Hydrogen powered fuel cells hold great promise for the environment because heat and water vapor are their only by-products. The problem is that you need hydrogen, and that isn’t readily available yet. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Greg Dahlmann reports – engineers at General Motors say they’ve found a solution:
powered fuel cells hold great promise for the environment because heat and water vapor are their only by-products. The problem is that you need hydrogen, and that isn’t readily available yet. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Greg Dahlmann reports…. engineers at General Motors say they’ve found a solution:
The hydrogen economy is still off in the distance, so the engineers at GM turned to what they say is the next best thing — gasoline. The automaker recently revealed an S-10 electric pick-up with what the company is calling the first-ever driveable gasoline powered fuel cell. Matt Fronk is the chief engineer with GM fuel cell systems.
“Gasoline is a really good option because the infrastructure is already out there… and then also from our perspective, the technology can also be used with natural gas.”
The key to using gasoline in a fuel cell is a
piece of equipment called a reformer. It processes the gas into its
constituent parts of hydrogen and carbon. The hydrogen goes to the fuel
cell and the carbon is mixed with air to form CO2. While not as clean as a
hydrogen fuel cell, Fronk says the system would qualify as an ultra-low
emissions vehicle, and be about 40% more fuel efficient than a comparable
internal combustion engine. GM hopes to have the technology in production
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Greg Dahlmann.
It’s been almost a year since President Bush announced the United States would not be participating in the Kyoto Protocol… an international agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. At the time the President said the U.S. was still committed to the broader idea and would eventually do something about it. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Greg Dahlmann reports, President Bush now has a plan:
It’s been almost a year since President Bush announced the United States would not be participating in the Kyoto Protocol… an international agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. At the time, the President said the U.S. was still committed to the broader idea… and would eventually do something about it. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Greg Dahlmann reports, President Bush now has a plan:
G.W. Bush recording: “We must foster economic growth in ways that protect our environment. We must encourage growth that will provide a better life for citizens, while protecting the land, the water, and the air that sustain life.”
On that account… you’ll find a lot of agreement between the Bush administration and many environmentalists. But when you try to decide how to follow that road, consensus evaporates.
The administration says the best way is a new plan centered on the complex idea of emissions intensity. That’s a measure of how many tons of greenhouse gases are produced per unit of economic development. In other words… it’s the amount of greenhouse gas that’s expelled to make a car, or a computer or a kilowatt of electricity. The President’s plan calls for an 18-percent cut in this intensity.
“The Bush policy is a sham… nothing is really going to be reduced.”
David Donniger is the policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate center.
“All emissions intensity is is a way of saying our emissions aren’t growing as fast as the economy… but they’re still going up… and they’re still going up just as fast as they have been for the last ten years.”
Or you can think of this way… say you’re making apple pies. You bake 10 pies and each pie gets ten apples. You end up using a hundred apples and each pie has an apple intensity of ten. But your pies are really good… so you decide to bake some more… let’s say a hundred. But this time around you figure out how to use only 5 apples per pie. So you’re apple intensity for this round is only 5… but you’ve ended up using 500 apples this time… compared to a hundred during the first round.
Our economy works much the same way… but on a bigger scale. So, while emissions intensity may go down under the Bush plan… it’s estimated the actual continued rise of emissions would leave U.S. emissions 30-percent higher than 1990 levels in 2012. The Kyoto Protocol calls for America to be 7-percent below the 1990 mark at that point.
President Bush has said on numerous occasions that he rejected Kyoto because it would significantly harm the U.S. economy by harshly forcing down emissions. The administration is touting the new Bush plan as a much more gradual and easier turn for the nation to make.
Eileen Claussen is president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. She thinks Kyoto would be too strict for the U.S., but she disputes the President’s assertion that it would have a severe effect on the nation’s economy.
“But would there be some… yes… so could you do a little less and have none… yes… and would that be a more sensible course to take… there’s no question.”
Some observers have wondered if the new Bush plan would shake other countries’ support of Kyoto. Claussen says she talked to a number of people abroad following Bush’s announcement and is confident Kyoto has a future.
“I think it’s likely to go into effect this fall… and America will be an outlier.. Out with its own emissions growth program… while most developed countries are actually trying to reduce their emissions.”
“I think he’s going to find receptive audiences around the world… and I hope that other nations join us in this process.”
Eric Holdsworth is director of climate programs for the Edison Electric Institute… which represents the power plant industry. He says the Bush plan is a refreshing change of course from Kyoto. Much of the plan relies on industry voluntarily reducing its emissions for future considerations and tax credits. Environmental groups are skeptical that companies would act to reduce emissions when they’re not required to do so… but Holdsworth says this is what industry was waiting for.
“This is an approach that a lot of folks have talked about… certainly many in industry… we’ve argued this is a better approach than what’s enshrined in Kyoto… I think this is a chance for industry to go out and deliver.”
Environmentalists counter that industry may not have to deliver very much to meet the Bush plan’s 18-percent reduction. Greenhouse gas emissions intensity has fallen about 15-percent on its own over the last ten years. But the total real amount of emissions has increased 12-percent. Many environmentalists expect to see that pattern continue under the Bush plan.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium… I’m Greg Dahlmann.
Pesticides are designed to kill pests – and so – by their nature are toxic substances. They wouldn’t work otherwise. While that poisonous nature is useful for certain jobs… most people would probably hesitate before knowingly taking the chemicals into their bodies. But the Environmental Protection Agency is now looking at the issue of testing pesticides on humans. As bad as that may sound, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Greg Dahlmann reports there are some people saying it’s what we need: