As the situation exists today, driving gasoline and electric hybrid vehicles is still more economical and environmentally sensitive than driving fuel cell cars run on hydrogen. The future may prove otherwise but the reality is that hydrogen has not proven to be the great answer that some have suggested.
IV. Comparing popular press and professional viewpoints
As one might expected, the treatment provided the issue of hydrogen use has received different treatment in the popular press than it has in the professional journals. In the popular press, the emphasis has been on the how the use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel would benefit the whole of society. Little attention is provided the technical problems related to the use of hydrogen or the requisite changes that must be made in order to accommodate the changeover to hydrogen. Instead, the popular press tends to point out the environmental and consumer advantages. Meanwhile, the scientific journals, where the use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel was first introduced, approach the issue from a more technological viewpoint. The scientific journals have dedicated considerable space to the underlying problems that the production of hydrogen present in order for hydrogen to be seriously deemed a viable fuel source. Professional scientists recognize that abandoning fossil fuels as the primary energy source is a complicated process and that any transition to a new reliance on an alternative energy source will be both difficult and slow.
Consider, for example, a fairly recent article that appeared in the periodical, Scientific American . Although Scientific American is not a widely distributed magazine such as Time or Newsweek, it is still intended to be available to general public and found on newsstands in airports, grocery stores, and book stores throughout the country. The magazine's mission is to bridge the gap between the scientific community and the general public. In its July 3, 2008 issue, Scientific American addressed the issue of using hydrogen as a replacement for gasoline as a fuel source for our cars (Scientific American). In typical popular press style, the article centered on the practical advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen's usage but skimmed over the technical details. The article offered virtually no statistical support one way or another and instead focused on popular consumer concerns such as cost, environmental impact, and availability.
Compare, meanwhile, an article that appeared in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy in October of 2006 (Kinaci). This article which was intended for distribution and review by the scientific community addressed the consumer oriented issues only as part of its overall analysis of the viability of hydrogen as an alternative energy source. The bulk of the paper is focused on the statistical analysis of hydrogen usage and the production process. The information contained in scientific journals and magazines is presented in exacting detail. This detail is of little interest to members of the general public but is of vital importance to the scientific community. After all, it is from the scientific community that the technological improvements needed to make hydrogen a viable option as an energy source will eventually originate. It is through the use of professional journals, magazines, and newsletters that the scientific community shares it ideas and concepts. Hopefully, this process of sharing will lead to the development of technological improvements that will enable hydrogen to become a viable alternative energy source.
Both forms, popular press and professional journals, serve a valuable function. The popular press keeps the general public aware of future developments without getting involved in material that many either would not understand or care about while the professional journals provide a forum for those intimately involved in the process of developing hydrogen as an energy source to exchange their ideas. The differing sources are necessary and keep the idea of hydrogen as solution to our society's ever increasing energy needs alive.
There is no denying that the world is facing a pending energy crisis. The world cannot long endure in its reliance on fossil fuels and development of alternative energy sources is essential. Unfortunately, development in this area has been slow and, for the most part, ineffectual. The promise that hydrogen has been offering since it was first introduced as a concept through science fiction stories in the 1930's has not been realized. Millions of dollars and thousands of scientific research hours have been spent on developing hydrogen as a viable energy source and, yet, no competent technology has emerged that allows hydrogen to be produced on a commercial scale that is both cost effective, environmentally safe, and abundant.
The only way that hydrogen can be seen as an improvement over fossil fuels is if it can be produced in its pure form. Unfortunately, existing technology used in the production of hydrogen in its pure form requires more energy than the hydrogen so produced can provide. So, hydrogen at the present time is simply a carrier of energy and not a source of energy.
The future may result in developments that are not foreseeable but hydrogen is not a viable option at the present time. Fossil fuels remain the most efficient and cost effective method of fueling our motorized vehicles. The promise of hydrogen is an attractive one and its attractiveness justifies the continued search for an effective method of harnessing it but existing technology has not allowed the promise of hydrogen to be realized. For the present, fossil fuels are the only viable option but the future of mankind demands that efforts toward finding alternatives must continue.
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Kinaci, A. "Ab initio investigation of FeTi - H System." International Journal of Hydrogen Energy (2006): 2466-2474.
Liss, William E. Role of Natural Gas in the Future Hydrogen Market. Research. Des Plaines, IL: Hydrogen Energy Systems Center, 2003.
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