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Menopausal Mother Nature

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Hydrogen — The Magical Rainbow Gas

cartoon green hydrogen

If you believe in the tooth fairy or vote Green, you probably believe that hydrogen is the magical rainbow gas that will banish global warming, replace wicked hydrocarbons in electricity generation, fuel tomorrow’s trucks, planes, and heavy equipment, and earn unlimited export income. [bold, links added]

There is one big problem – unlike coal, oil, and gas, there are no hidden pools of hydrogen we can tap.

Every bit of hydrogen has to be manufactured from water or hydrocarbons using huge amounts of energy.

The energy content of liquid hydrogen is about 70% of the energy required to produce it.

Burn it in a combined cycle gas turbine (energy efficiency 50%) and see that energy return drop to around 35%. Use it as a vehicle fuel and see energy efficiency fall even further.

The density of liquefied hydrogen is much lower than that of natural gas – thus the transportation costs will be higher.

And because the tiny hydrogen atom finds any small leak, the safety risks are very high – imagine a road accident involving flammable lithium batteries plus explosive hydrogen gas.

Most hydrogen is made directly from coal, oil, or natural gas and the main process produces hydrogen and … more of the dreaded CO2.

But hydrogen is loved by Big Greens and little children because it has been named in a rainbow of pretty colors: grey, brown, black, green, and blue.

Grey hydrogen comes from natural gas, brown from lignite (brown coal), and black hydrogen is made from black coal (no surprises there).

Green hydrogen is produced by the electrolysis of water using intermittent green energy like solar or wind power.

It requires heaps of fresh water and electricity, neither of which can ever be fully recovered. Every ton of hydrogen uses nine tons of water.

Blue hydrogen is any of the above but the CO2 by-product is stored in carbon cemeteries, making blue hydrogen stupidly expensive.


Viv Forbes, chairman of The Carbon Sense Coalition, has spent his life working in exploration, mining, farming, infrastructure, financial analysis, and political commentary. He has worked for government departments and private companies, and now works as a private contractor and farmer.

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