back to article Top US engineer in piss-off-everybody car fuel solution

An American aerospace engineer and tech author has written a book suggesting that America - and with it the rich West - should free itself from dependence on oil, as oil money is the primary driver behind jihadi extremism. Robert Zubrin has an impressive panoply of technical credentials. His first degree was in maths and he …


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  1. Anton Ivanov
    Thumb Up

    He is right on most counts

    During WW2 and immediately after there were quite a few vehicles in Europe that were converted to run on dry distillation from wood. You heat up wood chips and you get a mix of carbon monoxide, methanol, formaldehide and and a few others. Not particularly energy rich, but if you have the choice of "nothing" (as there is no petrol) and this it is quite obvious what you will chose. In theory you can probably capture the methanol from this process and reuse it as fuel while burning off the rest to produce energy. Once again, not particularly efficient, but something that has been done 60 years ago should be doable today.

    As far as the engine "conversion" and compliance this is simply a matter of materials. The only thing that prevents petrol engines from running on "strange" mixtures like this is the choice of materials in the fuel tank, pipework and injection systems. Essentially, there is nothing to "convert" like in an LPG conversion. All that is needed is a couple of simple pipework and seal replacements.

    As far as the Saudis - he has a point. He is presenting it from a slightly biased perspective. There is no such thing as a "right" or "wrong" in the Middle East or Caucasus. Still if on one hand we have the option of interfacing naso-rectally Chaves, King Saud, Kazah, Tadjik dictators or Ahmadinedjad. On the other hand we have the option of trying to get away from this dependency. You have to be an idiot to chose the first one (no comment about our politicians, but hey lobby money is lobby money).

    As far as Opec, sorry Opec is hardly in control nowdays. Even if someone like Carlos manages to succeed tomorrow nothing will change.

  2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Stating the bleeding obvious

    But then lots of FUD. OPEC no longer has the monopoly on the oil market. This was effectively broken years ago. Recent high oil prices have been set by the financial markets. Of course, OPEC countries benefit initially from higher oil prices when selling oil but Iran actually suffers because it has to import refined oil products such as petrol. Inflation in OPEC countries is starting to get unconformtable: cf. article in this week's Economist.

    As for the rest: we cannot sustainably grow enough plants to sustainably produce the energy we require. The reason we use coal is that deforestation and population expansion meant that there weren't enough trees, which provide by far the highest yield of energy per square linguini, to go round. So, either we use less energy, or we find ways of adapting the sun's energy directly for our needs.

    So, either take the piss out of the guy and his book or tell us more about his work on expensive and useless laser guns!

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Economics 101

    Zubrin may know a few things about aerospace engineering but he obviously knows NOTHING about economics, nor does he understand the basic principles behind it.

    Oil CANNOT be replaced by another fuel or energy source until it becomes *economically* more expensive than other energy sources, which is still a long way off. Even at $100 a barrel, oil is still bargain-basement cheap considering the high amount of Joules a liter of oil represents. It's our inefficient usage of oil which is rapidly depleting the oil reservers and drives up costs.

    But as soon as we, the West, decide to switch over to, let's say, nuclear energy and hydrogen, the price of oil will plummet and all this switch will become economically unviable again since other countries, like China, will happily pay for the cheap oil while we produce our products with more expensive nuclear energy.

  4. Simon Ball

    &Anonymous Coward

    To be fair, if the value of all the externalities of relying on oil that Zubrin mentions were included in its price - environmental damage, islamic radicalism, enormous military spending, long-term involvement in dubious regimes - oil might actually BE uneconomic. Zubrin just doesn't seem to frame his argument that way.

    But I have to disagree with the core of his argument. While considerable sums may have been directly diverted into Islamic radicalism, I would say that the majority has been used to bribe the Saudi population into passivity. This has partially contributed to radicalisation by producing a large number of educated young men with absolutely nothing to do, but it has mainly obstructed any move towards political and economic reform in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is totally reliant on oil money, and if the funds are suddenly shut off, the place will probably collapse, creating a turbulent breeding ground for islamic radicalism.

    Unfortunately, at this point, it's too late to disengage with the Middle East - we have to clean up the mess before we can get out.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pork Power

    Reading the comment that methanol the would probably be produced from coal rather than from natural cellulose materials reminds me of the slightly odd situation here in Australia.

    The general hype is that we are running our diesel cars on natural plant based diesel and by doing so we are saving the planet with our highly credentialled vegetarian cars. Not only is it green, it is appreciably cheaper than real diesel.

    The grim reality is that our 'bio' diesel is made out of industrially processed tallow (rendered animal fat). Strictly speaking it is 'bio' but not of the sort your average greenie will feel comfortable using - not to mention those who want their vehicles to be halal, kosher, or even whatever the hindu equivalent is.

    So somehow the industrial economics have made it cheaper - without subsidies - to make diesel from rendered animals rather than from other oil sources such as vegetable oil like canola, or from oil dug up from the ground and shipped from Saudi.

    The only problem with getting your poke from a pig or speed from a sheep is that the car manufacturers won't honour warranties if you fill up with B5 or B20 diesel (5% or 20% bio respectively). They will sanction a B1 to B2 as that is what normal diesel is. To get low supher emissions manufacturers have to process the diesel in a particular way and the only way to get engine life and parts lubrication with the new diesel is to stick in biodiesel in as an additive.


  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Re: Economics 101

    "But as soon as we, the West, decide to switch over to, let's say, nuclear energy and hydrogen, the price of oil will plummet"

    Cool ... where do I sign up for a nuclear powered car?

    Better still, a nuclear powered *flying* car :-)

  7. Andrew Heenan

    Once a bigot, always ...

    ... A Bigot.

    Just because he has all those degrees, and knows a little about energy, does not automatically qualify him as a political commentator.

    He has a great command of 'facts' - but any bigot can select facts that support his bigotry.

    Most of the twaddle isn't worth squabbling about, so let's just demolish his central argument, as any 8-year-old could:

    Of course it's true that Saudi Arabia is the main sponsor of Muslim terrorism. That's no secret. But removing the prime source of cash would not remove the terrorist organizations, or their motivation, or their ability to recruit. There many such organizations that have operated successfully for decades on minimal cash.

    In fact, removing a source of cash simply provides one more motive. The hungry terrorist is often the most committed to his cause.

  8. dr2chase

    Biodiesel from tallow?

    I suppose that qualifies as waste-not-want-not, but it takes a huge amount of corn (fertilizer, and water) to produces a small amount of animal fat. I recall reading that it's so inefficient that if you ride a bicycle, but get the extra calories by eating beef, you'd be better off driving an SUV.

    One good reason for proper flex-fuel vehicles it that it will reduce the barrier to entry for methanol OR ethanol whenever oil prices rise too high, and get the infrastructure in place. The only downside to methanol is that stuff is deadly poison; the wonderful thing about ethanol is that our bodies tolerate it in relatively large quantities.

    A little conservation sure wouldn't hurt, either.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    100 years of investment to protect

    Oil isn't cheap, it's just that there has been 100 years of investment in the infrastructure that makes it appear to be cheap. However, basing an energy policy on the "we've got 100 years of investment to protect" argument will result in major problems.

  10. Fabio Oliveira Schmidt Capela

    80%+ of new cars in Brazil already FlexFuel

    Here in Brazil we have used ethanol cars since the 70s, and since the start of this century most of the new cars sold are FlexFuel ones. We are using it to power even our crop dusters.

