Just As I Thought

Partially Hydrogenized

Here’s a first: Shell opened the nation’s first hydrogen station today in Washington.


It’s fascinating to think that there may one day be hydrogen stations everywhere, with hydrogen fueled vehicles zooming around emitting only water exhaust. The reality is that hydrogen is very expensive to refine, and the creation of a fueling infrastructure — even a minimal one — will be expensive in the extreme. This one station cost more than $2 million.

Hydrogen is a common element, but it has to be extracted from other sources in ways that can be environmentally damaging. The most common method for producing hydrogen involves burning natural gas, but with natural gas already in increasing demand and short supply, it’s not practical to expect it to be a major source for powering vehicles, Hamilton said.

That leads to the next most common way to produce hydrogen: a method that involves burning coal. But that produces vast amounts of carbon dioxide, a “greenhouse gas” that’s thought to contribute to global climate change.

Even if companies such as Shell develop cleaner sources for hydrogen — such as burning methanol or vegetable matter — there remain huge hurdles in transporting and storing the fuel, and in building a distribution network as far-reaching as today’s system of corner gas stations.

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