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"H-Prize" Announced 394

Posted by samzenpus
from the homemade-hydrogen dept.
An anonymous reader writes " The House passed legislation to encourage research into hydrogen as an alternative fuel creating the "H-Prize",allowing scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs to vie for a grand prize of $10 million, and smaller prizes. The Department of Energy would put together a private foundation to set up guidelines and requirements for the prizes. Anyone can participate, as long as the research is performed in the United States and the person, if employed by the government or a national lab, does the research on his own time. Best political Quote: "If we can reinvent the car, imagine the jobs we can create." said bill sponsor Rep. Bob Inglis, R-S.C."
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"H-Prize" Announced

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @07:38AM (#15307049) Journal
    So initially we used coal to power steam engines. Why? Because there were literally tons of it laying underground. So we strip mined America for a couple centuries.

    It's long been known that oil (petroleum or organic) would fuel fire. And it was discovered that refining it lowered it stability and made it explosive. But where was an abundance of oil? Why, also underneath the ground.

    The fact of the matter is that our energy concerns can't be solved by anything that requires more energy to make (insert corn ethanol reference here) than it produces.

    So now we need to figure out how to use hydrogen and many car companies have done that but the form that hydrogen abounds in is gas--not liquid. And most hydrogen powered cars require refilling a compressed hydrogen tank. But to make this hydrogen requires electricity and this electricity requires some fuel or energy to make in the beginning ...

    I think the real challenge here should be "just hydrogen" as an alternative fuel but instead "anything we got a lot of lying around in a ready form."
  • Re:Awesome! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by sgbett (739519) <slashdot@remailer.org> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @07:38AM (#15307051) Homepage
    A quote from Young Einstein [imdb.com]!?

    You must have been the other person that saw it!
  • by plehmuffin (846742) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @07:58AM (#15307102)
    You have to generate the hydrogen somehow...from oil, coal ... no one understands this point, including the President and the Secretary of Energy

    Oh, I think they understand it just fine. The Whitehouse administration has been in bed with the oil industry from the beginning. The whole 'hydrogen economy' promotion is just an attempt to make it look like they are taking action towards energy independance and alternative energy source development, as to divert interest/funds for alternative energy research towards their fossil-fuel industry cronies.

    The most tragic thing about this whole scenario is that it diverts resources away from alternative energy source developments which could have an impact in the immediate to short term future (like wind, solar and hydro-electric power, gas electric hybrid cars, and energy conservation) in favour of a pipe-dream that even the proponents admit is decades away.

    The administration is shameless

  • by maillemaker (924053) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @07:59AM (#15307106)
    >Everyone is focused on everything except one. WHY is the government not looking
    >at NON centralized NON corporatist methods of achieving alternative energy sources?

    I think you hit the nail on the head, and I have long suspected that the fear of losing their deathgrip on the control of scarce energy resources has been driving huge government and business interests to make sure other, less centralized options are kept off the table.

    Energy is a multi-billion dollar industry. What would happen to that industry if anyone could make their own fuel?

    What if anyone could buy a bottle of Iogen's ( http://www.iogen.ca/ [iogen.ca] ) new cellulase enzymes at the grocery store, just like we buy Rid-X enzymes for our septic tanks, throw it in a trashcan in the backyard full of water and lawnmower clippings, and make their own ethanol?

    What if anyone really could easily and rapidly convert water into hydrogen? (spare me the jabs on how easy electrolysis already is, please)

    I'm no tinfoil-hat guy, but there are huge, huge interests that would be massively hurt by such innovations.

    Lately I've been doing a lot of googling on biodiesel ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodiesel [wikipedia.org] ), ethanol ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethanol [wikipedia.org] ), and even wood gas generators (pyrolysis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrolysis [wikipedia.org] )

    From what I've seen, most of these processes are fairly simple to do, even at home. I don't think these processes would take much more technical innovation to make simple, practical, cheap decentralized fuel production a reality.

    Steve
  • Re:A good start. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @08:01AM (#15307115) Homepage Journal
    It's been sometime since I visited the UK, and it was only London for a weekend, but IIRC, London's public transport infrastructure is long overdue for a massive upgrade.

    The tube trains are unbelievably slow, they're hot all year round, to the point where there's warnings at the entrances.

    In spite of this, it's still far more convenient then a car (even without factoring in the cogestion charge).

    You don't mention what part of the UK you're from, but a 30 minute commute that's 90 minutes by public transport is an indication the PT is broken there too.

    Public transport has it's place, but the convenience and freedom that comes with personal transportation is not something many people want to part with, and nor should they in my opinion.

