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Hydrogen Future A Delusion


The hydrogen fuel cell technology proclaimed (Monday 25th Oct) in the Herald ("First stop on the hydrogen highway") is a glorious delusion. Arnold Schwarzenegger dedicated a pioneering hydrogen fuelling station on Friday, calling it the first stop in a "hydrogen highway" that would some day stretch across the state as drivers switch to the cleaner-burning fuel.

But he never dreamed of asking where the hydrogen would come from.

On the same day, the Manawatu Evening Standard publicized a Christchurch hydrogen fuel cell system that in future could supply electricity to "each high rise building, neighbourhood, or home".

But hydrogen is actually manufactured from natural gas (already in short supply and declining) or is created using processes that actually consume more energy than the hydrogen delivers.

Also, the idea of charging and electric battery car at night from the wall plug is a similar myth because:

(a) Our electricity supply is already rather fully developed and straining to meet existing, constantly growing needs.

(b) Supplying the huge extra burden of feeding NZ's 2.7 million cars would treble the load on the electric grid:

Even a small car delivers about 60kW of power while running, which is the same thirty normal room heaters. So, allowing typical 20% energy loss during battery charging, a daily average hour of car use would add 72 kWh of electricity a day, costing the home owner about $15 per day, or $450 per month, (just at today's prices) and would burden the grid with about 200,000 megawatt hours per day. (Total NZ daily load averaged 99,709 megawatt hours (MWh) in December 2003).


If hydrogen isn't going to provide a miracle rescue from the worsening decline of oil and gas wells, you may wonder what will.

I and several hundred internet colleagues have studied the petroleum decline extensively since 1999, as well as all the (greatly inadequate) alternative energy sources. The best relief is by reducing your dependence on cars. Transportation consumes 86% of New Zealand's $3 billion-a-year-and-rising crude oil imports.

If we continue exhausting the petroleum in our cars, within this decade we are likely to be short of fuel for running the farms that produce our food.

Bruce Thomson Palmerston North Moderator, RunningOnEmptyNZ

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