    Granted, we produce ethanol from sugarcane, and not methanol from other types of biomass, but at the moment sugarcane has the highest energy output per square yard for our climate, at least among vegetable materials that are already used to produce energy on an industrial scale.

    We also don't subside ethanol production anymore - with over 30 years of industrial scale production to improve the technology, it's already cheaper to run on ethanol than on petrol. The fact that FlexFuel cars can change to petrol or back to ethanol at the drop of a hat also contributes to keep prices low - we have consumer choice and two different industries competing here.

    And, of course, drivers love the fact that running on ethanol, besides being cheaper and greener, gives a 10-20% HP increase :)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Use of current biofuels sources, corn, compete with humans whom selfishly 1- like to eat and 2- like cheap food. Mexicans are currently experiencing high prices/shortages in corn. Current biofuels require non-renewables in their production, making them marginally less polluting than non-renewables alone, although that may be changing. Dr. Z is on to something in that we should be making biofuels from something outside the human food chain. But farmers are remarkably adept at feeding their animals (for slaughter) with roughage from all sorts of stuff outside the "human" food chain. Dr. Z is also on to something that a vehicle should be able to consume any kind of mix you throw into the tank, but that is generally what environmentalists and planners have been saying about energy in general for years. He's simply applying the idea to vehicles. But first, let's trade our Hummer for a Honda.

  12. Graham Dawson

    The hungry terrorist is often the most committed to his cause.

    Which is why nearly all terrorist attacks since the 1970s - what you might call the dawn of modern terrorism I guess - have been carried out or organised by educated and relatively affluent men. I include the IRA in this assessment.

    Poor people can't afford the equipment to blow shit up. It's as simple as that. Remove the funding and you remove the ability to blow shit up. It's as simple as that... the Palestinians weren't able to blow stuff up until they started getting huge funding from Iran and Saudi Arabia, the IRA weren't able to mount effective campaigns until they started getting large monetary donations from wealthy east-coast Americans, and they ceased to be able to do so when those same americans suddenly stopped funding them in the aftermath of 9/11, which forced them to finally acquiesce once and for all to the Good Friday agreement. The Taleban was completely bankrolled by Saudi oil money through Bin laden. The attacks in the Maldives began after Saudi oil money started pouring in to the country through third-parties and "charities".

    Take away the money and the large-scale terrorism stops because they can't afford the equipment to blow shit up.

    It's really that simple.

    But I suppose that makes me a bigot...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ignoring the true issue

    This ignored a point we had reached earlier in the week when Ms Legless promoted veganism as the end-all solution: There's too many of us. We are too many for what is available in resources.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How is production in (non Opec) Iraq doing?

    Well energy efficiency looks like the easiest win to me. When I decided to cut my energy costs, I chose an apartment near my work and near my food. Instead of a 1 hour daily commute and a similar amount of driving each week to the out of town supermarket, I now cycle to work. I walk to the smaller local supermarket, so we can make more trips whenever we fancy something, instead of having to buy a weeks shop ahead.

    My petrol costs went from a tank full every 3 days, to a tank full every 2 or 3 months, with less commuting time giving me more free time. Something like a 600 Euro a month saving.

    So hydrogen generated by solar and nuclear MAY become viable after people reduce their energy costs.

    Oil costs will not plummet, because there is no instant switch from oil to hydrogen. As the price increases, more of the economy will switch to other energy sources, if oil price went down, then that conversion to other sources would slow down in compensation.

    Coal oil sucks, it's very expensive to make (energy expensive) which is why it isn't done on a large scale, sure it may be, but the energy that takes over will be the one that is cheapest, so if hydrogen + nuclear becomes viable at $140 a barrel and coal oil doesn't become viable till $180, then coal oil will never be made.

    As for the idea that shortages are OPEC manipulating the oil market, the worlds biggest army now controls the worlds second largest oil reserve, hows Iraq's oil production going? Face it, we're running out of oil.

  15. Grant

    Methanol is also highly posionous

    Methanol is more posionous than gasoline, that was major reason that Brazil went with ethanol for fuel.

    from a Neurology Residents handbook

    - Highly toxic

    Lethal dose 30-50 ml (0.5 ml/kg)

    Blindness - as little as 10 ml

    (yeah I know that the piracy icon but so appropriate for poison)

  16. Brett Brennan

    It's all 30 years out

    There are really two problems involved with the petroleum issue: getting the energy to run the processes for making the "portable" energy source (ie, gasoline, diesel, propane, hydrogen, batteries, etc.) and the engines themselves and their supporting infrastructure.

    So far, most of the effort and hype are being focused on the latter: the end use of "alternative" fuel/energy sources. However, since these all ultimately rely on processes that require energy for manufacture (grid electricity and industrial process energy for distillation, reforming, steel manufacture, plastics, etc.) solving the end-use problem still leaves the source energy problem.

    It's pretty much a cart-horse conundrum: which do you address first?

    Alas, the power infrastructure that would yield the permanent relief from petroleum and all the related issues will take about 30 years to retool. This is more than simple economics: building a power generation facility from the ground up, whether it's nuclear, natural gas, oil, solar, or what ever, takes about 10 years. Yes, smaller scale plants - like peak demand plants - can be built in less than 5 years, but unless the overall economic infrastructure changes to accommodate these new sources, they won't be available en-mass for at least another 10 -15 years. Same solution - 20-25 years minimum from start to finish.

    So the real problem is starting to address the long-term problems NOW, with legislation that encourages the construction of nuclear, solar, space-based, bio-fuel and "natural" (wind farm, tidal, geothermal) energy sources.

    I'm not saying give up on alt fuels - that can go on as well, to address near-term issues - but until the base energy infrastructure is converted, all we're doing is shuffling the problem around.

  17. The Prevaricator

    The horse that broke the camel's back

    Why worry about upsetting the people in the middle-east by cutting their income, when a company in Dubai has already come up with the alternative-powered transport system we should all have...

    I just love how anybody could seriously think that this would actually work. Still, I'm sure someone said exactly the same thing about petroleum once.

    *rushes to find coat and taxi before heckling commences*

  18. Hugh Sweeten

    New ways to make hydrogen...

    New ways to make hydrogen may be just around the corner. There's an interesting piece over at Dailytech in the auto section titled "Microbial Hydrogen Production Threatens Extinction for the Ethanol Dinosaur". It's too soon to count hydrogen out of the picture. If it can be made on the cheap, it would be a great fuel source.

  19. gollux

    Misuse of Hydrocarbons...

    I remember reading one science fiction author's works where this whole generation on earth is decried as being the stupidest population in the universe for burning up a universally scarce resource. Raw materials in the order of metal ores and ices are universally available from any asteroid, planet or comet you come across, but there are few planets with vast hydrocarbon chemical pools that are more useful as building blocks for organic chemistry than for being burnt as fuel.

  20. Dan


    Juan Enriquez makes some good points about bioenergy in this Ted talk:

  21. Sameer

    Hydrogen Not a great fuel source

    Hydrogen, as Zubrin correctly points out, is a piss-poor energy carrier ... NOT A FUEL SOURCE.

    It doesn't really matter how many myriad of ways you can imagine for hydrogen production. They all take fuel and covert it to hydrogen. It's simply a sign of desperation that the hydrogen hypesters refuse to acknowledge this. Instead, they change the subject to "Microbial Hydrogen Production ..." blah, blah, blah.

    Next headline please.

    Until you find one that defies the laws of physics or one where vast naturally occurring "hydrogen fields" are discovered (that we've inexplicably overlooked until now), it doesn't change the basic fact that hydrogen is not now, nor has it ever been, (nor will it ever be IMO) a fuel source. It's Just a bad carrier.

