Letter To The Editor: Answer To The Notion That Hydrogen Is Too Expensive

By Roy M. Moore
Los Alamos
Recently, Mo Rocca on a CBS childrens program, interviewed a gentleman who was inventing see-through solar panels, which could be used as windows on buildings. Mo started the interview by stating that everyone knew that renewable energy was too expensive. I don’t understand how anyone could come to this conclusion, except that they have been listening to the oil companies too long.
Since the 1970’s, it has been known that once solar panels drop below $1 per watt, they would be the cheapest energy on the planet. Solar panels are now selling below $1 a watt and the price will only continue to fall as volume increases.
The CEO of NanoSolar predicted several years ago that competition on solar panels would make them look much like dynamic ram memories of the past, where the price dropped so radically in the ’80s and ’90’s that many companies almost went bankrupt. A 250 watt solar panel will produce over 35,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen fuel over its lifetime with an approximate cost of less than 1 penny a gallon and without any further costs from pollution or human health.
One problem in our society is that we only look at the profit and loss for this year, rather than considering the future and future costs. Many claim that nuclear energy is inexpensive, but this statement only makes sense when viewed strictly from the viewpoint of just today.
The Fukushima Reactor meltdown is a perfect example. To calculate the true cost of nuclear energy, the cost of decommissioning this plant must be added to the cost of all nuclear energy. Japan has a 40 year plan to make the plant safe, yet no one has even suggested a method of doing this, and as they stated recently on the news, they don’t even know where the spent fuel rods stored at three of the plants are currently located, and they have not even been able to photograph the melted cores in the last four years.
And currently stored at almost every nuclear plant in the world, are the spent fuel rods. To date, even the smartest person in the world has yet to devise a plan of what to do with all this material. And although the Chernobyl Plant in Russia was encased in concrete, it has now deteriorated so much it is in need of immediate action. No one yet knows the total cost of this insane way of boiling water, but the cost is high to humanity and the environment.
The Chinese government has recently stated that as many as one million people a year are dying of pollution, mostly from coal. No one can calculate the cost this pollution has had on the planet, causing it to warm at an alarming rate. But what is the cost of a million lives a year for the next 100 years if we keep burning coal? Let’s see.
Say a human life is just worth a thousand dollars. 1000 dollars times 1,000,000 people times 100 years is the equation if you have little value for life, and as one increases the value of human life, the cost of coal becomes greater and greater. And who thinks that only 1,000,000 will die next year, when the pollution is increasing daily. The cost of all of this is almost incalculable, but it starts at $10,000,000,000, just in human life.
Oil and natural gas are not much better. Currently hydraulic fracturing is being advertised as a perfectly reasonable way of treating mother Earth. They usually fail to mention that they are putting some of the most horrible chemicals on Earth into these fractures, not only releasing oil and gas, but apparently greasing tectonic plates and killing the extremophiles that make the Earth a living being.
This advertising reminds me of the ’50’s when the tobacco companies said that smoking cigarettes caused no harm and wasn’t addictive. We all know that there is no moral component to capitalism and that the only rule is to make money. We’ve seen it for years in the tobacco companies and now the energy companies are interested only in profit.
There should be an open and honest debate about the real costs of all energies, where the light of day will clearly show that renewable hydrogen is the cheapest and best form of energy on the planet, especially if all government subsidies (corporate welfare) are eliminated and all comparisons are equal. And however hydrocarbons are extracted, the burning of these compounds always produces carbon dioxide and many other harmful carbon byproducts that don’t belong in our atmosphere.
To build any traditional power plant, one must invest in the plant itself, and then pay for the fuel for the next 100 years. What many people don’t seem to understand, is that once a renewable hydrogen plant is paid for, there are no fuel costs ever. Most studies I’ve seen indicate that any renewable plant would pay for itself within ten years. But the wonderful thing about renewables, is that one can amortize the cost over any period that is convenient.
If 10 years are not enough, then amortize the plant for 20 or 100 years, because the plant will eventually pay for itself, as long as there are humans on the planet, the sun shines, and people continue to want energy. In the case of the Navajo Power Station, most of the infrastructure already exists, and my plan to move to a renewable hydrogen plant would preserve all the current investment in the plant, while providing a method of obtaining free, non-polluting energy for the future. Also, the plant could actually expand easily in the future if the need arises and we could sell good clean New Mexico Power to Arizona, which eventually must shut down their reactors and account for the cost of disposal of all its byproducts.
Everyone in favor of renewable hydrogen, please vote by breathing the byproducts of combustion, water vapor. All those in favor of hydrocarbons, please kneel at the end of your tail pipe and vote by breathing the byproducts of this combustion, as then you will know the true cost of oil.