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Re: E-M:/ RE: / Michigan responds to Bush "Freedom Car" plan

Enviro-Mich message from Rane Curl <ranecurl@engin.umich.edu>

On Fri, 7 Feb 2003, Daniel Farough wrote:

> The major concern is that this proposal will be used as a shield for
> continued inaction as other projects to spur American automakers to address
> foreign oil dependence have.  2020 - or so - for the first fuel cell powered
> car is too late.  By this time our dependence on foreign oil will rise to
> 64%,  or maybe higher if the President gets his proposal for a $75,000 tax
> write off for businesses that purchase luxury SUVs.

I believe that the major fault with the "Freedom Car" proposal is that it
actually addresses only one problem - the local emission of air pollutants
from burned and unburned fuels. It does nothing toward solving problems of
dependence on fossil fuels, nor toward reducing the emission of greenhouse

The problem in those regards is that elemental hydrogen does not occur
naturally, and must be manufactured. The current hydrogen production
infrastructure is almost solely for chemical manufacturing. It uses
primarily methane as the raw material, and produces carbon dioxide as a
by-product. For equal engine fuel value, it produces *more* carbon dioxide
dioxide per unit hydrogen fuel value than does using the methane directly
as an engine fuel.

However, for the scale envisaged, coal would also probably be used for
hydrogen production, and that not only produces more byproduct carbon
dioxide than does using methane, but also other undesirable pollutants.

The only clean way to manufacture hydrogen is by electrolysis in membrane
cells, with electricity from wind, solar, or nuclear power.  Probably the
latter is the most economical at the potential scales required - but we
have not solved the environmental conundrums of nuclear power wastes.

I fully agree that the present relative inefficiency of cars should be
addressed first by Michigan car companies, as others have emphasized. The
technology is available in the much shorter term and at lower cost.

--Rane L Curl

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