    That will, of course, not prevent Honda, GM, or any other dishonest corporate entity from capitalizing on this basic misunderstanding to greenwash themselves with a few hundred, "lease only", million dollar FCV's to mollify the masses.

  22. Adam Williamson

    The solution...

    quit driving, quit eating meat and quit making more than one baby each.

    thank you and good night.

  23. Chris G Silver badge

    Clever Bastard

    Zubrin may be a clever bastard but he sounds as though he has a GW style anti ayrab axe to grind there. He does make a lot of good points but misses out on a few things. To arrive at an infrastructure that is capable of providing the west with it's fuel needs via either wood alcohol or bio derived ethanol means we had better start replanting the rain forests and the Sahara desert sometime around twenty years ago and even then there probably would not be enough to power all our needs. It is not just car and truck fuel that oil provides it is also most of the raw material for all the plastic in our lives as well as the energy to produce the plastics. If Zubrin can come up with a laser pistol small enough to fit in my back pocket I'll have one or a light sabre but his alternative energy hasn't used enough of his vast intellect.

  24. Bryce Prewitt

    Did anyone else immediately think of the Delorean from Back to the Future 2...

    ...when he was going on about powering your car from basically "junk and trash"?

    I'm behind any man that advocates time-traveling, flying Deloreans powered on my garbage.

  25. Yorkshire Nationalist

    Nutter or Genius ?

    Nutter? No , eccentric maybe ,

    Genius? His qualifications suggest in certain fields he is .

    He gives much food for thought and lets face it any idea on new energy sources has to be explored. I firmly believe that the energy problem worldwide is much more serious than Governments admit to the public. I also believe that technologies already exist that only the chosen few know about which will if developed and put into production dramatically reduce the worlds dependence on oil . Unfortunately these will only become public knowledge at the last minute as oil is about to run out. Guess who will hold all the patents and production rights ? The oil companies !

    The only reason these technologies are not being used now is that they are more expensive than using up our extremely finite oil reserves .

    In the future the oil magnates will still have us over the barrel , GB and all the world leaders by the balls !

  26. JimC

    Methanol is also corrosive

    of many automotive type matreials, and is generally a pain to deal with...

  27. ma

    methanol yes

    requiring cars to be able to accept various fuels seems to be a good idea and puts pressure on oil to reduce in price. eg methanol could be used in petrol cars and biodiesel in diesel cars. seems like a no brainer, but I hope the critics out there are not going to say I have no grey stuff. I don't think the hydrogen route is at all viable...difficut to store and needs load of electricity to produce.

    from ma.

  28. Tom Sobota

    This guy is full of it, not energy precisely

    I agree with A. Heenan above. This guy's book is not about energy but rather about politics: bigoted, racist and supremacist politics of the kind we seem to find more and more recently. The idea is to kill, maim, ethnically cleanse and displace some people, Muslims in general, while they are being accused of terrorism, suicidal fanatism and disregard for their own life as they attempt a defense or mere survival.

    However I would agree with one thing: he appears to write for some think-tank in Washington that applies "Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues ..." whatever. Well, the "Judeo-Christian moral tradition" approach to the Middle East usually meant doom and suffering for those poor people, starting with the Crusaders and not ending any time soon. So he is only doing what is expected from him and what they pay him for.

    Also, he is so obsessed with Muslims, that he fails to consider the effect of China entering in the energy market.

  29. heystoopid


    But then again will our money masters let the slaves go free to end their dominion without a fight to the death over this ?

  30. Clive Harris

    That's not a nice way to refer to us Australians!

    <<alcohol fuels can mix with water. They dissolve and are readily consumed by common bacteria>>

    We may be common and we may consume vast amounts of ethanol (usually mixed with water) and we may smell a bit, but you shouldn't refer to us as bacteria!

  31. Anonymous Coward

    That boy was dropped on his head in his youth

    Environmentally sound alternate fuel?

    Methanol is highly toxic and processes using it are tightly controlled by OSHA. It causes blindness and other significant physical damage to the body.

    It mixes with water is supposed ot be good? The next 1000 gallon tanker that jacknifes and slides into a river or lake will poison the lake to man, animal and fish. Any drinking water extracted from the lake or river will be toxic.

    The fumes from evaporating methanol, like around filling station pumps or spills on the ground, will cause blindness!

    It is pretty much odorless, especially compared to gasoline, so you won't even know you are being exposed.

    I got nailed by OSHA for missusing methanol in an industrial process so I got to learn all about it's unadvertised down side.

    Maybe used as an adder to gasoline along with ethanol it could lower costs buy surely do not use it as a pure fuel.

  32. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Water power

    If only someone could split water into the oxygen and hydrogen components to power a car.

  33. t

    Water is the solution here

    @Brett Brennan:

    "Alas, the power infrastructure that would yield the permanent relief from petroleum and all the related issues will take about 30 years to retool."

    I'd like to know where you get your figures from, because I'm pretty positive it isn't based on your experience in moving from one energy source to another.


    "Hydrogen, as Zubrin correctly points out, is a piss-poor energy carrier ... NOT A FUEL SOURCE."

    You are correct in stating hydrogen isn't a fuel source as it takes energy to produce it (not much hydrogen found in a pure form on Earth).

    However, it certainly IS NOT a piss poor energy carrier. Hydrogen is a great energy carrier. You clearly haven't heard of nuclear fusion (hydrogen bombs included). How about the fact it is a major component of the fuel source used to launch the space shuttle? It's a better energy carrier than petrol.

    Now we come to the production of hydrogen. The best ways to do this are the most sustainable ways. You can use bacteria, like in the Dailytech story mentioned by Hugh Sweeten. Algae is another good solution:

    The absolute best solution to the transport issue is one that is glossed over because it sounds too good to be true: water-powered cars. This is possible due to discoveries made by an inventor called Stanley Meyer, who worked out a way to massively increase the efficiency of electrolysis (producing hydrogen using electricity). Best of all, you wouldn't need specially treated water (can even use salt water) and the process doesn't pollute, so as long as the electricity used in the process is from renewable resources you have the perfect solution.

    Links here:

  34. NitricJerkSud

    Cellulose Ethanol is a reality...

    Us Canucks have already built proof of concept plants to convert farm waste into Ethanol...

  35. Dick
    Thumb Up

    Styrofoam cups??????

    What a great idea,

    Oil -> Styrofoam -> Methanol

    That'll solve the oil dependency problem.

  36. Chris
    Thumb Up

    Common sense at last...

    Many of Zubrin's comments are spot-on and the rest are worth considering:

    The hydrogen economy is just wishful thinking propogated by airhead green politicians and naive or brown-nosed engineers. At best it's a poor way of distributing and storing energy very temporarily. Would you tolerate a fuel tank that emptied itself as soon as it got warm?

    We do need to distribute and store energy but I'd vote for an oil, like diesel, rather than an alchohol: easier to handle, higher energy density, less tempting to drink and more efficient to use in engines. An optimised diesel or HCCI engine is as efficient as a hydrogen fuel cell.

    The only free source of energy we have is the sun and the only practical energy storage economy is the carbon cycle. Carbon and hydrocarbons are sunshine energy stored by plants. They're not poisonous in themselves, but pumping and digging up too much of yesterday's sunshine is causing our problems.

    I don't know that the Saudi Royals are financing all terrorism but it's worth asking what they do with such mindbending amounts of cash when their religion bans them from earning interest from it. It certainly doesn't seem to be benefiting the average arab or muslim.!

