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My letter to Joe Romm

Author: Grant Millin

July 23, 2009

Mr. Romm, your efforts worked, for a while. All of your notions can be driven through easily. Here is where we all stand on climate change technologies: All of our energy systems have a fuel stock to propulsion conversion loss rate (well-to-wheels, or coal pit to boiler). Wind and solar are certainly efficient, but also intermediate power systems and require back up systems for widespread grid system replacement technology purposes. Joe Romm is not helping these matters with his disinformation on the fuel cell story. He does not have the capacity to be all-knowing on the fuel cell industry. He is denying those who adopt his perspective the opportunity to provide feasible solution we can begin to implement near-term even as we work to perfect the long term response to climate change and peaking of conventional energy systems.

Stationary fuel cells happen to be among our most efficient 24/7/365 all-weather climate change options, right now. The fuel cell's developing ability to power up on opportunity fuels (i.e. waste-to-energy methane) is rarely included in Rommian economics. In the mobile spectrum, tailpipe-tailpipe GHG comparisons between H2FCVs (hydrogen fuel cell vehicles) and other technologies often exclude the externalities of grid energy for PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) and EVs and petroleum production for hybrids today and associated GHG emissions. DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory was among the first to publish research on the misconceptions about far-future PHEVs doing anything to reverse GHG emissions. Any journalist or researcher gets a wide array of data and interviews together before making conclusions. In the mobile space, H2FVs currently make H2 onsite. The total efficiency of accessing already available natural gas (reclaimed water when appropriate) is never researched or discussed in criticisms of mobile fuel cell applications. Considering the technology commercialization curves the EVs and PHEVs are on, and their dependence on the grid, and that H2FCVs are in then end electric propulsion vehicles as well. H2FCVs are options and not liabilities.

Too many throw the baby out with the bath water by never looking at the CHP values of stationary fuel cells which back up solar and wind and are being used commercially, often using significant opportunity fuels. Fuel cell buses and other mobile fuel cell stories occurring now (2008-2009) need to be carefully examined before their potential is shut down: http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/science/06/16/riversimple.hydrogen.car/ New 'Urban Car' claims to slash CO2 emissions by two thirds I was a project manager with the 2008 Hydrogen Road Tour and have seen the vehicles run long distances. The refueling systems can travel on long haul trucks. That means the cars and the refueling technology are out of R&D labs. The question for those interested in solutions is whether Joe Romm as a single belief source on fuel cell and H2 issues is a good bet. I say no. The really important idea is to not look at the economics of all the cars on the road today (plus the new Chinese and Indian POVs some expect), but have a global discussion about mass transit and community lay outs that integrate better with Clean Tech mass transit and people powered locomotion (walking/biking). The stationary energy modernization space is assumed to be handled by wind and solar alone. That is an incomplete picture and excluding environmentally preferred CHP systems there like Smart Grid fuel cells and distributed energy is unwise. That is if we really want to turn off nuclear and coal plants. All of your conclusions are based on 1989 vs 2009 perspectives, Mr. Romm.

Please look more carefully at the current/near future (2009-2015) stationary and mobile fuel cell technology commercialization story. Journalists and others parrot the Romm World View and research methodology, but it doesn't do anything to help modernize our energy infrastructure and develop a climate change response. We are now losing our coal supplies and advanced industrial societies are not presently foretasted to run on solar and wind alone. We need a portfolio response that reduces nuclear and increases mass transit, and also CHP: DOE-EERE statement on CHP DOE-EERE/ORNL states that if 20% of the US stationary energy supply was powered via CHP, it would equal taking 154 million cars of the road. Huge?

“CHP, or cogeneration, has been around in one form or another for more than 100 years; it is proven, not speculative. Despite this proven track record, CHP remains underutilized and is one of the most compelling sources of energy efficiency that could, with even modest investments, move the Nation strongly toward greater energy security and a cleaner environment. Indeed, ramping up CHP to account for 20 percent of US electricity capacity—several European countries have already exceeded this level—would be equivalent to the CO2 savings of taking 154 million cars off the road. If the United States adopted high-deployment policies to achieve 20 percent of generation capacity from CHP by 2030, it could save an estimated 5.3 quadrillion Btu (Quads) of fuel annually, the equivalent of nearly half the total energy currently consumed by US households. Cumulatively through 2030, such policies could also generate $234 billion in new investments and create nearly 1 million new highly-skilled, technical jobs throughout the United States. CO2 emissions could be reduced by more than 800 million metric tons (MMT) per year, the equivalent of taking more than half of the current passenger vehicles in the US off the road. In this 20 percent scenario, over 60 percent of the projected increase in CO2 emissions between now and 2030 could be avoided.” – COMBINED HEAT AND POWER: Effective Energy Solutions for a Sustainable Future, ORNL, 2008

Ref: http://earthsynchub.com/esmonitor/oped/032609/addressing_the_fuel_cell_naysayers Sincerely, Grant Millin, ME CEO, The EarthSync Companies

Location Tags: EarthSync Monitor | Op/Ed
Global | United States, of America (USA) | North Carolina | Buncombe | Asheville

Associated Tags: fuel cell, hydrogen, economics, climate change technology, Joe Romm

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