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Energy Revolution

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Powering Ships On Water

By James Donahue

Everybody knows that water is composed of two parts oxygen and one part hydrogen (CO2). Ironically both substances are volatile gasses that can be burned when separated. But together, as water, they are an effective substance used for extinguishing fires.

Researchers have tinkered with separating hydrogen from water for years. Now it appears that the U.S. Navy is on the brink of achieving a way of turning seawater into fuel and keeping naval ships running indefinitely, without resorting to dangerous nuclear power.

Best yet, researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory have successfully flown a model aircraft on this new fuel. They say that once the method is perfected, they expect the fuel to cost between $3 and $6 a gallon, a price similar to the current cost of gasoline at the pump.

And if the Navy can produce hydrogen fuel at that price, so can private companies. This means the era of carbon-based fuel is nearly over. There is so much sea water in the world there appears to be no limit to the amount of fuel that can be made available to run our ships, trucks, trains, aircraft, cars and factories and heat our homes.

Best of all, the burning of hydrogen and carbon sucks up more carbon dioxide than it produces. In fact, engines operating on hydrogen fuel suck carbon dioxide from the air and the water and burn it as well. In fact, it is the CO2 in our air and in our seas that help make this new process work.

While we are no experts on the physics involved, a naval press release describes the process as: “using an innovative NRL electrolytic exchange module, both dissolved and bound CO2 are removed from seawater at 92 percent efficiency by re-equilibrating carbonate and bicarbonate to CO2 and simultaneously producing hydrogen. The gases are then converted to liquid hydrocarbons by a metal catalyst in a reactor system.”

The process can be used on air but seawater holds about 140 times more carbon dioxide so it is best suited for manufacturing hydrogen fuels. The ocean acts like a sponge, collecting carbon dioxide from the air. 

The mass production of this new green energy promises to be a game changer for a world now battling over the last remaining sources of crude oil, coal and natural gas. Will we move into this brave new world or will the power barons succeed in controlling the political climate and suppress this new technology just as they have other innovative inventions throughout history?