We continue to look at alternative fuels like ethanol or other plant originated fuels as if this Band-Aid is going to solve the problem. It may help out temporarily, but while sixty million people go to bed hungry and never wake up does it really help? The perfect alternative fuel already exists and has been known for some time but we continue to move at glacial speed and focus on fuel that will create new problems.
The world population has recently passed six billion people, and it continues to climb. Various studies have been made regarding how many people the earth can support from an agricultural perspective. Regardless of the study, 6 billion, 10 billion, 13 billion, it is easy to rationalize that the planet can only grow a finite amount of food while population continues to grow yet we continue to explore how we can fill our tanks with plants while stomachs remain empty.
Hydrogen, however, remains abundantly available in some very large oceans. Using the hydrogen as fuel restores it back into water to replenish the oceans. Of course, before it is put back, it can be drunk as pure clean water. This alternative fuel could power our civilization while also providing drinking water, and we wont run out and yet we keep researching plant-based fuels!
There are all kinds of arguments about the viabilities of hydrogen power, whether used in vehicles as a combustive gas or fuel cells. Some say it is dangerous, look at the Hindenburg. Pound per pound, gasoline is far more dangerous and unstable than hydrogen, including the byproducts it creates. Some say hydrogen cannot get us the same distance on the same volume of fuel, but are we really being smart about how we use transportation? Look in your vehicle, how many things do you drive around with you day to day because you simply have left them in your vehicle? Those consume fuel.
Some argue the distribution channels for hydrogen do not exist whereas using alternative fuels as additives means no new investment in distribution infrastructure. I cannot recall any gas station I have ever been to that did not have water. If they have water, and electricity, they can produce hydrogen on demand. Granted this may not be the most economical way, but hydrogen can be transported similar to the way gasoline is today. It may mean new tanks at the stations and new pumps, but pumps are periodically changed out as it is. Furthermore, when the automobile first came out there was not an abundance of distribution channels then. So the argument is void, demand will drive the channels.
Finally, some argue that the technology of fuel cells is too costly. It is costly because demand has been restricted due to lack of marketing. Supply, demand, and price are all interconnected variables. If we ever hope to make fuels cells a viable option, we need to start offering them as an option. If we can use them to power the Space Shuttle, take us to the moon, then it is high time we can start putting them into commercial retail use. Unless of course there are other economic and political factors out there that are the real reason we keep turning to vegetation as fuel sources.