    If this sort of attitude is typical, then its no wonder that the UK's greenhouse emissions are rising & you're not going to be able to meet your requirements under the kyoto treaty.
  • by qbzzt (11136) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @08:02AM (#15307122)
    A well maintained, large capacity power plant, even if it uses gasoline, can be a lot more efficient than a car's engine which has to be small, light weight, and low maintainance. Hydrogen is a transfer mechanism, but a better transfer mechanism will let us use gasoline for efficiently.
  • by Twillerror (536681) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @08:03AM (#15307124) Homepage Journal
    I think the answer to our energy issues is to have as many distributed forms of energy production as we can. Right now we are very depedent on one. If we have supply problems it causes issues. As well it causes a type of monopoly. There are many oil companies, but they all kind of work in concert given that they sell the exact same thing.

    We need electrical cars, fuel cell cars, hyrodgen cars, ethanol cars, and a whole slew of others so that the open market can thrive. Cars themselves should run off different sources as well. Charge themselves with solar when available. If they sit outside have some small wind turbines. I'm sure there is a way to convert the energy of falling rain drops if we think about it hard enough.

    The first argument is always that we have to retro fit all our gas stations. I don't understand why this is such a big deal. I think we have gotten so used to the centralized controlled gas industry that we have lost touch. If a new stick of gum comes out the stores put it on the shelf. I'm hoping alternate energies will start up a grass root movement of new gas stations that off all sorts of fuel alternatives. A little push from the goverment wouldn't help either.

    What we end up with is like the coke\pepsi model. Coke produces the recipe, and then individual bottlers make it throughout the country. When you buy a coke it was probably made pretty close to you.

    Lastly we need to think about ways to generate things like ethanol by using renweable sources like solar panels. They can collect solor energy slowing, but then use it to produce more explosive energy sources. Fuel cells can run off natural gas which is plentiful and then use that electricity to create the ethenol. For instance there are self running sewage plants that extract the methane gas and run it through fuel cells to power the plant.

    Products just lying around are really easy to work with sure, but they are rarely clean and renewable.
    If we team up different energy sources and create a more diverse "energy ecosystem" then we'll be better off.

  • by gsfprez (27403) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @08:27AM (#15307204)
    I'm not that old, but i just don't understand when morality became part of the equation when it comes to using energy? Is someone in Botswana that lives in a hut a better person than a bloke in Surrey who mows a lawn with an electric lawn mower? If so, i don't seem to understand it.

    And honestly, I don't understand - well maybe i do - why it is that people get all flummoxed at the idea of removing human transport devices from the global warming equation. Yes, yes, for now, it is just pushing the problem up the chain, but is that the job of the car makers?

    If a car is fairly efficient, and it is no longer spewing out global warming gasses - what the hell else do you expect car makers to do? Not everyone - some could - but not everyone could survive driving a euro golf cart around because it wouldn't hold kids or baggage, etc.

    If the car manufacturers are going to make devices that can run 100% clean and are saleable to the public meeting demand, then if you ask me, its high time we start coming up with energy solutions that are not dependent upon unstable thocracies and kingdoms in the middle east, hockey playing blue-nosers in north america, or corrupt countires like Mexico and the rest of central America. The car makers hold up their end, its someone else's responsibility to hold up the other end.

    And honestly, we see that China is - amazingly enough - going to lead the way with pebble-bed reactors... 1 for each city or more. It is utterly remarkable to me that a communist county has the stones to get this problem figured out while a country like the US is handcuffed by granola munching tree huggers... except for the founder of the Sierra Club... he gets it.
  • Re:A good start. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @08:32AM (#15307225) Homepage Journal
    Actually our greenhouse emissions are reducing, just not as fast as they should. In fact the UK is closer to meeting its Kyoto obligations than almost all other EU countries. And our emissions are around a quarter of the per person emissions in the USA.

    Do you believe everything your government tells you?

    While quite a rosy picture [defra.gov.uk] is being painted by defra, it appears they have been forgetting [guardian.co.uk] to include boats and planes in their emmission counts. Oops.

    I agree that the UK is generally better then the US. But that's not something I'd be particularly proud of.
  • by mgbastard (612419) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @08:41AM (#15307255)

    WAY TOO SMALL. A JOKE.

    This just goes to show how Congress is out of touch. Just what do they think a company is going to be able to do with 10 Million? No way that would cover the development costs. This is a joke, too bad the members probably don't know how rediculously low this is for the kind of manpower that is needed. A 500 Million prize might have a shot. 1 Billion and I could bring on the right people for long enough, and equip them - and I'm not talking thousands of staff. Hundreds, yes.