    That leaves only the question of where you get your energy from:- how do you trap the sun's energy and do you need nuclear. With so much of the world's surface being desert, including most of the world's oceans which are unproductive 'wet desert' the answer is pretty obvious.

    As usual the probllem is political, but with the Kremlin now starting to flex it's 'oil muscles' we might have a burr under the backside of the US government that could cause action.

  37. Kim Mason


    For all the lefty loonies who think that this guy is bigoted; it's amazing how lefties develop a massive double-standard when it comes to Arab nations. Since 2001, lefties have developed an enormous blind-spot regarding women's rights, gay rights, and religious freedom in Arabic nations; probably because most lefties hate the West, and thus sympathise with Arabic nations who also hate the West.

    Saudia Arabia is a monstrous country; no rational person who believes in individual liberty can observe that nation and conclude otherwise. Same with Iran. By pumping massive amounts of money into such horrible nations, we're helping them to perpetuate their backwards worldview. If Zubrin is a bigot for stating the obvious, then I'm happy to join the ranks of the bigot. Even though we may not trade directly with Iran, it makes no difference; if we buy our oil from someone else, we are still supporting a high oil price, and as oil is a commodity, Iran will simply sell their oil to other nations for the high price that we are supporting.

    For those who think that 'the hungry terrorist is more devoted to his cause', no he isn't. He's devoted to finding food and bettering his life. It's the middle-class terrorist with time on his hands, available funding, and well-funded institutions who support his crazy world-view who is the danger, and Saudi Arabia produces these in spades.

    Zubrin is right to suggest flex-fuel vehicles. At the absolute worst, using them might increase the cost of new cars slightly. Most likely, it will allow us to diversify our energy sources, which is good for everyone.

  38. E

    @Andrew Heenan

    "Of course it's true that Saudi Arabia is the main sponsor of Muslim terrorism. That's no secret."

    True 'nuff.

    "But removing the prime source of cash would not remove the terrorist organizations, or their motivation, or their ability to recruit. There many such organizations that have operated successfully for decades on minimal cash."

    Not quite the case. Arab & Muslim extremists are motivated by standard nationalism (same thing that drove the Vietnamese insurgency against the French, so many years ago, or in Algeria the first time around, or in India in the 1900s, and same in many other colonial properties), and cloak it in ideology in the standard manner. What drives their appeal and desires is standard issue anti-colonialism: they want the foreigners out. If you're honest and reasonably well informed, you'll have to agree with 'em. Western & Russian control of the middle east has been a disaster for the people living there.

    'Disaster'... some readers might say that it got rid of the Ottomans. Well and good, but the new system put & kept in place the Shah and his torture cells, the Saudis, the Baath party in Iraq, it perpetuated a stasis that prevented political change in Syria, Lebanon, and, yes, Israel. AFAIK, the Ottomans did not apply a scientific approach to torture and infiltration to breaking any and every political opposition. That was *our* innovation in the Middle East, and the west sent a lot of advisors to teach or 'oversee' it's application.

    Removing the western need to interfere would remove the western interference in the politics and governance of the Middle East. Removal of western interference could only serve to lower the political/rhetorical temperature. This can only be a good thing.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    Another way?

    Native Hydrogen is really not a good solution, it is too difficult and dangerous to handle on a mass scale. It requires huge pressures to store in heavy containers, too much energy to compress, or expensive and energy intensive refrigeration to maintain liquid form.

    There is another way of increasing hydrogen density and making it easier to handle - bind with carbon...

    So, find a process to sequester CO2 from the atmosphere and react with hydrogen generated by cracking water with renewable energy to make gasoline or better. It can already be handled by the existing fuel infrastructure and is an efficient and portable energy storage medium.

    Trees have been doing this since life emerged, so let's find a way that reverses the damage we have done and find a way to live sustainably and manage our population, without hacking down the rainforests to create vast and vulnerable diversity-barren monocultures, nor depriving the poor of the food they need for our vanity and comfort.

    Releasing 100 million years worth of stored hydrocarbons in a few decades is going to have consequences. Perhaps when fusion power becomes a reality, oil could be manufactured and put back into the wells for future generations.

    Like flying a jumbo jet by committee, the the human race is probably not collectively capable of dealing with this problem democratically. As individual selfishness and survival rules above all, society will vote for extinction, or go to war and the ensuing hardship will solve demand and overpopulation.

    Take only what you need, replace what you take and leave the world as you found it.

  40. Philip

    @Andrew Heenan

    >>Of course it's true that Saudi Arabia is the main sponsor of Muslim terrorism.<<

    Er, how can you call Zubrin a bigot, whilst simultaneously concurring with his basic premise?

    Zubrin argues from a very simple perspective. End the petrodollar flow to the Middle East, stem or end the Wahabbism that it funds in the West. That's economically sound in my view.

  41. Claus P. Nielsen

    Re: Water is the solution here

    Any "way to massively increase the efficiency of electrolysis" would indeed have to be impressive to make the entire process (including the subsequent burning of Hydrogen and Oxygen into water) more effective than simply using the same electricity to fuel an electric motor.

    So the water is NOT a carrier of energy in that scenario - the batteries that provide the electricity are. The water is simply adding to the weight of the car.

    Hydrogen fusion powered cars are not really realistic yet - and they would probably run on deuterium or tritium anyway. Mixing them up in an argument about the energy density of burning hydrogen is highly misleading - at least as long as you are making your argument to very small children or certain world leaders who don't know any better.

  42. Anonymous Coward

    Iran is INNOCENT stop talking TARDED

    "Iran is now using its petroleum lucre to fund its nuclear program and to insulate itself from economic sanctions imposed on it... This is one of the gravest threats to international peace and stability — and, again, we are paying for it ourselves with oil revenue."

    And this is absolute bollocks.

    The Soviet Union had 40,000 nukes during the height of 'the cold war' and we did not approach them with anywhere near the hysteria that some morons like this man treat Iran. And let us not forget that India and Pakistan both have nukes and we are not frothing at the mouth over them.

    Saudi Arabia may be financing a religious revolution as he describes, but Iran is not; they are a completely different culture to the Arabs, and most educated people know this. They are not even superficially similar.

    I am sick and tired of this pointless, knee jerk, warmongering Iran bashing. Iran has been the victim of genocidal crimes; all due to the curse of oil. They are, like other states in the region, simply trying to protect themselves from the venal, racist, war criminals that control the west.

  43. Chris Coles

    Create a new OPEC from the major users, rather than as before, from the producers

    The price of oil was inflated by a group of oil producers who created a cartel called OPEC, Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. So why not turn the tables and close the free market for oil and creat an new organisation called OPIC; Organisation for Petroleum Importing Countries and then set a price OPIC will accept as realistic and refuse to buy at any higher price?

    A free market is where any purchaser is free NOT to purchase.

    Yes, for a while, we would have to live without oil while the exporters tried to exploit the new market by refusing to sell. But every market has its price. In the end, they either give up exporting or accept the price.


    Yes, it would give the likes of China the potential to buy the production and hold us to ransom. Any middle man with deep enough pockets can try and hold the rest of us to ransom.

    Food for thought?

  44. Smell My Finger

    The Man is an Arse

    Clearly a man dealing in such absurd simplicities needs a seat in the Bush government urgently. I have never heard such an intelligent man talk such utter balls in my life. Nothing in his argument actually stands up to scrutiny; it certainly wouldn't take Noam Chomsky to refute every argument, point by point. The man is an Imperialist knob of the very highest order as he doesn't seem to think that the people of the Middle East have any point of view worth listening to, they're just a problem that needs curing with made up technology. The man is a bigot and a fool.

