Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Sustainable Oil

There’s a funny thing about oil. It’s sustainable and so is hydrogen.

Dr. Murray Silverman, a management professor whose research has focused on the greening of business, made the profound statement to me in a conversation about solar power. Yes, hydrogen powered the sun, which in turn, produced ultraviolet light that feel on our Earth, broke down plant matter and other components of our eco-system, and over time, oil happened. It wasn’t that easy, but it was a natural act. The key distinction in sustainable is oil, not “big oil.” As Silverman put it, “oil is sustainable, for maybe a couple small cars…but we’ve been overdrawing the banks a long time.” Alternative fuels such as bio diesel, that are now an acceptable alternative to fossil fuels, illustrate the theory that Silverman explained. Shorten the eco-cycle and make the loop smaller and oil is sustainable, so long as we’re not drawing more from the tank than we put in.

How did you get to work? Did you drive a gasoline car? Possibly a diesel truck or SUV? Or maybe you commute with friends, and send less money per capita to big oil companies. Alternatively, you could have took a train like B.A.R.T. or M.U.N.I. and paid politicians to manage grid electricity; or rode one of San Francisco’s 450+ diesel buses, or one of Los Angeles’s Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses, a diesel or one of Seattle’s 230+ hybrid buses. Maybe you still have a job in the Silicon Valley and took CalTrain diesel-electric hybrids to the new transit station. Or maybe you telecommute and helped PG&E stay out of bankruptcy. Or just maybe, you’re off the grid with solar panels and drive an electric scooter, bike, car or other vehicle to work. Better yet, maybe you walked or rode your bike powered by a caffeine-free, oil-free, fat-free, sugar-free, chemical-free organic breakfast.

review of available Alternative Fuel

So the real question is what fuels are the most renewable? Luckily, consumers had more choice by the end of 2004 than any other time in history. Yes, electric cars and steamers outnumbered fossil fuel burners about 90 years ago, and it’s taken some time, but let’s celebrate the opportunity of choice over criticism. There are zero-emissions, hybrid that pollute 50-90% less than typical modern car and trucks, diesels that burn much cleaner and a variety of alternative forms of transportation. To get to an answer on renewable, looked at choice. Was choice more important than renewability? If so, electric vehicles must be combined with solar or wind powered homes.


Gasoline, Diesel, Hybrids and Electric Vehicles


Bio-Diesel, Vegi-Oil,

There are two basic choices. Consume greener transportation more and leave energy policy up to government and business. Build your own transportation systems an produce your own energy source combined with a compatibile vehicle. Or of course a mixture of the two choices, such as Ed Begley driving his zero-emmission Toyota RAV-4 EV around town, and his wife’s Prius for longer trips. He produces electricity for his daily driver off the grid, but trades energy policy for practicality when he fills up on mid-east oil to power his Japanese hybrid.

debunking perhaps Arnold's fluff on hydrogen cars

One look at the list of “Partners and Stakeholders” listed at Governor Schwarzenegger’s website,, and greens might wonder where they belong. Some private sector players include Toyota, Ford alongside PG&E Clean Energy. Public sector included EPA and local cities such as SF and Santa Clara. UC Davis and UC Irvine made up some of the educational players. But most importantly, Greenpeace was listed as one of non-profts. This is only a few of the 86 organizations seriously involved in hydrogen. On the outside, CA Hydrogen Highway may look like “fluff” but on the inside, this is as serious as Henry Ford’s idea to use gasoline engines 100 years ago, when steamers and electric cars outnumbered him.

Which fuels answer renewability and choice? Let’s debunk hydrogen really quickly. I’ll make it easy on you. If you value solar power then hydrogen is your fuel. Why? Under the assumption that the sun is the most important component of our eco-system, Earth’s entire value chain was built on hydrogen. Hydrogen along with fission, created solar energy that powered plants, animals and mother nature. Solar power is hydrogen power one step removed.

Yes, in theory, it all sounds fine and dandy. Convert solar to electricity to split water into hydrogen. Power fuel cells and turn hydrogen back into electricity to power our lives and transportation and it turns back into water. The reality is much different. The conversion process is not that simple. That’s the same as saying, convert solar power and plants into oil, and then burn oil cleanly to power life. The problem is management and efficiency. Management creates power and efficiency creates opportunity.

Big oil is scared. They started investing in hydrogen years ago. They know that when oil banks out, there will be a massive shift in power and economics during this civilization. Future thinking politicians have realized that an infrastructure that does not support hydrogen will fail like the Pony Express. Can you imagine if there was an oil outage? Not the 70’s where we lined up for gas, but airlines halted, public transportation riots, and most importantly free trade ending. The increased costs to move goods around the planet could redefine the meaning of “Whole Paycheck” at Whole Foods.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was one of the first politicians in the world to embrace hydrogen. But he didn’t do it alone. California’s hydrogen highway was formed by a group that includes: Ballard Fuel Cells (Canada), Honda (Japan)

So why is hydrogen the most renewable and freest choice? It’s more renewable than any other fuel because of simplicity. Oxygen and water and two building blocks of life, and it might be argued that hydrogen is the third. It can be renewable for centuries or millennia beyond oils. Hydrogen is the most versatile because it can be produced on grid, off grid, or reformed. Hydrogen stations like Honda’s in Torrance are powered by solar panels and water. Honda has also manufactured a refrigerator sized hydrogen fuel-cell that powered everything in an average home including vehicles. On the grid, Hydrogen can move right into the gas station network or be reformed by converting natural gas or other fuels. It can also be produced by a combination of solar, wind or other renewable sources of energy.

suggest strategies that Greens can useto promote such alternatives.

Hydrogen is cleanest burning fuel known to man. Hydrogen is the most powerful fuel known to man. Hydrogen is the most flexible and efficient. Most importantly, hydrogen is free of power concentration. Since its not locked up in political banks, it can truly create a new economy and more importantly, a new power structure.

What can you do? Some strategies that the Green Party can employ to lessens big oil’s grip on political power:

  • Support the production of hydrogen by solar, wind or other renewable energy sources. Invest, volunteer, research, switch careers, etc.
  • Oppose hydrogen production by natural gas reforming. The United States has a massive bank of NG and a conversion from big oil to big NG could decrease Mid-East power and increase corporate power with ties to NG production.
  • Support hydrogen education including a systemic approach that shifts the view of homes, cars and trucks from “consumers” into “producers.” Debunk fear.
  • Support tax, grants, and other political vehicles that are building tomorrow’s hydrogen organizations, such as California’s Hydrogen Highway
  • Continually analyze and endorse the growing list of hydrogen related companies to help investors choose green stocks.

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Portland, OR, United States
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