The Future Of Transportation — Hydrogen

Vehicles in the future, perhaps a great many in the very near future, will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The reason: These are zero emissions vehicles. The only thing that comes out of their tailpipes is water or water vapor.

So where does the hydrogen come from? Most these days comes from natural gas. The problem here is that to get this hydrogen feedstock increasingly requires fracking, which has its own serious polluting drawbacks.

But fortunately there are alternative ways to produce hydrogen that are becoming available. In Germany excess power from wind turbines, power not needed to feed into the electricity grid, is being used to split water into its component hydrogen and oxygen parts. In California, these is a pilot project to use excess solar energy not feed into the electricity grid to do the same thing. Still another approach coming into view is to add carbon to solar-split hydrogen to make methane (aka natural gas) without the fracking pollution drawback.

The first mass produced hydrogen fuel cell powered cars are now starting to be sold by Toyota, Other car makers are expected to follow suit shortly. The future of transportation is about to arrive.

(The latest book from the author of this piece is titled Gorilla Warfare Against The Bureaucratic State—Confessions of a Lefty Libertarian)

Earth Day Poems

This being Earth Day, here’s some verse for the occasion…

Headline: 2014 was the warmest year ever recorded on earth.

A Harried American’s Response To Global Warming
By Michael Silverstein

It’s winter,
I’m cold,
Maybe global warming’s oversold;
Anyway I’ve bigger cares,
My 401(k)’s oil shares.

You say I’ll soon be mourning?
The new earth that’s aborning?
That human kind is spawning?

I’m not scorning the warning,
Just too busy this morning.

Xxxxxxx

Energy Past And Future

Why do we raid the burial grounds
Of long dead creatures for coal?
For oil and methane from these old remains
Why is this our energy goal?

The sun and the wind, the motion of waves,
The heat ‘neath our feet underground;
Are there to be tapped, to be used, and enjoyed
Live energy sources abound.

We’ve gone from the horse for private transport,
Keep in touch in a host of new ways;
It’s time, truly time, for a better resort
Navigating the energy maze.

xxxxxxx

Canuting Renewable Energy

King Canute was a silly old coot
When his power he planned to be showing
With the help of his church he would stand on the beach
Tell the waters: “You gotta stop flowing.”

Fossil fuel kings and their money church pals
Now stand on the energy shore
To the sun and the wind and the heat of the earth
They proclaim: “We’ll permit just a bit but no more.”

Canute’s quirky play, to control ocean waves
Just reflected his times’ power thinking
Today (nothing new) fossil fuel’s power crew
Think their gaming can stop their own shrinking.

Xxxxxxx

The Global Warming Poem

Locked in human-centric thinking
The content of our daily plays
The Mid East, Ukraine, and the markets,
Our focus of dismays these days.

Icecaps melting freakish storms
Species fall offs, floods and droughts
Growing worries, yes, we’re worried
But how important…most still have doubts.

When soon the process reaches end game
Our fool behavior, its course has run
The global warming tipping point
Has come, we’ll look and know
We’re done.

xxxxxxx

Utilities’ Solar Angst

Utilities are frightened,
They’re starting to run scared.
Solar energy’s becoming
Competition to be feared.

Solar units on more buildings,
Working better, getting cheaper,
For utilities’ own future,
It’s a bottom line grim reaper.

In Washington ‘bout energy,
Hot air and mindless gropes,
While a solar revolution
Circumvents the DC dopes.

xxxxxxx

Global Warming — The Poem

The planet’s on slow boil,
Its temperatures are rising,
You’d think more folks would worry,
Most don’t — which is surprising.

Greenhouse gases are the cause,
Their main source is CO2,
Long trapped methane getting loose,
Adds to this climatic stew

Shrinking ice caps, freaky weather,
Fauna, flora, disappearing
Oceans on more lands intruding,
Wiser heads now feel despairing.

Can we somehow meet the challenge,
Check this global wide assault?
Or just deny the threat is real,
And if it is say: “Ain’t our fault.”