  45. Perpetual Cyclist

    You ain't seen nothing yet.

    This guy is right about one thing. We will be using a lot less petroleum in the future. The global supply of oil peaked in 2006. Biofuels included. 'Conventional' oil supply peaked in 2005. It's all down hill from here, folks. The oil price is now $98.90, (still hasn't hit the third digit) but it ain't going down. Ever. The world demand is currently 88million barrels/day. Supply is 85 million barrels and falling. Nobody knows how fast the supply decline will be, (anything from 25 to 5% decline per year) but in a world where the entire economic model is predicated on indefinite exponential growth of everything, including energy, it spells one thing - global economic collapse. There isn't enough arable land in the world to grow biofuels for all our cars. In fact, without fossil fuels, there isn't enough arable land to feed us all. Tough one that, especially for Africa. Oil represents 39% of the world's primary energy supply. There is nothing that replace it in anything like the quantities we use.

    Of course, the US dollar is tanking, and the 'real price' of oil is not rising quite so fast for us Europeans, but that will change. Once we get in a real bidding war in a few months time, it will be a case of the price rising until somebody can no longer afford it. And that very well could be you. Already large parts of the third world (Nepal, Zimbabwe, Burma, Bangladesh etc) are facing real fuel shortages. Soon it will be Western countries. Expect rationing within five years.

  46. Anonymous Coward

    So, alchohol can save the world?.. El Reg readers didn't know that already?*

    * OK, 10 pints of Old Peculiar may not save the world but it makes it look a hell of a lot better (if a bit wobbly).

  47. Philip
    Jobs Halo

    @Anon Coward re. Iran

    >>Saudi Arabia may be financing a religious revolution as he describes, but Iran is not<<

    So that won't be Iran that's bankrolling and missile-ing-up Hizballah in Syria and Lebanon, then - nor providing men and materiel to Iraqi insurgents. Oh no. Not at all.

  48. Philip
    Jobs Halo

    @Anon Coward re. Iran

    >>Saudi Arabia may be financing a religious revolution as he describes, but Iran is not<<

    So that won't be Iran that's bankrolling and missile-ing-up Hizballah in Syria and Lebanon, then - nor providing men and materiel to Iraqi, insurgents. Oh no. Not at all.

  49. Anonymous Coward

    What about the non-saudi oil

    The real problem isn't all the Wahabi's getting oil money to sponsor their exploits, it is the Texan's getting oil money and sponsoring GWB.

  50. Chewy

    @Kim Mason

    Yes and I suppose the Iranians should be grateful for having the Shah forced upon them by the US/UK when they already had an elected government. Speaking of which the US is proposing the next leader of Iran be a man who is related to the Shah.

    How very patronising of you to assume that all lefties automatically side against the west. I'm well aware that the enemy of my enemy isn't necessarily my friend.

  51. Andrew Heenan

    Zubrin argues from a very simple perspective?

    "Take away the money and the large-scale terrorism stops because they can't afford the equipment to blow shit up. It's really that simple. But I suppose that makes me a bigot..."

    No, but it does suggest you are poorly informed. If you look a little wider into terrorism - including virtually all the bombs within the US, you'll find no international sponsor.

    BTW, Stating the fact that Saudi Arabia is the source of many terrorism dollars is not bigotry, it's simple honesty; the evidence, for those who choose to look, has been widely available for many years.

    But saying that fact is not the same thing as using that info to launch an anti-Muslim broadside. THAT's bigotry. And that's what he's doing.

    Bush-ites are scared to confront Saudi (as is the Brit government); fomenting against ALL Muslims is a cowardly and stupid workaround. If this guy REALLY cared about the issues he claims to care about, he'd be arguing that bombing Saudi Arabia would be much more effective than bombing Iran; both routes are pretty bloody stupid, but if you want to bomb, as the RAF used to say, pick the right target. But bigotry is cheaper, I guess.

    I find it sad the the 'war on terrorism' [sic] seems to have just two fronts; fostering anti-Muslim sentiment and demonising Cuba, neither of which is likely (in my oh so humble opinion) to achieve peace. Or anything else.

  52. Anthony
    IT Angle


    We could just bomb the Middle East until they a) run out of oil or b) hand it over.

    I think the problem with applying any pseudo-religion to science is that you shouldn't. Once you stop pretending that God cares about your (lack of) oil you can get on with actually solving the problem of your (lack of) oil.

    Obviously the greenest of fuels and arguably the greatest is Soylent Green Biomass. Reinstate stem cell research and use the rest of the foetus to power you car. Win Win.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The utter evil of the Saudi regime has been known and acknowledged for years.


    How representatives of such a regime could be even accepted into the UK at all, let alone treated with respect, makes my blood boil. And we sell arms to these "people".

    There can be no doubt that oil money funds Muslim terror, just as there is no doubt that the USA finances the Israeli atrocities against Palestinians.

  54. Sir Runcible Spoon

    @Bryce Prewitt

    I think you'll find the flying delorian still ran on petroleum, it was the time circuits that required the 1.21 Gigawatts of power from "Mr Fusion" :)

    </sad geek>

  55. Dan Paul
    Thumb Up

    @ Andrew Haveland-Robinson


    Thanks for an intelligent comment and not degenerating the comments.

    Your answer, "Bind with Carbon" is nearly correct. I have worked with Praxair on projects to utilize the waste gas from refineries using catalytic methods to change the long chain waste materials that are offgas byproducts into usable methane. The raw material & energy input comes from the waste gas usually seen burning in flare towers at refineries. This reduces CO/CO2 AND unburned hydrocarbon emissions. Unfortunately, this is not renewable energy, only conversion of emissions from an existing fossil source.

    A similar process can be used to generate pure hydrogen but the energy balance equation runs towards the negative side.

    The fact remains that we need to use the resources we have more wisely.

    Strange that no one mentioned better public transportation and or rail transportation in any of the comments. These would have the greatest immediate impact on energy usage worldwide.

  56. Perry
    IT Angle


    Great debate guys, this proves that the biggest challenges are intimately linked. What are we going to do to solve them?

  57. Anonymous Coward

    @Economics 101

    You're assuming that oil is solely used for fuels.

    You're overlooking lubricants, which will still be required in large quantities when vehicles are predominantly using other materials for fuel. Yes various lubricants contain synthetic compounds these days, but fossil oil is still a primary raw material.

    That and plastic. Petrochemicals - derived from fossil oil - are an integral part of the manufacture of plastic. The world (increasingly China) does and will continue to consume vast quantities of plastics even if less oil is used for fuels.

    To say that oil will go back to 'bargain basement' prices should western civilisations reduce their dependence on it for fuel is utterly ludicrous.

  58. Anonymous Coward


    Is it just me, or has the world forgotten that the process of fermentation which produces ethanol gives off large amounts of carbon dioxide as a bi-product ...

    ... Aren't we were desperately trying to switch to these apparently 'green' fuels to reduce CO2 output?

  59. Anthony

    Oil Be Back

    The biggest challenges are persuading people (the largest renewable source of energy on the planet) to stop using all the fuel up and find a different way to get to work. You can't have your cake and eat it unless you clone it. if they can clone sheep, they can clone oil. Or build a car that runs on snake oil.

    It's a shame that brilliant research requires dollar funding and that the only way to get that funding is by pretending that the Western God is frowning on the dark-skinned heathens and their <whatever it is they have today that we want>

  60. Sameer

    come on ...


