hydrogen given more credit a source of energy? A quick Live.com search offers sites with great information about the potential for hydrogen from Alternative Energy News. It’s certainly worth the time to review that site as a refresher course as more energy options are put on the table for discussion in the broader energy debates. – Jon Arnold, Managing Director, Microsoft Worldwide Utilities

Comments (7)

  1. PaulaCleese says:

    hydrogen is defenitly under the radar. I have no idea why it isn’t a bigger option when it comes to renewable energy sources. Informative article, thanks

  2. byjoev says:

    Hydrogen may have fallen off the front page but it is alive and well.

    The best iniatial application is in commercial transport especially hub & spoke operations like the mail, logistics operators, taxis, etc.

    Check out http://www.intelligent-energy.com/

    But where it will get really interestign is combining personal tranport with decentralised power generation at the household or community level.

  3. Tom says:

    Hydrogen as a "fuel" makes no sense because, unlike other fuels like natural gas, coal, etc., we would have to use large amounts of energy to produce hydrogen. Therefore, hydrogen is only useful to move energy from point A to point B.

    If we really want to become energy independent, reduce greenhouse gases, and reduce the cost of energy, we need to be building more nuclear power plants. And forget about niche "solutions" like hydrogen, solar, and wind. All these are a diversion avay from a real solution.

  4. jackbond says:

    Tom, why would you build a nuclear power plant when you could build one of these far cheaper? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_updraft_tower

  5. Tom says:

    jackbond, because an updraft tower doesn’t produce much energy compared to the amount of land it consumes, and nuclear power plants can produce orders of magnitude more power.

  6. Energy says:

    Producing Hydrogen on an industrial scale needn’t emit CO2 into the atmosphere.  Natural gas can be converted into a mixture of CO2 and Hydrogen, and it is possible to separate out the CO2 and pump it underground into depleted oil and gas reservoirs, leaving pure Hydrogen.  This pure Hydrogen can then be used to generate clean electricity, or for clean transport… so with fossil fuels, as with so many things, it’s what you do with them that counts!

  7. Hydrogen says:

    You’re very right, hydrogen has been eclipsed by wind and solar.  I think big breakthroughs are in the near future for hydrogen though, and once they hit, I’m sure hydrogen will be back in the forefront with the others.  Sounds like a cool conference!

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