In a recent study, fuel cell expert Ulf Bossel explains that a hydrogen economy is a wasteful economy. The large amount of energy required to isolate hydrogen from natural compounds (water, natural gas, biomass), package the light gas by compression or liquefaction, transfer the energy carrier to the user, plus the energy lost when it is converted to useful electricity with fuel cells, leaves around 25% for practical use — an unacceptable value to run an economy in a sustainable future. Only niche applications like submarines and spacecraft might use hydrogen.
“More energy is needed to isolate hydrogen from natural compounds than can ever be recovered from its use,” Bossel explains to PhysOrg.com. “Therefore, making the new chemical energy carrier form natural gas would not make sense, as it would increase the gas consumption and the emission of CO2. Instead, the dwindling fossil fuel reserves must be replaced by energy from renewable sources.”
“The advantages of hydrogen praised by journalists (non-toxic, burns to water, abundance of hydrogen in the Universe, etc.) are misleading, because the production of hydrogen depends on the availability of energy and water, both of which are increasingly rare and may become political issues, as much as oil and natural gas are today,” says Bossel.
“There is a lot of money in the field now,” he continues. “I think that it was a mistake to start with a ‘Presidential Initiative’ rather with a thorough analysis like this one. Huge sums of money were committed too soon, and now even good scientists prostitute themselves to obtain research money for their students or laboratories—otherwise, they risk being fired. But the laws of physics are eternal and cannot be changed with additional research, venture capital or majority votes.”