A Lot of Hot Air?

Why the hydrogen economy is a bad idea


| January / February 2004


Aggressive pursuit of a hydrogen economy, as has been recently advocated by many environmentalists, is wrongheaded and shortsighted.

To understand why, we need to start with the basics. Hydrogen must be extracted from other materials before it can be of use as fuel. A wide variety of materials contain hydrogen, which is one reason it has attracted widespread support. Everyone has a dog in this fight.

Renewable energy is a very little dog. Environmentalists envision an energy economy in which hydrogen comes from electrolyzing water, a process that frees the hydrogen in water from its bond with oxygen. The energy used to accomplish this would come from wind. Big dogs like the nuclear industry also foresee a water-based hydrogen economy, but with nuclear energy as the power source that electrolyzes water. The trade journal Nucleonics Week boasts that nuclear power 'is the only way to produce hydrogen on a large scale without contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.'

The fossil fuel industry believes that hydrocarbons will provide most of our future hydrogen. They already have a significant head start. Almost half of the world's commercial hydrogen now comes from natural gas. Another 20 percent is derived from coal.



The automobile and oil companies are betting that petroleum will be the hydrogen source of the future. It was General Motors, after all, that coined the phrase 'the hydrogen economy.'

What does all this mean? A hydrogen economy will not be a renewable energy economy. For the next 20 to 50 years, an overwhelming percentage of our hydrogen will be derived from fossil fuels or with nuclear energy.














Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $40.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $45 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!




Facebook Instagram Twitter flipboard


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265