We dispel misinformation, rumour and untested myths – we are the ‘mythbusters’ of the Environmental movement.
1. Myth of the Water Powered Car!!
Myth?? – Whether or not this particular plan will work, I have no idea. However, converting gasoline or diesel engined cars to convert water to hydrogen and burn it as a fuel source, absolutely works. In fact there was a business in Provo, Utah several years ago that did the conversions. I am recalling this from an article, probably in Popular Mechanics or Popular Science from the late ’80′s. A google search for ‘water powered cars’ turns up some interesting articles. Also, I know a farmer in Nebraska who have converted his diesel irrigation engines to use the electric generater which moves the system to also convert water into hydrogen which is directed through the air intake to fuel the engine without conversions which would prevent the engines from running on diesel. They also have a magnetic motor -with no external power source- which has been supplying water to their homes since the 40′s. This was built by his father from plans he had ordered, but Billie no longer remembered from where, nor did he know what had happened to the original plans.
Response- While running a car on water sounds great, the physics of this proposed process make it unlikely that it could actually work. The reason is simple: a gas engine works because the sun’s energy has been chemically converted & stored by plants into a crude fuel that is further refined by additional inputs of energy into a high energy chemical fuel that requires only one small additional input of energy to release a large amount of stored chemical energy. The law of conservation of energy says that the only way to get more energy out of a process than you put in is if there is already a
high level of stored potential energy in the process (like gasoline fuel). Unfortunately, it takes the same amount of energy to separate water molecules into Hydrogen & Oxygen as one would gain from recombining them (energy is conserved), and, worse, there are the usual energy losses due to inefficiencies in the separation & combustion systems. Therefore, according to the law of conservation of energy, it is not possible for a water fueled vehicle to use the combustion process to both power the vehicle and convert additional water into fuel. Remember, in a gas powered vehicle, the engine’s output is used for locomotion & generating a small ignition spark, not actually creating new fuel. Now, if a catalyst could lower the amount of energy required to separate water molecules sufficiently, it would be possible to have a net gain in energy from the separation & combustion systems since there is a lot of stored energy in a water molecule. Given the inherent inefficiencies in all mechanical systems, however, the catalyst would have to have incredible properties to overcome the strong bonds of a water molecule. And it would need to work continuously in near realtime in order to provide a sufficient quantity of new fuel to keep the engine turning. Sounds like a Nobel prize discovery to me – not something that would escape the notice of most of the human race. Still, I’ll look into this a little to see if any progress has been made in high efficiency hydrolysis. (interesting reference at wikipedia here) and:
2. If trapping carbon at the stack is possible, why bother burning woodchips – especially given the environmental problems related to vast scale, short turnover plantation?
Hmm interesting Question.
Because if we are to bring atmopheric carbon dioxide down to levels that provide safe environmental conditions for all
species and ecosystems on earth (which probably requires an atmospheric CO2 level of about 300 pmv compared with the present level of 368 ppmv) we need to remove Gigatonnes of past CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. Probably the only efficient and least impact way to do this is to use plants to absorb the CO2 from the air – and plantations are one way of doing this. We could bury the biomass as a way of storing the CO2 but my guess is that the most economical way to use the biomass is to genrate energy (displacing fossil fuels) and then at properly set up plants extracting the recreated CO2 – which would be in a form that could be injected deep underground into non-leaky ‘storages’ eg. old oil and gas fields (coal seems and deep aquafers are currently being considered too).
You might wonder why we don’t grow trees and just leave them standing? If we grew bushland that would be fine, but we don’t want to cover the world in ecologicaly simplistic plantations. But in any case the quantities of carbon that need to be sequestered are so large that even forest cover over the whole globe wouldn’t provide a big enough store. Most of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere came from underground and that’s where we will have to put most of it before we can fix things up properly. Things have to be feasible in several ways before they happen. They have to be technically feasible AND economically/financially feasible AND strategically AND politically/socially feasible. The trapping of CO2 from flue gases is technically feasible but it is not yet financially feasible because it doesn’t make money and the government hasn’t made CO2 flue trapping mandatory.