    /me shakes head in shame. This should make for great jokes in OPEC areas.

    Just for perspective, the avg daily PROFIT, for Exxon Mobil, the 4th quarter, ended Dec 31, was $199.6 million, EACH DAY. Revenues were $1.09 Billion, per day. Each Day. Don't forget, there are two other oil companies almost as large as ExxonMobil - Royal Dutch Shell and BP (British Petroleum)

    Exxon Mobil numbers for 1st Quarter: Profit: 173.6 per day, Revenue: 997.8 per day

  • Re:A good start. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xoyoyo (949672) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @08:45AM (#15307270)
    While quite a rosy picture is being painted by defra, it appears they have been forgetting to include boats and planes in their emmission counts. Oops.

    They're not included because we can't do anything about them. Aviation treaties limit the amount of taxation you can apply to commercial air and boats tend to registered to other countries that don't give a hoot about the environment, or safety or anything much apart from their flag fee.

    Both situations are clearly daft, but until the international community as a whole agrees to do something about it, you won't see any improvement.

  • by ldholtsclaw (789844) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @08:48AM (#15307280)
    When I heard that my university academic advisor had been arrested for protesting at a nuclear power plant, I just had to ask him why? He was, IMHO, a very savvy fellow and I was frankly surprised he would be against nuclear power. When asked, however, he replied: "I have nothing against nuclear power at all ... I have something against the idiots at TVA running a nuclear power plant."

    This was <cough> some years ago. Chernobyl and Three-mile Island have since demonstrated his point.
  • Re:A good start. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xoyoyo (949672) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @08:54AM (#15307308)
    I disagree. As I pointed out, not everyone can have a train station on their doorstep, or right next to their place of work. Not everyone can have a direct journey on a train or bus. And the trains or busses can only run so frequently. That doesn't make the system "broken", it's just reality.

    Not strictly so. You could, for example, stop out of town office parks that weren't serviced by a rail link. The planning laws are there for a reason, but they're so abused that you end up with exactly the sort of situation you describe. I worked in one out of town office centre not so long ago, after an office relocation. What really rankled was that there was a bus shuttle service from the overflow car park, but not from the train station. The overflow car park was 200 yards from the office, the train station 20 minutes walk.

    Putting businesses back into the centre of towns would be good for the local economies too. The town we were nominally based in is one of the South East's most deprived with a remarkable prevalence of drug problems. Every other shop front was boarded up.

    10 minutes walk away was our office, housing several thousand highly paid people who could have been buoying up the local economy. Instead the company installed a shop, and a range of canteens to make sure you never actually had to go into town.

  • by Sgt. Joe (313778) <bolton.joe@gmail.com> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @09:05AM (#15307376)
    for solar energy solutions. One approach could be in efficiency improvements like this: http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/04/ 25/2050253&from=rss [slashdot.org], but only if they are commercially viable. An other approach could complement the H-Prize, which is to use solar to directly create hydrogen. A solution would be a complete package: hydrogen from solar for energy storage and a complementary fuel cell.
  • by GospelHead821 (466923) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @09:47AM (#15307722)
    Although it may be true that this is all a ploy by the administration to pretend that they are striving for energy independence, I think that it will ultimately have a positive outcome. I can see two plusses to a "hydrogen economy" that are relevant even if we are presently producing hydrogen by stripping hydrocarbons.

    1. As long as we're not generating carbon dioxide during the stripping process, then we will be generating less greenhouse gas. Consuming hydrogen as a fuel produces water only. If the stripped hydrocarbons are a more tractable form of carbon than CO2 then we've at least cut back on emissions.

    2. When alternate energy sources finally catch up, we will have the infrastructure in place already to use hydrogen as a transfer mechanism. Rather than trying to tackle the entire problem at once, by solving the energy-transfer problem now, we set ourselves up to make quick and effective use of cleaner, cheaper energy sources in the future.
  • Mythbusters Did It (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @09:50AM (#15307754) Homepage Journal
    Last night's episode they dumped hydrogen straight down the carb of a old caddy, completely unmodified and it started right up. Since they weren't doing it very safely, just holding a hydrogen hose from a tank over the carb, Jaime also almost blew himself up the second time they tried it. Hooking the output of their home-made electrolisis device did not do the trick though as it didn't generate hydrogen fast enough.

    They also demonstrated that an unmodified diesel engine will run quite nicely on filtered used French fry oil.