    Uhm, just stating hydrogen is NOT a piss-poor energy carrier doesn't make it true, and you back it up with wikipedia and youtube references? Seriously?

    In fact it is.

    Best case scenario, the electrolysis / fuel cell cycle is only 25% efficient ... not counting energy lost compressing the hydrogen, storage losses (hydrogen is so small it leaks out of any container you put it in), or transportation of the hydrogen By comparison most battery chemistries will give you back 85-95% of the electricity used to charge them, i.e. 85-95% efficiency, or roughly 3 to 4x as much as a hydrogen mobile fuel cell.

    In other words, just comparing a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) to a battery electric vehicle (they are essentially the same except one has a fuel cell stack, the other a battery), it takes almost 4 times as much electricity (regardless of source) to go a mile in an FCEV than a BEV, and the FCEV currently costs over a million dollars each to make.

    If you're making hydrogen from natural gas or ANY other fuel source, you're much better off, just burning the natural gas or other fuel source in an on board engine. Honda will SELL or lease you a NG Civic, and you don't have to live in California to get it. Flex - fuel vehicles are also widely available and cheap. Try that with the FCX.

    It's the second law of thermodynamics (paraphrasing) that states every time you change an energy's form, you never get out as much as you start with. Hence the problem with hydrogen fuel cells needing a break from the laws of physics in order to make sense.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who's Bollah?...


    >The hungry terrorist is often the most committed to his cause.

    Yes, but his cause is then feeding his family, which we quite like.

    >fermentation (...) gives off large amounts of carbon dioxide

    Yes, but the carbon came from plants and so is neutral.

    Actually, it's slightly better than neutral, because some plant bits that can't be made into ethanol but are also made from atmospheric carbon get ploughed back into the fields.

  62. Alex

    Biomass ethonal production has already begun

    Iogen corp ( ) has a cellulose ethanol mass production demonstration plant in Ottawa, Canada.

  63. John Savard

    Carrier, yes: hoax, no

    Hydrogen may be a poor carrier of energy, but unlike methane, ethyl alcohol, or methyl alcohol, it contains no carbon. So, if you produce hydrogen only by applying electricity (produced by hydroelectricity or nuclear power) to water, you don't contribute to global warming.

    Ending the West's dependence on oil is a laudable goal in itself, but unless Dr. Zubrin thinks global warming is a hoax, if hydrogen is less readily implementable than his proposal, that doesn't make hydrogen a hoax, it just means his proposal is a necessary stopgap.

  64. Anonymous Coward

    @Simon Ward

    "Better still, a nuclear powered *flying* car :-)"

    With ***LASERS***!

  65. A J Stiles

    @Anonymous Coward

    "Is it just me, or has the world forgotten that the process of fermentation which produces ethanol gives off large amounts of carbon dioxide as a bi-product ... ... Aren't we were desperately trying to switch to these apparently 'green' fuels to reduce CO2 output?"

    CO2 is *not* the whole of the problem. Growing plants abstract CO2 from the atmosphere -- and thanks to this nasty Western capitalist concept called private ownership of land, there is a financial incentive actively to replace any plants that grow on any land you own. One molecule of CO2 in the atmosphere becomes one carbon atom in the plant. You get it all back in the end. Balancing chemical equations is just third-year stuff.

    The problem is CO2 originating from carbon-bearing compounds which have been buried underground for millions of years. If we are using them faster than they are being created, then we are putting more CO2 into the atmosphere than there used to be. Of course, Americans seem to think the Earth is only 6000 years old anyway, so they can't be expected to understand this.

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To Mr t, lets discuss the word sucker

    Firstly I see that you have taken the hydrogen discussion out of context, nobody was talking about fusion unless you believe in cold fusion. I could say that CO2 is a great energy source, if only we could extract the zero point energy somehow

    Storage, compression, and generation of hydrogen is always going to make it a poor choice. If we can produce so much 'free' electricity, then why do the fuel conversion ?

    Secondly Believing in Mr Mayers claims is rather foolish (fraud conviction in 1996) and Denny Klein, and what can only be described as revivalist meetings. Don't forget the special form of water HOH

    Do a bit of checking is a good starting point, and there are several descriptions of Kleins presentations, where anybody who asks any intellegent question is ignored, then bullied then simply removed.

    I'm not a troll but I do have difficultys with people who don't have a clue (sorry !)

  67. Rick Brasche


    then with that logic, burning oil is "carbon neutral". because every bit of oil, coal, etc came from animals and plants that absorbed it from prehistoric times.

    If it weren't for volcanic sources, the maximum amount of "global warming" due to carbon emissions by burning every single drop of oil and every scrap of coal would only return the planet to the exact temperatures that the original plants and animals died at. A time when life and evolution was at it's peak. Burning fossil fuels does not create carbon, it simply releases what was already there.

    And life went on splendidly. Me, I have a better solution to petrol problems (assuming I was myopic enough to believe that most petrochemical usage was vehicle fuel, not plastics, chemicals, heating, like another poster mentioned). I'm gonna get myself a nice old Dodge, get the six-pack carburetor, and do my damndest to use up all that nasty evil oil. Then when it's all gone, the snake oil "green" salespeople can all get together and sing Kumbaya, use vines to climb the Empire State Building, and cure pemmican in the streets of New York (or whatever hippy crap was espoused in "Fight Club"...

  68. Jason Haas
    Thumb Up

    Let us not forget biodiesel

    While I will be a stalwart promoter of biodiesel, which I use in my car (my fuel comes from the rogue terrorist state of Iowa!), I believe it is an intermediate fuel, something we use along the way to whatever's next -- cellulosic ethanol, algal biodiesel production, etc. I love to drive with biodiesel in the tank of my VW TDi, and I have comfort knowing it can be made from a variety of stocks and sources. But I know it's probably not going to be the fuel we use in the end.

    But for now, Biodiesel = teh b0mb. (only it's not explosive... making it even more teh bomb!...)

  69. Eduard Coli

    Corporate Dystopia

    There have been many alternative fuel ideas in the last fifty years.

    There have been vehicles that used "alternative" fuels, the Ford Model T first burned ethanol and the US Army has had the Hercules multi-fuel engine that burned almost anything since the sixties.

    The main problem with America and alternative fuels is that fuel is a trust. The trust does not make there money selling oil and gas but by controlling it's distribution. They have many politicians at all levels available to them and many of these profiteers are politicians "serving" in the highest offices in the US.

    Any solution that is going to replace gas is going to have to overcome a powerful corporate lobby or be controlled by it. They are never going to allow an "alternative" fuel that is not subject to their exclusive control.

  70. J
    Paris Hilton

    bloody title

    "Washington DC's premier institute dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy"

    Can it get any worse? Sure it can... It always can.

  71. Peter


    There is also the methane option... and anywhere you have garbage rotting, you'll have methane. And anywhere you have sewage, you'll have methane. Instead of just dumping garbage in a dump, the future may be garbage/sewage composing stations that collect the methane to be used where we use natural gas right now.

    It's probably only a partial solution, but it probably won't hurt.

  72. t

    Water fuel cell follow up

    @Claus P. Nielsen

    "So the water is NOT a carrier of energy in that scenario - the batteries that provide the electricity are. The water is simply adding to the weight of the car."

    But surely the water is acting as a battery rather than a fuel source? Electrolysis is merely releasing the potential energy of the water. If the electrolysis process (and burning of the byproducts) uses less electricity than running the car directly on electric motors then it is worth doing right? This does not break laws of thermodynamics as burning hydrogen+oxygen could be more efficient than electric motors.

