"Honda's Hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity is Less Green Than Its Publicity Claims"

Justin Berkowitz
by Justin Berkowitz

Well that was quick. After the Honda Clarity gave Jamie Lee Curtis' bologna a first name (O-S-C-A-R), some members of the mainstream media have cottoned-on to the fact that hydrogen has to come from somewhere. The UK's Independent newspaper thoroughly slams Honda and its sexy fuel cell car. "Is Honda's technologically dazzling hydrogen programme the long-term solution to CO2 pollution?" scribe Michael Booth asks. "Yes and no," he answers. "Mainly no. Almost entirely no, if you ask people who know." Booth argues that the fuel's a waste a time as it's created with conventional energy. The process merely shifts the site of pollution; it's like breaking wind and blaming the dog. Booth also notes that hydrogen fueling stations are notable by their absence. "Right now there is just one hydrogen station in the UK. Even Japan has only 12." Alas, Booth concludes by saying that electric cars should be our high tech future– and that's where his own arguments do him a disservice. Shifting the source of pollution from power generation? Check. Infrastructure problems? Check. Environmental problems from battery disposal? Check. Still, props for calling Honda's buff. I mean, bluff.

Justin Berkowitz
Justin Berkowitz

Immensely bored law student. I've also got 3 dogs.

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  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Jun 25, 2008

    David, I think the nuclear push is mostly one reflecting the desire for living in a world where energy is still relatively cheap, and virtually limitless in supply. How many windmills would it take? I fly over parts of northern TX, and there are windmill farms that seem to go on forever. They are HUGE. I know it's it anecdotal, but it leads me to believe that wind won't make it as even a secondary source. Even if we go nuts on it. It's something to add to the mix, but best to be something that we use to pair off with coal plants for a lower average pollution per watt. I can't remember the gentleman, but he is well known for pushing micro solutions. If many more of us had a small wind turbine and/or small solar installation in our homes and businesses we could take an insane chunk out of the problem. I like that approach, though I worry about the guy behind me who hasn't painted in over 15 years and has rotting trim on his 800k house. What will his turbine sound like? He is upper middle class. How well will Joe six pack maintain his turbine (not the one who does it himself, the other guy with no skills)? Also, how many people will put up their solar installs in an aesthetically pleasing way? Large commercial use of solar for generation is still not economically viable unless you have customers willing to pay extra to be green. No thanks, I live downwind from Mexico. Nuke, OTOH, seems to be something that will fly pretty well except for NIMBY costs. BTW, I am a pilot, and a bit of an expert in air defense (it's what I did for the Army). Nuke plants have little to fear from commercial aircraft impacts. If you were really concerned, it would not be all that tough to use point defense against a large plane, small planes can simply be laughed off, they would need a suitcase nuke to make a dent because they can't lift enough explosives. I have heard scenarios about sites that have some of their waste unprotected, and in a perfect storm the result could be some fallout lifted by a fire, but the solution for that is to simply protect the waste, not give up on nuke. So, I understand the nuclear desire. It's a known workable solution that can scale. I have hope for solar being a good source eventually, but wind is something I worry about. Now, to cap and trade, no thanks. Cap and trade is a boondoggle for existing producers, reduces innovation, gets overwhelmed with political favors, and it's regressive. Carbon taxes are also suspect, but a pollution and waste tax which has a carbon element that could be used to replace the income tax is something that you could sell to conservatives. Unfortunately, it won't fly with the left because poor folks percieve that they use as much energy as rich folks, who would then not be paying their "fair share". I think they are wrong, but I couldn't prove it.

  • David C. Holzman David C. Holzman on Jun 25, 2008

    Landcrusher, I think you're thinking of Amory Lovins Texas alone has plans for the equivalent of 1/4 of the US nuclear capacity in wind farms, which is about 5% of electricity. The Great Plains, where I thikn the best wind resource is in the US, extend far beyond Texas. Scientific American described a plan for getting a substantial fraction of US energy from solar by 2050, and almost all by 2100, here: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan&print=true I hear you on the politics of cap and trade, and I can only hope that that will be dealt with responsibly in the new administration. I dealt with that at the end of this piece, and you will see that I am not a raving optimist about this sort of thing: http://www.ehponline.org/docs/2008/116-6/focus-abs.html Your suggestion of defense for nukes against airplanes is certainly wise, and sounds doable, but as with carbon disincentives, the question is, will the feds do what they should? I see PVs as much more practical for homes than small windmills. I do'nt know how they sound up close, but I could imagine the noise being a problem. Also, I suspect that the resource is a lot more limited where homes are. We have a lot of wind just off of Cape Cod, but I don't think a windmill on my (second) home out on the Cape would generate near enough to be worthwhile. But I wouldn't be surprised if I have PVs on both houses within 5-10 years.

  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Jun 25, 2008

    David, SA was down, but I did read most of your piece. It's interesting. One thing of note - "...wrote Larry Lohmann, of the British NGO The Corner House, in the Spring 2007 issue of Synthesis/Regeneration. “Covering the land with windmills and biofuel plantations will be of little use unless fossil fuel extraction is stopped.” What does the gentleman think modern windmills are made out of? I don't believe organicly sourced plastics are quite up to being made into large wind turbines. No fossil fuel extraction, no windmills, Signor Quixote.

  • MAC-NHA MAC-NHA on Jun 30, 2008

    Hydrogen’s versatility makes it possible for it to be produced from any renewable resource or from nuclear energy by splitting water via electrolysis, which eliminates all harmful emissions. Hydrogen is produced from nuclear energy by cooling uranium, simply by using water. Treehugger.com posted a story, “Energy is Wasted, Wasted, Wasted...”, describing how much energy is wasted to create electricity and power transportation. The next generation of nuclear reactors, High Temperature Gas Reactors (HTGR), will improve efficiency of hydrogen production from 25% to 50%, as hydrogen is far easier to split from water at the extremely high temperatures the nuclear reactors utilize. Incorporating hydrogen within the world’s energy portfolio will simultaneously reduce dependence on foreign energy imports, while improving the country’s carbon footprint by reducing greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, and spark worldwide economic development. We must come together by stressing to our government and business leaders to support the development of an alternative energy infrastructure. This will allow for hydrogen to be produced from water using renewable resources and improve the overall effectiveness of renewable energy. In the meantime, we must also use the resources we have available to establish a hydrogen infrastructure. As a representative of the Hydrogen Education Foundation, I am helping people to understand that both a hydrogen and alternative energy infrastructure can grow side by side paving the way to a sustainable energy future. To learn more about the benefits of hydrogen, we invite everyone to please visit and ask us questions at www.h2andyou.org.