EPIC (Phase 2) – Building Our Hydrogen Economy

(The following article contains potentially patented, patent pending, trademarked or copyrighted intellectual property of Richard Allen Rowe, or the Rowe Foundation. All rights reserved. Don’t take my stuff.)

Certain times demand certain measures; and as it happens, those measures are perfect for certain places. Shockingly, Donald Trump wasn’t entirely wrong when he laughed off The Green Dream’s goals of going carbon-free as a de facto ban on airplanes. In some sense, he was closer to correct than at any point in recorded history.

Even if we followed all of the battery standardization and modularity initiatives laid out in EPIC (Part 1), and got every single dinosaur-burner off the road…we’d still have the problem of large scale transport. As of now, batteries don’t have the energy density to keep electric boats and planes from having to change batteries in the middle of the Pacific. Land-borne trucks and trains might have a slightly easier time of it, but there are still better solutions.

Best of all, for sunny Florida…since we’re perfectly positioned to become the Saudi Arabia of clean hydrogen production.

Ground Rules for a Green Economy

Assuming you read EPIC Phase 1, you already know I’m a fan of value engineering. Not for the producers, as much as the customers. However, unless you believe we’ll all be living in a cashless socialist utopia sometime between now and when the Earth burns to ash…we’re going to have to address value on the production end at some point. In other words, it’s not enough for consumers to profit from EPIC, Green Tech and Industrial Reforms…industry has to as well.

In other words, we can’t just worry about making future tech work. We have to make it cheap. And more importantly for now, profitable.

The story of capitalism is that change happens when new tech becomes more cost viable than old. Depending on who’s driving the economy at any given point, that could mean value proposition for the consumer, or value engineering for the producer. Of the two, it’s actually the latter that’s more predictable. Consumers can be duped with tradition, trends and advertising. People are complicated.

Corporations, on the other hand, are fairly simple creatures. They’re cash generation machines running on pure greed. And whoever’s running that corporation has a legal, fiduciary responsibility to do whatever makes the investors the most money. Which makes them insatiable locusts of human and global resources. It also makes corporations, like locusts, entirely predictable.

No matter what avenue of Future Tech we’re talking about (be it electric cars, wind, solar or geothermal energy generation ect.), cost efficiency is the single most important factor on our plates right now. he math is fairly simple here: The faster anticipated profits exceed current investment and maintenance value, the faster those technologies will be adopted. And the faster the infrastructure will grow to support them.

So, if we expect to usher in the Green Tech Revolution we need, then we must always, in every situation and by every means, consider cost and profit motive. We need to keep one eye to the future, and three more on the margins.

This is something I consider in every solution I come up with. Efficiency is the through-line to all of it. Because capitalism isn’t going away any time soon. And as long as it exists, then the same maxim holds true: If you want it done fast, then make it cheap. Or at least, profitable.

I keep this basic ground rule in mind at all times. And I hope going forward, everyone else will, too.

Hydrogen Fuel and Problems

To recap: Hydrogen fuel is one half of what makes an electric fuel cell work. Put hydrogen on one side of a fuel cell plate, and oxygen on the other, the two combine into H2O (pure water), releasing energy in the process. This energy originally came from the electricity put into splitting water molecules apart in a process called electrolysis. Electrolytic cells and fuel cells are basically identical; they just run in reverse of each other. Hydrogen fuel effectively just carries the energy from one to the other.

The primary problem with hydrogen is that energy is lost (primarily through heat) during both electrolysis and in the fuel cell. Water electrolyzer and fuel cell efficiency generally runs about 75 percent each; combine this with a further 5 to 35 percent loss from compressing and cooling the hydrogen for transport, and you end up getting back about 35 percent of the energy that went into making it. Which, in truth, isn’t bad by automotive standards; a really efficient gas engine struggles to top 40 percent, and 50 to 60 for diesel. But, all things considered, hydrogen efficiency is still within the ballpark of a gas engine.

Even so, only about 2 percent of hydrogen is produced by water electrolysis. The majority comes from fossil fuels. Which kind of defeats the purpose, since you’d get greater energy efficiency just burning those same fuels. This has been the major limitation for hydrogen becoming the fuel of the future. I believe we’ve solved that problem. But first…

Hydrogen Applications

As is typical for people who know nothing about anything, Donald Trump once confidently touted that those crazy Green New Dealers wanted to get rid of airplanes and boats. I may be misremembering the boat part, but forgive a guy for getting lost in Donnie’s Sea of Stupidity. It’s big water. Ocean water.

Regardless, he wasn’t entirely wrong about large vehicle applications being a problem in post-fossil fuel economy. You already read the intro, so you know the thrust of the problem here. But you may not know how close we already are to the solution.

A number of companies already have electric jet designs on the table, some capable of 600 miles range at almost the same speed as competitive gas jets. Most are small private-jet type aircraft, but at least one company (Wright) is working with EasyJet to develop a 200-passenger airliner projected to be capable of 335 miles on lithium battery power.

Which is great, but with that range, you couldn’t even make it out of Florida from Miami. Let alone cross the Pacific. But, there’s an easy answer here. And cheap.

Including the weight of fuel, hydrogen cells can carry almost ten times the energy of the best lithium battery pack on Earth. Which means, for the same weight and according to complex calculus, Wright’s 335-mile pond hopper is now a 3,350-mile airliner. Is that enough to cross the Pacific? No, it isn’t. At least, from LA to Sydney, which is 7,511 miles. But It’s enough to cross the United States, and almost enough to get to London from New York.

