The Third Industrial Revolution

March 18, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

In 2007, The Hydrogen Age, a book, for which I was the as the principle author,  reported on the emerging trends away from fossil fuels in favor clean renewable forms of energy.  In the US, where the oil, coal, and gas lobbies dominate energy politics, this trend has been somewhat stunted. The same cannot be said about Europe. 

In his recently published book, The Third Industrial Revolution,  Jeremy Rifklin, President of The Foundation for Economic Trends,  reports that the European Union and its members nations are aggressively pursuing a transition to clean, renewable energy.  They have committed billions of euros to the process and cleared the way with financial incentives and a whole range of public policy initiatives. Wind, solar, geothermal, ocean wave, and other clean technologies are coming on line at an ever accelerating pace. Rifkin says this transition is in essence the opening stage of what he characterizes as The third industrial revolution. 

It's not just happening in Europe. Latin America, Asia, and even Africa are following the European example. 

One of the big impediments with wind and solar is the intermittant nature of the resource. It's not always windy even in the windiest places, and the sun doesn't shine 24 hours a day.  There are a number of ways to store surplus wind and solar energy for use when needed.   One of the best ways, and pretty much the only way renewable energy can be stored and transported long distances for use on demand is by taking the electricity produced from wind, solar, and other renewables, and convert it to hydrogen.  That is done by splitting water molecules into its constituent elements, hydrogen and oxygen.  

Hydrogen is the most abundant substance in the universe. When hydrogen is converted back into useable energy in a device called a fuel cell, it is totally pollutrion free. The only exhaust is water. Hydrogen is highly flammable and can be hazardous,  but no more so than gasoline or natural gas. A big part of the European strategy for the transition to renewables is the adoption of hydrogen as a fuel for automotive transportation.  By 2015, many of the world's auto manufacturers will commercialize fuel cell vehicles powered by hydrogen, and hydrogen refueling stations will be found all over the continent. 

As the European union goes, so goes the rest of the world. I only wish this kind of aggresive strategy was at work here in the United States.  A renewable energy future using hydrogen as a primary energy carrier is the best way to wean ourselves off of dirty and increasingly costly fossil fuel energy. It is also the best way to walk human society back from the climate change precipice. Renewables, enabled by hydrogen translate to a pollution free energy future that is sustainable over the long term.    

Here is a link to Jeremy Rifkin's website and latest book...

http://www.foet.org/lectures/lecture-hydrogen-economy.html

 

 


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