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For the good of the earth: an alternative for fossil fuels is readily available.

An alternative for fossil fuels is readily available

While in Yuma, Arizona recently, I read an article about Cornell University's Thomas Gold, who questioned the theory of how petroleum was formed.

He presented his findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle, Washington. He disputes the theory says fossil fuel was formed from vegetation deposited during the age of the dinosaurs. He believes oil and gas deposits on earth are primordial -- they came with the origin of the planet.

His theory is supported by evidence drawn from shafts drilled in an ancient meteorite impact crater in Sweden. At a depth of about four miles, a hydrocarbon oil similar to light petroleum was found, which he believes is primordial. At this depth, petroleum could not originate from plant deposits.

Gold's theory was that from such deposits, oil moved upward where it settled in dome areas. These deposits contain helium, which was collected as the oil traveled upward.

The traditional theory of fossil fuel formation never explained the presence of helium.

If Gold's theory is correct, the extensive use of fossil fuels is putting carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. This addition is much more critical than previously thought. We are adding an element to the atmosphere that was never there before. This gives more credibility to the idea of global warming -- by addition of carbon dioxide to the air.

Many scientists also consider weather extremes a result of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Popular Mechanics magazine printed an article stating that by investing about $9 billion dollars in desert areas, we could develop a system to produce the hydrogen needed to power all U.S. energy needs. A system of sun electric converters 100 miles long could produce this electricity.

The hydrogen produced would eliminate the use of fossil fuel and the increase in carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

Several years ago, Allis Chalmers, now operated by AGCO Corporation, developed a tractor that used hydrogen to charge batteries (fuel cells). The batteries provided electricity to an electric motor in the tractor, which was developed and field tested. The discharge from the batteries was water, which was spread on the land with no detrimental effect.

The hydrogen-operated tractor was heralded as a major development because no exhaust gases were produced and tractor noise was minimal. The idea was abandoned due to the cost of producing hydrogen.

The government subsidizes corn-alcohol production, which slightly reduces the carbon dioxide content of engine gas discharge. Perhaps subsidizing oil companies to produce hydrogen in desert areas would be acceptable. The subsidies could be used to construct electrical converters and hydrogen production facilities.

For the sake of our planet, conversion to hydrogen for power is worthy of consideration. The Allis Chalmers power production method would be practical because there would be no carbon dioxide discharge as occurs with fossil fuel use. If the Allis Chalmers method is not feasible, hydrogen could be used with the conventional combustion engine to eliminate carbon dioxide gas discharge. Many scientists support this idea.

Some would say hydrogen use is more costly than fossil fuels. They ignore other costs, such as flooding of California and the Midwest. Many scientists attribute the flooding to increased temperatures over the ocean and the sun evaporating extra water to be dropped over land areas. They contend that the increased temperature is due to the increased carbon dioxide content of our atmosphere, which results from burning fossil fuels

The cost of damage caused by these floods should be charged as part of the cost of burning fossil fuels.

Another ignored expense of fossil fuels, which is paid by taxpayers, is the price of Desert Storm. This cost is more than the estimated price of building facilities to produce hydrogen. Protection for our oil supply continues by the government as it maintains troops and aircraft carriers to protect Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. If we had been using hydrogen for fuel. Desert Storm would never have occurred.

Add to these costs the damage to wildlife along the ocean shoreline caused by oil spills.

A change to hydrogen for fuels would be good for the earth. The needed science is available. I hope these ideas are given the consideration they deserve for the good of the earth and humankind.

ASAE member E. Paul Jacobson is an Agricultural and Engineering Specialist, 218 Dearborn St., Sandpoint, ID 83864, USA, 208-263-8234. He was employed 30 years with the USDA Soil Conservation Service and 15 years with Harza Engineering Co. of Chicago, on drainage irrigation and sod conservation projects around the world.
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Author:Jacobsen, E.Paul
Publication:Resource: Engineering & Technology for a Sustainable World
Date:Aug 1, 1997
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