Mike Silverstein’s newest book is Gorilla Warfare Against The Bureaucratic State (Confessions of a Lefty Libertarian)

The Economic Case Against The LNG Project In Philly — And the Case For A Hydrogen Fuel Cell Project With Far Greater Potential by Michael Silverstein

The Economic Case Against The LNG Project In Philly — And the
Case For A Hydrogen Fuel Cell Project With Far Greater Potential
by Michael Silverstein

The noisy protest last Wednesday at a Drexel get-together meant to showcase a proposed LNG production facility in Philly just hints at why this project won’t fly. Future opposition will not just come from a few noisy protestors. Very large, powerful, and well organized local environmental groups will demonstrate against it, and use the media and courts to delay it in a great many ways.

Delays are fatal for this project. The reason is because of what its promoters refer to as “a fast closing window of opportunity.”

There are a number of other places in this country that want approval to build such a facility. The DOE won’t approve them all. Because of opposition, Philly will not be able to fast track a project proposal (fast tracking in this case means dispensing with environmental safeguards) because local opposition won’t let that happen.

The LNG project as the basis for this city’s energy future is thus DOA. This is not only fortunate for the local environment, but for the local economy as well. The LNG project is a chimera. And its down-the-road damage to the city can be summed up in two words: Stranded asset.

The huge current demand for LNG in parts of the world like post-Fukushima Japan and Putin-plagued EU countries will be more than met by some of the dozens of other new LNG producing facilities now being constructed around the world. The current demand bubble from a lack of sufficient supplies will then be followed by a future supply bubble. The first new entrants in this field will sew up the market with 20-year contracts. Latecomers will get the dregs or nothing at all.

There’s nothing unusual or unpredictable about the process at work here. The oil and gas business is always boom and bust, near-term demand that calls forth excess supplies.

A Philly-based LNG producer (if one actually came into existence) would be among the last entering this competition. What we’d end up with then is a very expensive stranded asset – a polluting facility that no longer has a reason to exist. This project’s promoters by then would have moved on to another community with a stressed economy where they would again dangle a promise of local riches and jobs to advance their own short-term goals.

The better energy hub for Philadelphia

There’s another approach here, however, a different future vision, that really does have a huge future potential for Philadelphia, and which could benefit most of the same interests as the LNG chimera. It’s one built around hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cells.

Here it is in brief:

• Marcellus Shale gas is brought into the city via new union built pipelines, and goes to the same PGW facility now tagged for LNG production. This facility, however, is specifically geared to produce hydrogen (already long produced commercially from natural gas), but does so in a leading edge, more cost-effective way with the help of Drexel technologists.

• Part of this hydrogen is liquefied and exported, benefiting the port; another part goes to hydrogen fueling stations in this region, of the sort now just beginning to appear in California to service Toyota’s first mass market hydrogen fuel cell car, the Mirai, only a few of which will be sold this year in California, but will start selling in this region thereafter; PGW produced hydrogen for these vehicles could make PGW a major transportation fuel supplier as well as a home and commercial heat supplier.

• Still another part of this locally produced hydrogen could be feedstock for new hydrogen energy cells and related parts manufacturers, who would naturally be attracted here once the PGW facility is running.

• President Bush in 2003 heralded a hydrogen fuel cell future for electrical generation and transportation. There have been a number of failed efforts to make this happen since then. Advances with this technology and Toyota’s mass market initiative indicate the time has finally come to jump into this field.

• It’s thus exactly the right time when a city like Philly can actually become a world energy leader in a field about to blossom rather than just another energy wannabe follower. This is not a realm susceptible to near-term bubbles, or worries about longer term stranded assets. The world-changing future of hydrogen fuel cells has just begun.

One timing attraction of hydrogen as the basis of a Philadelphia energy hub involves Toyota. This automobile company today and a number of others considering a move into the hydrogen fuel market have no mid-Atlantic focus at present. A hydrogran facility at the PGW site is a perfect attraction for them

And then there’s the almost kismet quality of Sun City’s recent announcement that it is setting up shop in Philly. This company’s president is Lyndon Rive. His cousin is Elon Musk. The family’s business is leading edge energy development. Rive (and his brothers at Solar City) focus on solar energy for the home. Musk focuses on batteries and the Tesla electric car for transportation. Hydrogen fuel cells are the natural “third leg” of the family’s business, the perfect compliment to its present alternative energy home and transportation market activities.

