Is Hydrogen Fuel a Suitable Replacement for Fossil Fuel?
Coping with the current energy crisis is a difficult process and all scientists in the world are working hard to find a solution to the diminishing fossil fuels. The advancement of technology demands the increase of fuels’ usage. Thus it has become significantly important to find alternative fuels that will dominate as the main energy supplier, this source of energy must compete with the current source. The most potential alternative is hydrogen fuels, but it is not efficient to replace fossil fuels because the production methods are costly, transportation is dangerous, and it has many difficulties in installation.
Since hydrogen was introduced as a potential solution to the energy crisis, there have been several trials conducted by scientists to improve the technology. Most of the people in the globe support hydrogen fuel because of its cleanliness; nothing is disposed (Crabtree & Dresselhaus, 2008, p. 421), but I see it as a waste of resources, moreover, it is very expensive to install. The government accountability office in the US has agreed with this fact, because it says that the implementation of hydrogen as a fuel source would require many billions of dollars just for research to start with (Stofer, 2008, p. 4). It is seen as a dead end as most of the money is diverted to schools. It is not practical to divert a lot of money to a major project like hydrogen extraction whose estimated output is a quarter of the input and leave important things like schools and colleges unfunded.
There are many benefits associated with ditching fossil fuels for hydrogen. For example, fossil fuels like natural gas, coal, and oil have adverse effects on the environment through emission of green house gases. This however can not happen with hydrogen as its only product is oxygen used on water. Hydrogen, however, should not be used as an alternative source of energy because of its expensive extraction. Most of the hydrogen in United States is extracted from fossil fuels or is made using processes that are powered by fossil fuels. This is because hydrogen is a rare gas to find despite being the most abundant in the atmosphere. These processes negate any savings on real emissions or fossil fuel usage reduction. In essence it ends up using double energy, because hydrogen production uses more energy than it produces; approximately a quarter of the input is produced. According to a study conducted by researchers in Stanford university (2005), on environmental effects of hydrogen sources like natural gas, coal, and electrolysis, it was concluded that fuel cell cars driven by hydrogen from coal and natural gas would still emit green house gases like carbon dioxide.
Hydrogen fuel is dangerous to transport. This is because it is easier leaked, because it diffuses faster when it is in gaseous state. Leakages are not easy to track or detect due to the properties that hydrogen portrays (Behar, 2006, p. 114). For hydrogen to be commercially available its transportation must be made as secured and convenient as possible. The current storage facilities in the world can not meet the storage demands of a hydrogen economy. Hydrogen ought not to replace fossil fuels because the transportation vehicles can not carry enough fuel to power them for at least 482 kilometers without replacing room for cargo and passengers. Transportation of hydrogen releases more carbon dioxide emissions. For instance, carbon dioxide emission from hydrogen produced from natural gas is higher than the present rate of emission. In essence the risks related to hydrogen transportation are unfavorable to hydrogen fuel production as they accrue more costs to the overall electricity creation process, thus it will not appeal to the public. Liquefying hydrogen makes it easier to store, but it increases the risks of evaporation. Evaporated hydrogen could react with other substances in the atmosphere like the ozone or nitrogen. There is no current method of compressing hydrogen that can fit the demands of a hydrogen economy (Zyga, 2006). Production of electricity from hydrogen requires the installation of fuel cells which is more problematic as it takes a long time to restart if the fuel cell shuts off fully.
There are major problems related to hydrogen that restrict it in replacing fossil fuels. Despite the efforts done by scientist to come up with technologies, its production is still inefficient, potentially hazardous, and expensive. Storage is the main weakness as small amounts of it need large rooms for storage. Its safe storage relies on compression to a certain degree yet this limit is not enough to compete on the global market level. Hydrogen should be more of a transportation and storage facility for energy rather than a source. This is because the only eco-friendly way to produce it is through eco-friendly electricity. Furthermore, transportation of hydrogen is dangerous because of its probability to leakage. There are also no facilities to pump or deliver hydrogen which would mean that costs will be incurred for their building. Thus, with the various difficulties associated with hydrogen establishment as the dominant source of energy is not possible in the near future. Therefore hydrogen is not a suitable replacement for fossil fuels.