Hydrogen economy refers to the infrastructure in which society’s energy needs are fulfilled by using hydrogen fuel. The current economy is based on use of fossil fuels for meeting energy requirements and is called fossil fuel economy. Fossil fuels have been the main energy providers for several centuries. However, there are some grave issues linked with fossil fuel economy.
A successful shift towards hydrogen economy promises solutions to most of these problems.
Benefits of Hydrogen Economy
Fossil fuels such as gasoline, diesel and coal are used for power generation in industrial units as well as automobiles. If the supply of these fossil fuels comes to a halt, there would be serious repercussions on current human society. Power generation and industrial production will stop. People would not be able to commute to their workplaces. In this way, the whole of modern society runs the risk of coming to a halt.
This indicates that all of us along with our living styles are dependent on fossil fuels. Large natural reserves of these fossil fuels are restricted to certain countries of the world. If these countries decide to raise the prices of fossil fuels, they can be a position to dictate the global economy.
Hydrogen economy offers a potential solution to the problem of oil dependence. Hydrogen can be produced by using methods that can be practiced in any part of the world. People can even generate hydrogen in their homes by simple techniques using electricity and water.
Burning of fossil fuels results in emissions of obnoxious chemicals such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and unburnt hydrocarbons. Cars and factories are a major source of these pollutants. Theses hazardous pollutants cause significant damage to the environment we breathe in causing asthma and various other lung and cardiovascular diseases.
Hydrogen is environment friendly as it is carbon free. Its use in cars or industrial units does not add any obnoxious pollutants to the environment. The only bye product of hydrogen burning is water which is not hazardous for environment.
Another damaging aspect of oil fuels is associated with incidents such as oil spills, pipeline explosions and oil well fires. A recent example is the BP deepwater rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This and many such incidents devastate the marine habitats of both animals and plants. With the advent of hydrogen economy, these pains will be eliminated as hydrogen generation does not involve any such exploration activities.
Fossil fuels combustion also generates carbon dioxide which is a greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases are those gases that are believed to be causing greenhouse effect; a phenomenon causing abrupt global climatic changes. As a consequence of these climatic changes, the intensity of our whether is increasing. A typical example is sudden melting of glaciers due to temperature rise resulting in floods. Hydrogen fuel relieves this pain as well since its use does not leave any carbon footprint.
Challenges of Hydrogen Economy
Hydrogen economy promises remedies to the problems associated with fossil fuel economy. Nonetheless, its implementation across the globe is not an easy task. There are some hurdles that need to be surpassed before we can reap its benefits.
Hydrogen is not available in independent form and has to be separated from its parent compounds in order to get it in a useable form. The methods currently employed for hydrogen generation are unsafe, expensive and inefficient. Hydrogen economy cannot flourish unless we find a way to create cheap hydrogen.
Another major challenge associated with the implementation of hydrogen economy is its storage and transportation. The inherent low energy density of hydrogen makes it difficult to store as a liquid or a compressed gas. Extensive research is required in the areas of hydrogen storage and transportation to make hydrogen economy a viable replacement to current fossil fuel economy.
The safety concerns liked with hydrogen use also need attention. Additional safety controls need to be designed in order to avoid any unpleasant incidents caused by hydrogen usage. The image of hydrogen as safe fuel has to be portrayed so that its consumer acceptability is enhanced.
A hydrogen based economy can remedy the problems connected with fossil fuel economy. Hydrogen can emancipate us from dependence on oil rich countries. It can reduce air pollution and global warming. It can eliminate the damage caused to biological habitats caused by human activities and incidents. But all these benefits are contingent upon our ability to generate, store and transport cheap hydrogen in a safe and efficient manner.