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Why we should be skeptical of the hydrogen economy


4 minute read

From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Hügo Krüger and Ian Madsen

Hydrogen has a low energy density by volume, compared to well-established and practical fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and natural gas. It also has a low ignition point and is three times as explosive as natural gas, which could be either positive or negative.

At first glance, using highly variable, intermittent, inexpensive renewable energy to produce hydrogen for energy supply stabilization seems logical. However, renewable energy is not always readily available. The concept of hydrogen as a ‘buffer,’ akin to a battery, to ensure consistent renewable power is more complex than it appears.

Upon further examination, the idea is impractical and expensive for several reasons. Among them, hydrogen has a low energy density by volume, compared to well-established and practical fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and natural gas. It also has a low ignition point and is three times as explosive as natural gas, which could be either positive or negative, depending on its use.

Contrary to claims, renewable energy is neither inexpensive nor environmentally benign. Storing hydrogen in a natural gaseous state requires massive, costly storage vessels. Electrolyzing is expensive and will likely remain that way. Similarly, the cost of producing hydrogen is higher than that of deriving it from natural gas, which produces carbon dioxide, which is unwanted. There are some other techniques, such as pressure, heat, and radiolysis from radiation emitted from nuclear reactors, that are feasible, perhaps in combination. Small ‘micro nuclear reactors’ may drive down these costs. Atomic reactors are already used in U.S. Navy aircraft carriers to produce aviation and diesel synthetic fuel.

There are also a series of impractical issues. Existing pipeline infrastructure cannot transport pure hydrogen due to hydrogen embrittlement, and hydrogen cannot easily be used as a transportation fuel. A new Teflon-coated pipeline and distribution system parallel to the existing natural gas network would have to be built, costing hundreds of billions of dollars in North America alone.

While the idea of synthetic fuels using hydrogen may seem more feasible, it would likely be limited to a ‘niche role,’ potentially in natural gas-deficient nations. However, this would still necessitate significant investment. Ultimately, diverting funds to this ‘hydrogen economy’ could be a misallocation of capital from other, potentially more viable, areas.

Download the full report in PDF format here. (16 pages)

Hügo Krüger is a YouTube podcaster, writer, and civil nuclear engineer who has worked on a variety of energy related infrastructure projects ranging from Nuclear Power, LNG and Renewable Technologies. He holds a Master’s in Nuclear Civil Engineering from École Spéciale des Travaux Publics, du bâtiment et de l’industrie, Paris and a bachelor’s from the University of Pretoria.

Ian Madsen, BA (Economics, University of Alberta), MBA (Finance, University of Toronto), holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. He was an investment portfolio manager; owned his own investment counselling firm; published an investment newsletter; founded the professional society now known as CFA Saskatchewan in 1986; and was a director of an investment research operation in India. Since 2016, he has been the Senior Policy Analyst at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, performing valuation analyses on federal and provincial Crown corporations in Canada, and also written numerous policy analyses. He lives in Surrey, British Columbia with his family.


Trump’s Promise Of American Abundance, Fueled By ‘Liquid Gold’

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From the Daily Caller News Foundation



One of the brightest nuggets of policy in Donald Trump’s July 18 acceptance speech to the Republican convention in Milwaukee was his ode to “liquid gold.” That is, oil.

As part of his inflation-fighting plan, Trump offered a gleaming solution: increase energy production, thereby decreasing energy prices. “By slashing energy costs,” Trump declared, “we will in turn reduce the cost of transportation, manufacturing and all household goods.”

He continued: “We have more liquid gold under our feet than any other country by far. We are a nation that has the opportunity to make an absolute fortune with its energy.”

Indeed. According to the Institute for Energy Research (IER) technically recoverable oil resources in the U.S. total 2.136 trillion barrels. At the current price of around $80 a barrel, that’s some $171 trillion. And so, Trump concluded, “we will reduce our debt, $36 trillion.”

As former Alaska governor Sarah Palin would say, “You betcha.” In Palin’s Alaska, oil is so abundant, relative to the population, that everyone gets a check from the state. Last year, it was $1,312. For a family of four, that’s more than $5000. Our goal should be that every American gets such an energy dividend.

Moreover, the abundance of America’s carbon fuels is not limited to oil. According to IER, we have 3.391 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That’s worth $165 trillion.

To be sure, these staggering dollar totals can’t be counted directly against the national debt—or in support of some future tax cut. Yet every dollar of our energy assets would contribute to the economy, and if even 10  percent of the humongous total could be available to the public, we could, in fact, pay off the national debt.

Moreover, thanks to fracking and other enhanced recovery techniques, we keep finding more energy: Human ingenuity has upended old beliefs about energy shortages, ushering in an almost Moore’s Law-ish surge in production.

Indeed, there’s so much oil and gas (and coal) that an emerging school of thought holds that carbon fuels aren’t “fossil” at all, but rather, the product of earth’s vulcanism. The core of this earth, after all, is the same temperature as the surface of the sun. Perhaps all that heat is cooking something.

In any case, we keep finding more oil, and not just in the U.S.

So how, exactly, do we take advantage of this planetary cornucopia? As Palin said, as Trump said, and as the convention crowd chanted, “drill, baby, drill.”

Okay, but what about climate change? Most Republicans don’t worry too much about that, but if Democrats do, they should be reassured that we can capture the carbon and so take it out of the atmosphere. Trees and other green vegetation have been capturing carbon for eons; the element is, in fact, vital to their very existence. Similarly, the human body is 18 percent carbon. Yes, all of us ourselves are carbon sinks.

So we, being smart, can capture vastly more carbon — capturing it in everything from wood to cement, from plastics to nanotubes. These in turn can be landfill, construction materials — maybe even a space elevator.

We can, in fact, establish a a circular carbon economy: carbon fuels extracted, burned, and then recycled back into feedstocks. By this reckoning, carbon fuels are renewable. Such creative thinking can power all those energy-hungry data centers on which Big Tech and AI depend. So there’s the makings of a bipartisan “Grand Carbon Bargain,” uniting mostly blue-state tech with mostly red-state energy. More energy + more tech = more wealth for all.

In Milwaukee, Trump spoke of American “energy dominance,” and that’s great. But with all the energy we can produce and consume, we can speak of economic abundance — and that’s even greater.

James P. Pinkerton served in the White House domestic policy offices of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He is the author, most recently, of “The Secret of Directional Investing: Making Money Amidst the Red-Blue Rumble.”

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Jordan Peterson interviews Alberta Premier Danielle Smith

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This episode was recorded on June 29th, 2024

Dr. Peterson’s extensive catalog is available now on DailyWire+:


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