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Twenty Myths Challenged

Part one of series in response to Amory Lovins'

By John R. Wilson, Ph.D.

Our Preamble

In his recent paper "Twenty Hydrogen Myths", Dr. Amory Lovins, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute addresses some of the important issues regarding the proposed future "hydrogen economy"1. He describes some of the discussion that has occurred as "conflicting, confusing and often ill-informed" and claims that some issues have been raised solely as reasons for not developing a "Hydrogen Economy".

He is right on both counts but his paper adds to the problem by:

John R. Wilson, PhD wrote the following paper in response to Amory Lovin's "Twenty Hydrogen Myths" [Revised as of June 20, 2003]. He recommends reading both documents in parallel.

He is a chemical and materials engineer who founded his own company, TMG/The Management Group in Detroit. John has written for EV World before and advises us that he is wearing his flame-retardent long-johns and invites thoughtful responses.

(a) Failing to address adequately several of the key issues that render hydrogen non-viable as a fuel on both economic and technical grounds6.
(b) Addressing a lot of his favorite issues, many of which have little to do with the viability of hydrogen and
(c) Providing misleading and "conflicting, confusing and often ill-informed" information on some of the issues that he does address.

To add to the confusion, several of the "myths" that he identifies really are myths – but most are not.

This response attempts to correct some of the impressions that have resulted from Dr. Lovins' "Myths" paper. We will depend to some extent on the useful bibliography2 provided by Dr. Lovins and his colleagues while adding some references and notes of our own.

We should note here that Dr. Lovins has a financial and emotional interest in seeing hydrogen succeed as a fuel. His Hypercar concept3 requires hydrogen fuel to meet all of its objectives. Much of the consulting activity of the Rocky Mountain Institute centers on hydrogen.

We should disclose our prejudices, too. The writer has worked with hydrogen intermittently for many years, first in the former coal-gas industry and then in the oil and chemical industries and was involved in the investigation and analysis of several hydrogen-related process developments, fires and explosions. Before that, he learned first-hand about the risks and the difficulties involved in dealing with hydrogen and hydrogen-methane mixtures as fuels by working in the U.K. gas industry just before it transitioned to natural gas. Based on this experience, we consider hydrogen to be a safe and technically viable commodity for industrial use but believe that numerous economic, technical and safety considerations make it non-viable as a replacement motor fuel for public use.

Our papers on hydrogen, including this one, have all been developed at our own expense. TMG now works for its clients on alternate-fuel topics such as coal-based synthetic fuels (including hydrogen), soy-based biodiesel and biomass-to-ethanol technology and assists its clients in making conventional energy vs. alternate energy decisions.

The Responses to the "Myths"

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