This a Lazy Comment Essay, where I copy a comment from elsewhere as a short essay.
This comment is in response to a comment thread in my own diary on the Big Orange (posted here first), The Next Economic Revolution: Economic Growth and the Steady State.
Wood, followed by coal, followed by oil followed by….
Energy specialists seem to think the next sustainable energy economy will be — hydrogen.
There needs to be a lot of innovation and breaking down of the old established system to replace oil.
It can’t come too soon, as far as I am concerned. …
And then after a round where I demur and raise some issues and he answers and I demur again, says:
The elegant solution might involve that tricky, tiny atom, hydrogen. Let’s put aside the political aspects your quite correctly identify, just for a moment. It might work someday.
In the meantime I’m all in favor of some inelegant kludge. If solar photovoltaics come down in price there will be a point where you won’t care if they’re only 20-30% efficient. There’s so much solar energy hitting the earth that they’ll simply be everywhere.
My Lazy Comment Essay, after the Fold.
Ah … hidden somewhere in the … (0 / 0)
… premises of the diary … or perhaps different expressions of some of the same ideas … is the idea that “one size fits all” never fits everyone, and never fits a majority well.
The hydrogen economy vision is an attempt to find the fuel to recreate the one-size-fits-all system on a sustainable basis … that is, sustainable electricity, sustainable biomass, everything channels into making hydrogen, and a hydrogen fuel distribution system allows a wide range of fixed and mobile power users to tap into that source.
That intrinsically costs energy, in the extra conversion steps required to get from wherever you start to the one-size-fits-all fuel source. However, as engineer poet notes, paying attention to reducing conversion steps can yield big benefits in terms of the energy yield of sustainable power sources.
For example, here is what conversion efficiencies mean with respect to getting power to the drive-train of a vehicle with cellulosic ethanol:
… and hydrogen conversion efficiencies are lower than that.
So I do not look on a variety of distribution networks … biocoal on electric freight rail, wind and solar power over the local HVAC and regional HVDC grids, biodiesel and ethanol in tank containers by rail and local truck to the dispersed locations that require portable liquid fuels … as a kludge. I look on it as part of the new paradigm … tailoring efficient solutions to specific problems, as opposed to one-size-fits-all.