    "Hydrogen fusion powered cars are not really realistic yet - and they would probably run on deuterium or tritium anyway. Mixing them up in an argument about the energy density of burning hydrogen is highly misleading - at least as long as you are making your argument to very small children or certain world leaders who don't know any better."

    I was merely irate at the suggestion that hydrogen wasn't a good fuel carrier, and used two (admittedly unrelated) examples to show why this was not the case, i.e. fusion and rocket fuel.


    "Uhm, just stating hydrogen is NOT a piss-poor energy carrier doesn't make it true, and you back it up with wikipedia and youtube references? Seriously?"

    I was trying to give a lighthearted introduction to the subject. Let me guess, when you learn something new you go straight for the 'Advanced' textbooks, right?

    As for the rest of your post, I would agree that pure electric cars are a better solution than waiting for the 'hydrogen revolution' that is always 10-20 years away. However your faith in conventional batteries is misplaced. 85-95% efficiency, where do you get that figure from?

    Also that article you linked to with the "25% efficiency" for hydrogen production actually gave a figure of "75% efficiency", and that's using commercial electrolysis rather than Meyer's method. Also, what happens when hydrogen is created by using algae and the energy of the sun. Where's the environmental impact there?

    Supercapacitors have some benefits over conventional batteries, but how long before we see these in cars? Water fuel cells, building on Meyer's work, can be built now and will run on a relatively low current input. Don't get me wrong, I would rather drive an electric car than a petrol car, but let's consider all our options.

    @Anonymous Coward:

    "Do a bit of checking is a good starting point, and there are several descriptions of Kleins presentations, where anybody who asks any intellegent question is ignored, then bullied then simply removed."

    Looked at, here's the first page I found about this matter...

    Of course there were exaggerations made by Fox News and by Denny Klein (HHO is H2O!). However, the high temperature of the heat tip is not disputed.

    As for your comment on Meyer's fraud conviction, let's look a little further into this...

    "That dream was shattered as Meyer was found guilty of fraud when his Water Fuel Cell failed to impress three "expert witnesses" who decided there was nothing revolutionary about it, rather that it was simply using conventional electrolysis.

    The Sunday Times article also stated that when one of the court experts went to examine the Water Fuel Cell driven car, it was impossible to evaluate because it was not working."

    If you read between the lines you see that Meyer was convicted of fraud because his invention wasn't working when it was assessed and three expert witnesses, who were probably experts in conventional electrolysis, saw the similarities and concluded there wasn't anything special about it. That doesn't mean his discovery doesn't have merit.

    The fact is that the electrolysis technique Meyer discovered had already been demonstrated to work. He had to perform a demonstration to get his patents. More info here:

  73. Frank Bough

    Not the Iran "Problem" Again

    Look, Iran is ZERO threat to the west - they have virtually nothing in common with the wahabi lunatics in Saudi. Pretty much every single problem we have with Iran is caused by the bizarre treatment we dish out to them. It's a fundamentally democratic (albeit depressingly regressive in many ways) society that we constantly interfere with. Both Britain and the US have appalling records of imperialism failure in Iran, and I honestly wonder if our plutocraticic establishent isn't permanently down on the Iranians just out of sheer spite.

    They don't threaten us, they don't threaten Israel, they don't have nuclear weapons, they don't have a hugely powerful military. Just what is out problem with Iran? It can't be as simple as them naming a street after Bobby Sands, can it?

  74. Anthony


    Aren't we all missing the real fuel of the future?

    Faith is completely carbon neutral, even going so far as to have no carbon footprint.

    Putting your trust in God is just like putting petrol in your car.

    And what is stopping is doing this?

    Those people from the Middle East obviously.

    Now.. give me funding.

  75. A J Stiles

    Iran is a problem

    Iran is a problem, but not for the reason you think.

    Any crude oil sold anywhere in the world is, by long-standing international agreement, priced in US dollars. And this means that the USA effectively gets to cream a little bit off every single transaction involving crude oil, anywhere in the world.

    Britain and Europe together buy more crude oil than the USA. If Britain were to join the Euro, most of the crude oil being bought in the world would be being paid for in dollars changed from Euros. And it would make sound economic sense for OPEC to price their oil in Euros rather than dollars (especially as the latter approaches parity with the 50p piece).

    For awhile in the early 2000s, Iran and Iraq did actually begin acting unilaterally and selling oil by the Euro. We all know what happened to Iraq -- and what's about to happen to Iran. GWB doesn't hate Iran for running a theocracy (and, lest we forget, nowhere near as oppressive a theocracy as the USA's own ally, Saudi Arabia) -- because, after all, he is bent on turning the USA into his own kind of theocracy. GWB doesn't hate Iran for enriching uranium -- Iran has managed to enrich just about enough uranium to run the standby light on one TV set for a week, while the USA has enough weapons-grade material to blow up the world several times over. GWB hates Iran for having the temerity to try to cut the USA out of the loop, by selling oil in a way that does not benefit the USA.

    Why do you think that Britain wasn't blackballed from the EU long ago for our general recalcitrance? Because as long as there is oil to be bought, the dim hope of Britain joining the Euro (and, therefore, oil becoming cheaper in Europe) is still worth more than the cost of carrying Britain. If the Continentals manage to develop a viable alternative energy source within the next few years, the UK will, to all intents and purposes, be auctioned off to the highest bidder -- our European neighbours will be unwilling to trade with us, and the USA will be too busy waging war over the last drops of oil.

  76. Shakje

    @Kim Mason

    Silly Kim.

    It has nothing to do with hating the west, in fact there are two situations here, which has apparently confused you sufficiently. Part of the problem is the manipulation of Gaza by the West, and the plight of the Palestinians from Israel.

    The second is funding extremist countries through Saudi oil.

    Stop. Think. Type. Re-read. Think hard. Press post.

    Also, "Growing plants abstract CO2 from the atmosphere", arty plants? oO

  77. Anonymous Coward


    I don't think one needs colossal amounts of electrical energy to produce hydrogen, otherwise they would have had trouble making the Hindenburg and also Honda wouldn't be interested in it.

    Besides, there's always plenty of stuff in about hydrogen production and how it can be seperated from water - and they make it sound so easy.

    So why not?

  78. Anonymous Coward

    It's vs its - the price of cheap education

    ITS = BELONGING OR PERTAINING TO it, UNLIKE "John's" or "Mary's"

    belonging to or pertaining him = his, e.g. his behaviour

    belonging or pertaining to her = her, e.g. her book

    belonging or pertaining to it = its, e.g. its shape

    IT'S = IT IS, a contraction much like "he's a good sport", "she's really tired" etc. "It's a nice day", NOT "Its a nice day" or "its [the West's] fuel needs" NOT "it's fuel needs"

    For fsck's sake, all of you native English speakers who make this mistake, *please* learn this simple point once and for all. And as for the Reg (and other)journalists who all too often display such horrible lack of command of the English language, please consider resigning from journalism. IT'S a disgrace!

  79. Anonymous Coward


    A spelling flame!

    I haven't seen one of those in ages! Not that I disagree with it, but I'm afraid it's pointless. Once people have decided that

    a) it doesn't matter

    b) it's much too hard a rule to learn

    and latched on to the "languages evolve so STFU niib" excuse, comprehensibility and clarity devolve into bestial grunting.

  80. Perry
    IT Angle

    @ Anonymous Coward It's vs its

    What's the ITS angle

  81. Anonymous Coward

    Don't flame him because he speaks the truth.