One other important thing is worth noting when it comes to why a hydrogen fuel cell hub rather than a LNG hub is more promising for this city — the environmental angle. Environmentalists would oppose the fracking that brings out Marcellus Shale gas and pollution from related new manufacturing facilities whether a new Philadelphia energy hub is LNG or hydrogen related.

But… while LNG powered transportation is certainly incrementally less polluting than diesel powered, hydrogen fuel cell powered transportation in not just an incremental improvement. It is a revolutionary transformation. Zero emission hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in coming decades literally have the potential to save this planet. That fact could make a big difference in gaining acceptance for hydrogen in Philadelphia’s own economic future.

Here, then, is the deck of factors that could be played to bring into being a flourishing Philadelphia hydrogen-based energy hub:

• It benefits most of the same groups that would benefit from an LNG hub —union construction labor, PGW, Drexel, the Marcellus Shale crowd, etc.

• It would not only attract support from a new Wolf Administration for economic reasons, its zero-emissions angle could defuse some environmentalist opposition.

• The fact that in 2003 a Republican president, George Bush, proposed creating a hydrogen-based energy future could even attract Republican support in Harrisburg for this sort of Philly hub.

• There’s money available from the DOE in Washington for hydrogen energy promotion carried over from this 2003 Bush initiative.

• There’s currently no mid-Atlantic competition for a hydrogen hub the way there is competition for a LNG hub in this region.

• The timing for this hydrogen hub, given not only Toyota’s move into fuel cells cars but other auto makers as well, presents wonderful open ended economic opportunities for this city.

• There’s a Rive-Musk play here that cries out for tapping.

• There’s no rush-or-lose-it, stranded asset fears with hydrogen. It is the long-term future, not an expanding bubble.

I hope you find this analysis interesting. In passing, about me, I’m a former senior editor with Bloomberg’s flagship Markets Magazine.

Michael Silverstein
Philadelphia
April 20, 2015

Endless Stock Market Madness

China’s economy is slowing. Greece is on the verge of default. Corporate profits in the U.S. are slack. The U.S. economy slowed in the last quarter. Interest rates are starting to creep up as the Fed hints it will allow this to proceed faster soon.

All the things that were used to justify past stock market increases are tapering off or turning south. But the stock markets of the world keep going up and up and up.

Why it’s almost as if they are rigged for the benefit of the relatively few who still play there big time. But that couldn’t be so.

Could it?

My new book: Gorilla Warfare Against The Bureaucratic State (Confessions of a Lefty Libertarian)

Why Hillary Shouldn’t Be The Democratic Party’s Standard Bearer

Hillary Clinton outlined her economic policies the other day. They were billed as helping working Americans, giving a boost to the middle class. And they would do that. Sort of.

When you look at her proposals concerning sick leave and minimum wages and equal pay and gender equality generally in the workplace, they look very, very familiar. That’s because some of them have been on the books in countries with advanced economies for more than a hundred years, and are even already on the books of many developing countries today.

On these shores they would indeed make economic life better for many people. Marginally. They would take the edge off some of the additional nastiness and pain so many Americans have experienced in recent years. But they are a palliative, not a fundamental improvement, when it comes to this country’s real economic woes.

That’s because we’ve had an economic coup in our economy. The top one-tenth of one percent have taken control of key economic levers. The result isn’t just that the very top have benefited while the middle has wallowed. Not just a failure of trickle down. The vast enrichment at the very top HAS TAKEN PLACE AT THE EXPENSE OF THE MIDDLE.

We’ve been robbed. A genuine counter-coup, not the equivalent of longer coffee breaks, is needed to redress things.

Hillary Clinton might get the middle class longer coffee breaks. But she’ll never be the leader of a needed economic counter coup. She’s the same old same old, same promises, same travails down the same old unhealthy economic trails.

Democratic voters were conned by our first black president. You want to be conned again by our first woman president? You want to make history again, or do you want to thrive again?

No to Hillary. Been there. Done that. Want better.

Michael Silverstein’s new book:

Profundity Du Jour

Profundity Du Jour

Do things ever really change?

That question came to mind the other day when I happened to hear an old song by the Kingston Trio titled “Merry Minuet.” Written by Sheldon Harnick and recorded by the Kingston Trio in 1958, it was very popular that year. Here’s its opening lyric:

They’re rioting in Africa
They’re starving in Spain
There’s hurricanes in Florida and Texas needs rain.

