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Stephen W. Talks about Hydrogen Alternative to Natural Gas Drilling

Recently I’ve been receiving some emails from concerned citizen Stephen W. who lives on top of some of the richest natural gas fields in Pennsylvania. Stephen is concerned about the environmental impact of drilling (contaminated drinking water) and thinks hydrogen may be the answer.

After seeing the movie trailers from the documentary Gasland about hydraulic fracturing used in the natural gas wells and the concern over one of the biggest targets of Marcellus Shale drilling being Northeastern Pennsylvania, Stephen decided to write me a series of emails outlining his concerns.

Here is an excerpt of those emails:

“I’m just writing you today to thank you for keeping the hydrogen economy cause going strong. Since the last time we spoke, two new glaring issues have surfaced that should make the push to put a hydrogen economy in place throughout this country and the world all the more compelling. One has been the recent massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and echoed by one similar in China, and the other is all the current controversy surrounding natural gas exploration, its downsides particularly accented by the not-so-long-ago documentary, Gasland …

“I think the general public now is in a state of mind that while I think they would like to see a switchover to a hydrogen economy, what good is this want on their part if our government’s not willing to support it? That said, I wonder how much the government officials in the Gulf States are aware of hydrogen’s potential? For they certainly have a motive to get behind it now if they didn’t before …

“As a regular everyday U.S. citizen, I discuss hydrogen’s potential with people I meet at every turn. But unfortunately, as I’ve pretty much learned the hard way, a regular everyday U.S. citizen’s voice these days can only carry so far. I compare the dilemma to that Joni Mitchell song, “For Free.” If credibility is to be had, people want to see hydrogen’s potential presented in a totally professional manner, that is, with an actual show of what’s being talked about to back up the pitch. Otherwise, it amounts to interesting conversation, but really none other than that. And this for a technology that from my understanding has pretty much been proven since Francois Rivaz patented the first internal combustion engine automobile in 1809. That is, how can we get that tortoise to run just a little bit faster?”

Stephen W. also writes to his local Senator, “I am writing to you today out of grave concern for the natural gas exploration that is being proposed for our state in the portions of it that are part of the Marcellus Shale Formation. This Associated Press article that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer for Monday, August 16, 2010 – I find to be extremely disturbing. Particularly if the recent documentary Gasland, about the horrific downsides of hydraulic fracturing, is to be believed.”

Billionaire T. Boone Pickens wants to replace drilling for oil with drilling for natural gas but is this really the answer? Getting off our dependence of foreign fossil fuels is one step. But as the BP Oil Spill has taught us and perhaps the contaminated drinking water from hydraulic fracturing of native natural gas reserves, the answer is to get away from fossil fuels altogether.

Is hydrogen the answer? Most likely it is one of the answers including solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and other alternative energy and alternative fuel options. We need to voraciously pursue the alternatives with government, alternative energy companies and a grassroots movement in order to make sure another fossil fuel disaster is averted in this country and that we have clean energy for the future. The future starts now, so let’s use our voices and keep pushing the hydrogen message forward among the largely uninformed public and government officials. As public support grows so will the pressure to do the right thing.

About Hydro Kevin Kantola

Hydro Kevin Kantola
I'm a hydrogen car blogger, editor and publisher interested in documenting the history and the progression of hydrogen cars, vehicles and infrastructure worldwide.

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6 comments

  1. By far the major use of natural gas is as fuel, though increasing amounts are used by the chemical industry for raw material.

  2. Michael C. Robinson

    Too bad the natural gas from most oil wells is burned off. I’m sure there
    are ways to get at natural gas that won’t contaminate drinking water and
    until the bulk of the world’s hydrogen comes from other sources, natural
    gas is going to remain important.

    Pickens is right about one thing, natural gas is an important resource.
    For heating, NG is cheaper than Diesel. I suppose hydrogen in time
    can displace NG for heating, but piping hydrogen is neither efficient
    nor cost effective.

    Retrieving NG from the ocean, especially if global warming predictions that
    the ocean is going to release tons and tons are correct, makes a lot of sense.

    Gasland may be overly pessimistic concerning natural gas. What portion of the world’s natural gas is a high risk for drinking water?

    Natural gas is one step away from hydrogen if one considers methane. Perhaps Natural Gas will be synthesized in the future as there is no
    shortage of carbon in the world. An increasing number of homes use
    natural gas these days, so new sources need to be tapped to keep up
    with demand.

    Another part of the NG story is the trouble port states are having trying to
    bring in liquified NG. Liquified, NG is easier to handle. LNG is and was a major issue in Oregon. Again, I think people are unduly afraid. There are
    ways to acquire hydrogen and NG and there are better ways. In the meantime while a hydrogen economy is still unrealized, NG is going to remain important and only become more important.

    NG has a better reputation than hydrogen right now and it can be used to transport hydrogen very efficiently. Don’t be too quick to knock NG.

  3. Very informative article… Looking forward for more articles on your blog

  4. What troubles me about continued reliance on natural gas — most particularly with the concerns surrounding Marcellus Shale natural gas exploration here in Pennsylvania using the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) method — is the tremendous amount of energy required in its acquisition, storage and transportation. It cannot be overlooked that energy is required in the liquification and compression of natural gas. When you add this into the equation it raises the price of the end result, leaving me to wonder how competitive NG will be with gasoline price-wise. No doubt T. Boone Pickens and others will profit from NG production. But from the production dimension, not necessarily through the sale of the end product. We experienced a similar dilemma several years back when ethanol was heavily touted. When realized it wasn’t economically practical we could reverse ethanol production with no serious harm having been done to the environment. Farms could immediately revert back to food as opposed to fuel production. The same with when Denmark went too far in trying to rely on wind power. To reverse it it was simply a matter of reducing the number of too many wind turbines. The mess created by fracking for NG isn’t as undo-able. Even worse than the fallout from oil spills, it might well be that damage caused by fracking is irreversible. If it can be reversible it certainly would have to come at very high cost. And from what source would that high cost be paid from? The sale of the end product? That is what is being anticipated now. Legally, there’s nothing here in the state of Pennsylvania to stop fracking from going forward. But it could be stopped via marketing a more price-competitive fuel, which I believe could by hydrogen. Although there’s a high cost to shipping hydrogen, the beauty of it is that it can be produced anywhere on site. NG does not have that same competitive advantage. And while compressed hydrogen is in popular use now in hydrogen powered cars, and there’s a cost to compressing hydrogen, an alternative to this is solid state hydrogen that eliminates such cost. And in stationary applications, such as with Bloom Energy’s Bloom Box, hydrogen produced on site can be used directly, with wind, solar, and other environmentally friendly sources used to produce the electricity needed to seperate the hydrogen from oxygen. Already in stationary applications hydrogen is being used by major Silicon Valley corporations to provide power. And why just limit it to there? Why not make this a standard source of power all throughout the U.S.? I.e., why are we wasting time exploring Marcellus shale fracking’s potential with all the potential risks it might entail, but with hydrogen technology — in ways it’s been proven to work — neither here nor there in this state as of yet?

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  6. Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed! Extremely helpful information specially the last part about fracking in Pennsylvania.

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