So, for longer Trans-Pacific trips, we may need to rely on gas jets for a while longer. Even building larger aircraft like the 500-passenger Airbus probably wouldn’t give you the range to get that far on Hydrogen. Right now, anyway.

Ships have the same problem, albeit to a lesser extent since weight isn’t as much of an issue. They do carry the added benefit of being much slower with a larger topside surface area, though. So, simply covering the top deck of an electric ship with photovoltaic solar cells would help to reduce running costs and extend range a bit. But (and I haven’t done the numbers here), something tells me the larger ones would still run out of fuel somewhere between Guam and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

So, gas power may stick around for a bit longer in the longest range applications. At least, until better solutions are implemented. Man, if only somebody would come up with some way to cleanly and efficiently refuel hydrogen-powered vehicles in the middle of an ocean.

Oh, wait a minute. Nevermind.

Oceanic Hydrogen – The World’s Worst Teaser

I wish I could say I invented the idea of making hydrogen from ocean water…but this has actually been a no-brainer for the last century. Electrolysis requires an electrolyte of some kind to work efficiency, and salt performs that function perfectly. It also tends to eat electrodes and produce redux byproducts that reduce efficiency. But we’ve always understood seawater’s potential for easy hydrogen production.

I wish, also, I could say I invented the concept of using solar energy to provide the power for seawater electrolysis. But, in a classic case of simultaneous invention, those bastards at Stanford beat me to publication in March of this year. Though, to be fair, I came up with the concept 20 years ago, so I’m giving myself the win on this one.

In fact, so long have I been working on solar oceanic hydrogen that I can tell you their use of photovoltaic cells is an economic dead end. Been there, tried that, too expensive and inefficient. At best, hybrid multiple die cells are 44 percent efficient; down to 14 percent for commercially available cells, and 6 for amorphous silicone. This reduces hydrogen production efficiency by another half. At best. The sheer cost and real estate required to produce solar hydrogen using PV cells would make hydrogen only slightly less expensive than liquid diamonds.

Fortunately, I happen to be a couple of decades ahead of Stanford on this particular development cycle. And a fascinating new development from MIT may play some role in that. Though it’ll probably require some tweaking to work.

For legal reasons, I can’t publicly describe the SeaStar Solar system or exactly how it works. Derive what you will from the words “augmented oceanic solar.” But I can’t say much more than that right now. Mostly because, as of this writing, I haven’t yet filed the patent application. Because money. Yes, I’d technically be protected by the one-year Public Disclosure clause, but I don’t want issues with thieves when I put this thing into production through the Foundation. If you know any good patent attorneys working pro bono, feel free to send them along. I’m not giving Exxon or China the chance to steal my patents and throw our futures into a burning file drawer.

So, sorry to say, I can’t afford to lose control of this system right now. Public disclosure’s coming. Just not yet. But I can tell you some of what it’ll do.

  • Take advantage of excessive oceanic heat buildup (thanks, Climate Change)
  • Increase Hydrogen production efficiency by approximately 20 percent
  • Utilize clean, renewable energy sources to augment and enhance solar
  • Oxygenate seawater, while repurposing and sequestering oceanic CO2
  • Produce shoreside electric power and clean drinking water, as need be
  • Produce endless amounts of clean hydrogen or electric power

In short, SeaStar is capable of providing for all of our energy needs, while cleaning the oceans, restoring oxygen, removing carbon dioxide and using excess heat buildup from climate change to do it. This is a system which, in theory, could literally save the planet while, as a side effect, providing us with endless amounts of clean energy and drinking water. To my knowledge, SeaStar is the first power system in history that actually repairs the planet.

I’m really excited about SeaStar, and I think you will be too, when it drops. Wish I could say more, but legal stuff first.

The Sunshine State

If you’re thinking I came up with SeaStar specifically to address the problem of long-range hydrogen fueled vehicles…you are wrong. It’s actually a spin-off technology from PolarStar, hence the name. If you’re thinking its primary use would be in the Pacific, that is true insofar as trans-continental travel from Asia. But plenty of travel and trade comes in from the righthand coast, specifically through Florida. And both trains and trucks are likely going to need something more than batteries for the foreseeable future.

Which works out perfectly for our home state. Because Florida needs industry. Real industry. Badly. We can’t keep depending on tourism and real estate, or agriculture which destroys our wetlands and poisons our water. We have sea and sun more than practically any place on Earth; and that makes Florida perfectly positioned to become the Saudi Arabia of cheap hydrogen.

We could own the entire global hydrogen market if we wanted to.

A market which, following EPIC Phase 1, is soon to explode in size and profitability. Florida could get in early on what will soon become the largest energy manufacturing industry on Earth. And who’s going to build all these new hydrogen powered vehicles, fuel cells and facilities? Put it this way: With me as your congressman, who do you think? Hammer and anvil, folks. Public and private, working together.

Speaking of public: At the same time I’ll be implementing these systems privately through the Foundation, and helping write the laws to make it work, I’ll be working to establish a state-owned energy company utilizing the technology I’m developing. We’re not going to make the same mistake we did with oil, allowing private industry to steal the profits from our national resources. We may have to work within the corporate framework for now; but at the end of the day, your resource profits belong to you; to our people, working to fund our interests.

So, yes: Florida could become wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice. We have the resources to make it happen. And this will happen, even if I have to do it all myself. SeaStar may be the answer. Or it may come in some other form. But the answers are there. We have a future. It’s near enough to touch. We can save the planet on which all live…and make Florida filthy rich in the process.

Welcome to our new Hydrogen Economy.

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