Mazda Mines Oldest Energy Source

Mazda Mines Oldest Energy Source

February 16, 2005

The Japan Times Online

Mazda Motor Corp. said Wednesday it recently opened a hydrogen filling station near its headquarters in Hiroshima Prefecture for the development of hydrogen rotary vehicles.
The hydrogen station can fuel some 10 vehicles daily, the automaker said.
Mazda conducted the world’s first public road tests of a dual-fuel rotary engine vehicle in October and plans to start selling such vehicles to the public and businesses in two years, it said.
The dual-fuel vehicle runs on either hydrogen or gasoline.
The Japan Times: Feb. 17, 2005

Alternate title (with apologies to James Carville), “It’s the Energy Stupid.”

The physics of energy is straightforward. All life on earth is supported by the flood of energy we receive from the sun. the ongoing thermonuclear reactions in the sun make the sun very hot (duh!) in comparison with the earth. The first law of thermodynamics tells us this cannot persist; heat flows from hot to cold objects. The second law tells us it is a one-way street.

If we were forced to live on the energy in current sunlight alone we would live as hunters and gatherers. We could eat nuts and berries–products of sunlight-driven photosynthesis. We could eat the animals that eat the berries. But there would be no heated homes, no cars to drive, no books, no I-Pods.

We have managed to increases our living standard above the hunter-gatherer level by “mining the past.” The sunlight of long ago grew plants that were transfornmed into dinosaurs that were transformed into oil reserves. We mine and transform that stored sunlight into heat and work to raise our living standards today. You could in principle attach vintage years to the sunlight represented in each drop of oil.

Like any other wine cellar, after you drink all the wine it is gone.

If we can learn to use hydrogen where we now use oil and gas we will be mining the most plentiful, and the oldest, store of energy in the universe.

This is very important stuff. Somehow, we must come up with an additional 10 million barrels of oil per day (the world today uses about 80 MBD; the US about 20 MBD) within the next 10 years just to satisfy the demands created by the growth of China. This is already creating tensions around the world. To do so in the Persian Gulf–the only readily tappable known source–will require $750 billion oc capital spending. Invetors will not rovide the funds unless the Gulf region is politically stable. Translation–somebody’s army is going to be in Iraq for a very long time.

We face a compelling need to increase the productivity of our available energy resources. That includes anything that gives us more GDP and real wages per drop of oil. Any solution that reduces our consumption will help make this happen. We are going to see more efficient lighting systems, hybrid gas/electric vehicles, hydrogen-powered vehicles, and a shift of the composition of GDP to make this happen. It’s time we recognize that using less energy is the same as producing more of it.

We need to view Mazda’s hydrogen program, along with the Honda hydrogen cars, and the Honda, Toyota, and Ford hybrids, as sources of energy, and treat them as such in public policy.

I have no interest in learning first-hand about the life of a hunter-gatherer. Do you?


John Rutledge

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