Cold Combustion v. Hot Air

“Investing in Clean Energy” was the title of a Michigan speech made last week by Barack Obama, even though he never explained how electric car batteries produced by the consumption of fossil fuels results in clean energy.  But he did say, “This is the ninth advanced battery plant to begin construction because of our economic plan.” 1

Energy expert Joseph Romm, who served in the Clinton administration, says that the United States faces two problems in making the transition to renewable energy.  One is the long lifetime of carbon-emitting facilities that can last for half a century; the other is that in the meantime, carbon emissions from those same facilities remain in the atmosphere for more than 100 years.  “These two facts together make it urgent that we avoid constructing another massive and long-lived generation of energy infrastructure that will cause us to miss the window of opportunity for carbon-free energy until the 22nd century.”  Romm is not the only energy expert who has explained how economic policies similar to Obama’s spending on electric car batteries hold back global efforts to eliminate carbon emissions.2

As an alternative to electric car batteries that rely on carbon-emitting fossil fuels like natural gas and oil, President George W. Bush recommended government investment for research and development of hydrogen fuel cells that generate electricity through the cold combustion of hydrogen with oxygen so that American consumers can benefit from the same hydrogen technology used by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for the electricity used in Gemini, Apollo, and space shuttle flights.  Government funds would also be needed, however, to stimulate the construction of a national energy infrastructure in which hydrogen is used to carry energy from renewable sources (e.g., hydropower and geothermal energy) to storage facilities for use when needed.  With hydrogen being the most abundant element in the universe, the knowledge created in a hydrogen economy on Earth would also be applicable to more advanced space exploration, thus making it the economic plan of choice that should be judged by the president as a necessary and expedient measure to be recommended for Congressional consideration of American safety and happiness.3


1.  Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President in Holland, Michigan on Investing in Clean Energy,” The White House,

2.  Joseph Romm, The Hype about Hydrogen: Fact and Fiction in the Race to Save the Climate (Washington: Island Press, 2004), 4-5.  Iain Carson and Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran, Zoom: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future (New York: Twelve, 2007), 270-280.

3.  Romm, The Hype about Hydrogen, 11-15.  Peter Hoffman, Tomorrow’s Energy: Hydrogen, Fuel Cells, and the Prospects for a Cleaner Planet (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002), 79-97, 154-160.


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