    I can't believe how PC people are these days. Instead of recognising a threat, you are forcing yourselves to rationalise it into a 'venal', 'murderous' and 'imperialistic' west being to blame. There are no redeeming points to Saudi's ruling tyranny or Amhedinijad's leadership. Anyone need only look at how that female victim of gang rape was treated recently in SA and then had her sentence increased on appealf or trying to get media attention to her cause from the west. If we're quite that terrible I wonder why she came to us to save us from her compatriots?

    Wahabism has been variously linked to most if not all of the terrorist attrocities including the London bombings and its spread across the peaceful muslim world is like a malignant cancer. I'm very pleased that the usual shrill apologists are actually outnumbered these days as people are sick of the fascists in the PC brigade trying to re-educate us that black is white and bending over backwards until our spines snap. People are not innately stupid blank-slates to brainwash as you want and most have sufficient common sense to draw their own, usually correct, conclusions. There is a reason that we support Israel, the US and Australia. We are all on the same side, fighting for our own interests. You don't see Americans or Israelis (so far...) blowing themselves up like cowards on our buses and trains do you? You also seem to equate terrorists with poor desperate people with no future, which conveniently does not explain the UK bombers were all from fairly well-educated comfortable backgrounds. The problem was that they valued their religion higher than human life. This applies equally to all religions, it is just currently symptomatic of the islamic religion because ancient texts, written during barbaric periods of extreme human suffering and draconian punishments like the bible and koran are now being interpretted literally and learned line by line at madrassars/churches the world over when they should be learning skills to support themselves and their familes instead. Like it or not, it is the RELIGION which is the problem, (I speak not only of islam) not the race and it must be eradicated utterly or else seperated so definitively from the running of state and politics as to be rendered pointless and destroyed absolutely. It is of no benefit whatsoever and has all the symptoms of mental illness on a grand scale. Witness people being lashed/locked up/killed over the naming of teddy bears, being gay/female or drawing a few cartoons. Get a grip, for crying out loud! Religious devotion allows you to notionally operate above any law in your mind purely by stating that "God says so". These are not civilised societies as I recognise them, and I am proud to say that I stand on the left and that I've now named my bear Muhammed too :)

  82. John

    Notes on biofuels and hydrogen


    In OZ, biodiesel is being made from waste fats. It's not going to be available in sufficient volumes to replace regular diesel.


    Technology exists for making hydrogen directly from select algae. However, it's very new and probably wants another 20 years. Or more, I call that when I was last at school ('65), fuel cells were the next big thing, and people were talking of powering agricultural tractors with them.

    Multifuel vehicles.

    Orbital Engine Company has the technology and is licencing it for use right now. Browse its company announcements at

    It's true that it's not those three fuels, they cater "We don't have any diesel? Just fill the tank with kero or petrol."

    Hydrogen again.

    Technology exists for storing it absorbed into other materials. Doesn't have to be kept under high compression or very cold.

  83. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  84. Vlad

    Water powered car website taken down?

    Yesterday I was happily reading Stan Meyer's website - but today I can't get to it. I had to use a cached copy on Google instead. Apparently people who advocate this have been known to 'disappear'. I hope that this isn't my last posting....

  85. t

    Follow up


    "Technology exists for making hydrogen directly from select algae. However, it's very new and probably wants another 20 years. Or more, I call that when I was last at school ('65), fuel cells were the next big thing, and people were talking of powering agricultural tractors with them."

    Have a look at this article:

    They are saying it could be as soon as 2010. Of course this success depends on the involvement of governments, so it will not happen within this timeframe, but the goal is certainly achievable in <20 years.


    The sight seems to be back up now.

    In case anyone was wondering how Meyer's invention worked, from Wikipedia:

    "The fuel cell consists of stainless steel plates arranged as a capacitor, with pure water acting as the dielectric. A rising staircase of direct current pulses is sent through the plates at roughly 42 kHz, which is claimed to play a role in the water molecules breaking apart with less directly applied energy than is required by standard electrolysis."

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >In case anyone was wondering how Meyer's invention worked, from Wikipedia:

    "Meyer's claims about the Water Fuel Cell and the car that it powered were found to be fraudulent by an Ohio court in 1996."

  87. david Silver badge

    Odour of petrol

    I don't know what petrol really smells like -- what I mostly smell is the odourents added (like the colourents) so that people don't mistake it for water or some other harmless chemical. The same would be required if some other odourless, colourless poison, like methanol, where used.

  88. Sameer
    Paris Hilton

    Mobile hydrogen FC efficiency is the issue


    No I don't always go to advanced textbooks immediately either, but if I'm trying to prove a point, I don't use other talking heads as source material. Wikipedia does have a place IMO (Youtube, does not), as a source of more valid references. The actual articles there, although sometimes surprisingly accurate, are in reality, little more than opinion pieces that have not been peer reviewed.

    As far as hydrogen fuel cell efficiency, this was calculated from the power mains. Taking one aspect of it (hydrolysis) and stating that IS the efficiency is a typical, uninformed, wikipediea/youtube argument. Look at the link, here's the efficiency in total in best case scenario ... your results may vary but will likely be MUCH LOWER (and no I'm not using Myer's efficiency because: 1. It has not been reproducible and. 2. I can't even find a reliable source that addresses it, much less definitively states it.

    Electrolysis 75%, Liquification 60%, Transport 96%, Bulk storage 97%, Vehicle storage 97%,Mobile Fuel Cell 60%

    Multiply all those efficiencies together and you get the full cycle efficiency ... 0.75x0.60x0.96x0.97x0.97x0.60= 24%

    Again, best case scenario. Now go look up the cycle efficiency of lead acid, NiMH, and Li-ion batteries, the three types used in BEV's today. You'll find (in addition to where I get those numbers) interestingly enough, than the least efficient battery actually uses hydrogen (as a hydride) aka Nickel metal hydride cells.

    As for using algae and energy from the sun, you are talking about unpublished, unverified research (cold fusion anyone?) but let's assume that everything they claim is true. It still doesn't change the equation, it just makes it far worse. They say their efficiency converting light energy to hydrogen energy is about 10%. I think it's safe to say that it is below 11%, otherwise (at these very low numbers) they would have claimed every additional percentage as it would be significant. I'll be generous and go with 11% and compare BEV to FCEV.

    Better end of solar electric panels (from published research in 2005) = 30%


    photoelectric efficiency 30%, Battery charger efficiency 96%, Battery cycle efficiency (worst case) 80%.

    Total efficiency for solar powered BEV = 23%


    Algael photosynthesis of hydrogen 11%, Liquefaction of hydrogen 60%, Transport 96%, Bulk storage 97%, Vehicle storage 97%, Mobile Fuel Cell 60%.

    Total efficiency 3.58%!!!

    In other words it is 6.4 times worse. Practically that means it would take 6.4 hectares of these algael vats to power a FCEV the same distance that you could power a BEV with 1 hectare of land covered with maintenance free photoelectric panels. It's even a worse idea than electrolysis which, by using the same photoelectric panels gives you a total FCV efficiency of 7.3% or more than twice as far as algael generated hydrogen but still less than 1/3 as far as the least efficient solar powered BEV.

    I know hydrogen hypesters don't like to look at the numbers, but that's where the truth lies. Without breaking laws of thermodynamics, or without some entirely new hydrogen source we have inexplicably overlooked so far, it will never make sense because it is a PISS POOR ENERGY CARRIER, much worse than even a technology as simple and old as lead acid batteries.

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