So has anything really changed in the world since this lyric became so popular more than half a century back? Yes and no.

The world was then, was before then, and is now, full of man-made and natural disasters. So maybe you could say that nothing of consequence ever really changes accept for a few place names and different natural disasters. When you look at the magnitude of comparable events, though, it’s immediately clear that things have gotten very different indeed.

Rioting seems benign compared to the genocides and nutcake religious insanities being perpetrated in the Middle East and elsewhere. The starvation on view in refugee camps in so many places in the world today not only dwarfs hunger in 1958 Spain but worldwide hunger at any time since the end of WWII. As for hurricanes and droughts in Florida and Texas, look at what’s happening now climate change-wise from California to Calcutta.

So what’s really changed since the Merry Minuet appeared? Put it this way. Much more of the same old shit, greatly magnified.

My new book:

Canuting Renewable Energy

Canuting Renewable Energy

King Canute was a silly old coot
When his power he planned to be showing,
With the help of his church he would stand on the beach
Tell the waters: “You gotta stop flowing.”

Fossil fuel kings, and their money church pals
Now stand on the energy shore,
To the sun and the wind and the heat of the earth
They proclaim: “We’ll permit just a bit but no more.”

Canute’s quirky play, to control ocean waves
Just reflected his times’ power thinking,
Today (nothing new) fossil fuel’s power crew
Think their gaming can stop their own shrinking.

Michael Silverstein’s newest book, Gorilla Warfare Against The Bureaucratic State — Confessions of a Lefty Libertarians, is now available from Amazon]

The Big Tent, Or Half-Tent-Plus-One

Big Tent Or Half-Tent-Plus-One

There are two basic views of how a society should be organized that can be the basis of a political system. They are: We’re all in this together; or Us against them.

This leads to two basic political identities. They are: I’m a caring American/Christian/person; or I’m a taxpayer.

Based on these views of how a society should be organized, and how people in this society see themselves, we get two approaches to governance: Generating harmony (the big tent); or Divide and rule (the half-tent plus one).

Today’s leading national proponent of the Us against them, I’m a taxpayer ID, divide and rule approach is Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin. No one has had more success with this approach. By not making things better for anyone but a tiny few people on the top, he has nonetheless managed to squeak out election victories in his home state with a theme that might be summed up this way: People just a little better off than you must be brought down to your level.

Similar successes with this approach are also on view in many other places around the country. In Kansas, for example, a new law prevents folks receiving public assistance from using any of this aid to pay for a movie or go to a swimming pool — deriving relief from the Kansas summer sun in an air conditioned movie theater or swimming pool considered just a sop to “Them” paid for by abused taxpayers.

America seems to be getting smaller every day. The way we’re going, we may soon disappear as a civilized country altogether. Too bad. We once did better.

[This author’s newest book, Gorilla Warfare Against The Bureaucratic State — Confessions of a Lefty Libertarians, is now available from Amazon]

 

Gorilla Warfare

My new book just became available. It’s a real hoot.

A most unusual political memoir: Gorilla Warfare Against The Bureaucratic State (Confessions of a Lefty Libertarian).

This book’s definition of “gorilla” — An individual who takes on hopeless but worthwhile causes; who disrupts (at least for awhile) the machinations of deeply entrenched interests; or who causes a change (at least to some extent) in ossified thinking; and who does these things while wearing gorilla slippers.

The book describes the gorilla’s painful (and often painfully funny) dealings with the solar energy, poetry, environmental, and parking ticket establishments.

About the Author: Michael Silverstein is a former senior editor with Bloomberg News. Over the years his writing has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Atlanta Constitution, Christian Science Monitor, etc. He’s also been a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and Boston Phoenix, and a regular commentator on National Public Radio.

The Greek Election Poem

Interpreting The Greek Vote
by Michael Silverstein

Greeks voted ‘gainst austerity
The EU’s chosen model
After years of giving it a try
Concluded it’s pure twaddle.

Almost all the money borrowed
Just went toward the lenders’ debt
Sure it kept these lenders happy
But Greeks asked: “What did we get?”

Living standards greatly withered
To protect big banks’ safe harbor
Now another haircut’s coming
This one may just trim the barber.

Coming soon: My autobiography…Gorilla Warfare Against The Bureaucratic State