Toyota’s recent annoucement that it will have a hydrogen vehicle on the market for about $50,000 in 2015 (that’s right, five years from now) has much of the auto and mainstream press ga-ga over what some have referred to as the “g-spot” of automotive fueling, meaning hydrogen.
Earth to the uncritical media: Hydrogen doesn’t transpire out of thin air, though you’d be hard pressed to realize this having read coverage of Toyota’s recent announcement in media outlets around the world, from the Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) to the UK Independent to Slate.Com.
Not a single one mentions a crucial fact about hydrogen. Hydrogen, like any other form of auto fuel, currently requires the burning of fossil fuels to produce. That’s right, hydrogen, just like gasoline, just like electricity, has a “long tailpipe”.
In short, hydrogen is only as clean as the form of energy used to produce it.
Yet most of the media coverage I’ve seen of the Toyota announcement has completely ignored this apparently inconvenient fact — it’s inconvenient in the sense that it completely kills the image of hydrogen as a pollution-free auto fuel.
To be fair, not all coverage of electric cars addresses the long-tailpipe issue, and absolutely none of the coverage of gas-powered cars I’ve seen ever addresses the fact that gasoline, through the refining process, also has a long tailpipe (in addition to having a short tailpipe, something electricity, and hydrogen do not have).
Hydrogen, like any other form of auto fuel, requires the burning of fossil fuels to produce. That’s right, hydrogen, just like gasoline, just like electricity, has a “long tailpipe”.
But the “long-tailpipe” is enevitably one fo the the first anti-EV arguments one hears. In other words, if it’s not explicitly addressed, and often it is, it’s always lurking right below the surface. I don’t get the feeling that the same is true in much of the media coverage and conversation I’ve seen of hydrogen.
Why is this?
If you’re going to ask how the electricity used to power electric cars is generated — and you should (indeed, the basic premise of SolarChargedDriving.Com is that EVs ought to be powered by the sun and other renewables, not coal) — you’ve got to ask the same thing about how the hydrogen used to power fuel-cell cars is generated (and you’ve got to ask this about gasoline, too), don’t you?
Yes, you absolutely do. Only it’s not being done — at least not in any of the airy-fairy, uncritical articles below:
Now, that might not be such a big thing, you say, because consumers will ask this question themselves.
I’m not so sure. In fact, I bet if you did a poll about hydrogen and hydrogen cars, the majority of people who “knew” something about them would be under the impression that hydrogen is 100-percent pollution free.
No, it’s not!
If you’re going to ask how the electricity used to power electric cars is generated — and you should — you’ve got to ask the same thing about how the hydrogen used to power fuel-cell cars is generated (and you’ve got to ask the same thing about gasoline), don’t you?
And, even if consumers are smarter than I give them credit for — isn’t it the journalist’s job to ask the question of how hydrogen (and gasoline and electricity) are produced?
The answer is yes, yes, yes!
C’mon media: Do your job and ask the critical, crucial — and obvious — questions you should about hydrogen, and all of the fueling options for automobiles!
If you don’t, you’re doing the public, and the environment, a huge disservice.
Worse, you’re not really practicing journalism. You’re just doing puffy PR for hydrogen and the big car — and big oil — companies. They clearly prefer hydrogen-powered vehicles to electric ones because hydrogen keeps the top-down, un-democratic model of fueling we have now intact.
This is in sharp contrast with the electric car model, which opens the door to potentially completely independent auto-fueling, an option that we — much to Toyota’s, and, especially, Honda’s (there’s no bigger anti-EV, pro-hydrogen car company than Honda) as well as Big Oil’s (the future Big Hydrogen?) chargrin — will be exercising very soon when we solar-charge our own EV.
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