Back to the Future: Energy Alternatives

The last 30 years have heard ever louder, more insistent calls for energy alternatives and pollution controls — reverberating in the Clean Air Act and Amendments of 1963, '70 and '90, and more recently in the Kyoto Protocol.


| October/November 1999



Energy Alternatives

Solar energy looks to make sweeping changes in alternative energy.


Photo courtesy Michalis Palis/Fotolia

It was in 1839 that Welsh scientist Sir William Grove first showed that hydrogen and oxygen could be combined to form electricity and water. Still, myriad technological hurdles stood between this initial discovery and any practical application, not least of which was devising a way to efficiently and inexpensively mass-produce hydrogen.

Scientists would never get that far: The early 1900's saw the rise of the internal combustion engine, with its easy reliance on fossil fuels, and suddenly hydrogen power was out before it was ever in.

Research continued, but sparingly, and fuel cells were relegated to niche applications like providing power — and drinking water — for NASA's space shuttle missions.

Faced with a firmly entrenched fossil fuel infrastructure which was churning out a relatively cheap and seemingly inexhaustible product governments and industry had little motivation to bring fuel cells to the masses. But then came the 1970's and the World Oil Crisis (laying bare the dangers of foreign dependencies), coupled with a growing awareness of the environmental and human health costs of combusting fossil fuels, and suddenly there was plenty of incentive to go round.

The last 30 years have heard ever louder, more insistent calls for energy alternatives and pollution controls — reverberating in the Clean Air Act and Amendments of 1963, '70 and '90, and more recently in the Kyoto Protocol.

As a result, in recent years, researchers have found themselves with ample reason and a good deal of money (more than a billion to date from government, utilities, private investors and particularly the auto industry) to investigate and develop commercially feasible fuel cell systems.

dave_34
4/2/2007 9:19:59 PM

how to build a hydrogen generator to run a 4 stroke engine, and any information on producing hydrogen?? thank you dave






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