    The problem is that although this is feasible right now, it's not really possible for widespread use and hydrogen will probably cost more and get less mileage than a gallon of gas right now. Unless we nuke Iran and gas shoots up to $8 a gallon, anyway. The french fry oil does have potential and we're pretty close to the right price point for various nifty diesel fuels to be competitive with gasoline.

    They're talking about repealing the tax on gasoline, but I'd suggest taxing the bejesus out of gasoline and dumping the proceeds into alternate energy research. Especially solar and fusion.

  • Re:A good start. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vtolturbo (729585) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @09:51AM (#15307756) Homepage
    This is linear thinking. Granted, the current public transport system doesn't work well. That's in part due to the cost, but mostly due to the lack of flexibility. When you know the bus will arrive within a 5-10min window at a particular location and carry you to a particular destination, from which you will very likely need to walk or transfer to a different bus or train, it is easy to see why one might not want to sacrifice one's personal transportation. I believe the bus system will always be like this, with static routes and schedules. This is due to the size of the vehicle. It is inefficient to have a vehicle capable of carrying 50 people that drives around like a taxi, picking people up wherever they are instead of driving a set path.

    I envision a system of smaller vehicles, possibly 6- or 8-passenger vans, where each vehicle is given dynamic tasking based on requests through an internet portal. When a passenger needs to get to work, they submit a travel request to this portal and the system determines which of the fleet vehicles can most closely accomodate the request. That vehicle's path is then altered to include the new request, and all the current passengers' times of arrival are adjusted to support the additional passenger. Ideally, this would be 100% automated, with a computer controlling the vehicle completely. However, that solution puts working-class people out of jobs, so maybe it's better to have a person driving the vehicle and a computer telling the person where to go. With the increasing inclusion of navigation systems and communications systems like OnStar in automotive product lines, it's not a big step to integrate a two-way communication link between the vehicle and a central computer.

    By increasing the flexibility of the system, more travellers are attracted to using it. By increasing the number of vehicles, more jobs are created. By organizing the travel of large numbers of people into optimized paths, traffic congestion, fuel usage, and pollution are reduced. There will always be people who are unwilling to sacrifice their freedom for such benefits, but as the system becomes more optimized and more attractive, it becomes more efficient.
  • Re:A good start. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @10:36AM (#15308182)
    When we didn't have cars, we could only take jobs, go to entertainments, visit friends which were either within walking/cycling distance, or which were in the public transport routes that ran near our house. If you wanted to take a new job somewhere else, you had to move house. But that was easier than now, becausee wives either didn't have jobs or had menial, non-career, jobs that they could drop and pick up again. And most houses were rental, and most people had fewer belongings to move.

    Cars have given us freedom to choose jobs within, roughly, a 90 minute road commute - which can be a very large area. This is good for the worker - many more jobs to choose from, so you can optimise your choices. And good for companies too, for the same reason - they can pick the best workers for their needs rather than having to put up with the ones who live locally. And as the world has gained more and more different skill sets, that has become more important. When 90% of workers were semi- or un-skilled, they were more or less interchangeable: as long as there were 100 free workers in the area, ypou could find 50 thyat you need. But if you need one of the only 10 skilled flange-wobblers in your mega-city, they may have to travel a long way to your facility. Or move house - except that their spouse has a job where they live now, which brings in 50% of the household income.

    I have experience of this as a governor of a specialist school, when we need to recruit new senior staff. Being a specialist school, there are not many about. Nearly all the applicants, and all the appointees, have had journeys of over 50 miles to the school, and non-moveable spouses. Without cars, we would have had to appoint inferior head teachers.

    So we will not switch on a large scale to public transport for the trip to work unless we are willing to give up a freedom which most of us value highly - and one which has probably contributed to the economic growth of our countries. The correlation between wealth and number of cars runs a bit both ways: more wealth allows us to buy more cars, but more cars allow us to fine-tune our economy. When you are talking about annual growth rates of 2-3%, an extra 1% growth because you can place people better shows up. And remember this growth is compound.
  • Gas Stamps (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Stephen Ma (163056) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @04:15PM (#15311905)
    $7 a gallon gas will absolutely destroy the economic well-being of the lower and lower-middle class workers in our society, but upper-middle and upper class workers will continue to drive the same as they did before.

    Which is why, along with the gas tax, there should be Gas Stamps. These would work like food stamps: you could use the gas stamps to pay for gas. Gas stamps would be given out to the same people who receive food stamps, so the added government bureaucracy would be minimal. With gas taxed to $7 a gallon, the government would have plenty of funds for the gas stamps.

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