I know it sounds silly, but has anyone seriously considered simply (in conversation at least) synthesizing the hydrocarbon components of gasoline, removing the necessity of entirely changing the infrastructure?
Most people here seem to be in favor of the hydrogen fuel cell. That's nice and all. But it's not an energy source. The energy would have to be gathered in some way no matter what energy carrier you use. (All energy sources I know of are solar in some way: petroleum is from plants which use photosynthesis to gather the sun's EM radiation, as is ethyl alcohol; solar cells are obvious; the phenomenon we call "wind
" is caused by the sun's EM radiation being absorbed by particles in the air, heating them up and changing their density, causing them to rise, etc; nuclear fission is allowed by the fact that some star
a long time ago was big enough to produce heavy elements like uranium and plutonium in it's center and then after some time and some processes I don't understand, the star ejected the heavy elements into space, allowing the formation of heavy metal deposits on earth [I suppose it's not really solar power, rather stellar power, but close enough]. In any case, my point is that our energy all comes from the sun/stars.)
So in any case, we harvest this solar power, and due to many factors, we must store it. If we were to use hydrogen fuel cells, we would have to harvest the energy and then (I suppose) store it using the electrolysis of water, releasing the oxygen into the air and containing the hydrogen gas.
What I am proposing is that instead of totally eliminating the petroleum energy infrastructure, which would waste many technological advances and equipment, we keep a good portion of it by keeping hydrocarbons as the energy carrier.
Simply put, the main difference would be that instead of having oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico (I live in Texas, that's what I think of when I think oil extraction; that and those little "pumpjacks
" you see here in Texas), you would have solar panels or windmills or nuclear reactors; instead of oil refineries you would have hydrocarbon synthesis plants.
Personally, I like this idea; gas stations, cars, motorbikes, trains, ships, power plants, and all the other parts of the infrastructure could keep their technology and their equipment.
Whereas, if we did something rash like try to convert to hydrogen fuel cells... well, you'd have replace oil rigs etc. with solar panels, etc. as stated above, replace oil refineries with electrolysis plants (I think), replace gas stations with... actual hydrogen gas
stations, replace petrol ICE's with fuel cells, replace gas tanks with hydrogen tanks, and replace various other parts of the infrastructure, etc. (I don't actually have all the data on all the infrastructure changes that would be necessary, but I'm sure there are many.)
The question of course is that of efficiency: given the current infrastructure and the current (or projected to be available within a few decades or so) technologies, would it be more cost effective to change the entire infrastructure and go hydrogen cell? Or would it be more cost effective to change only the initial parts of the infrastructure?
I am not qualified at the moment to answer that question.
Also, as to the "cleanliness" of hydrogen cells (that is, the fact that they emit water, compared to the greenhouse gases emitted by hydrocarbon energy carriers) may be negligible; the costs of cleaning up the atmosphere for the sake of the leafy-fruity plants and the ecologists may or may not outway the savings. As global warming is a heavily debated topic, the idea of basing this decision entirely on the emissions that skeptics say are not dangerous is rather silly, at least from my point of view. Thus, depending on the personality of the decision-maker, emissions may not even be considered a major part of the decision.
Granted of course, after changing the infrastructure for hydrocarbon-synthesis, it would become much easier to slowly progress towards hydrogen cell use, as the energy harvesters would be firmly planted in the infrastructure after some time. If, by then, the emissions caused by hydrocarbon use are proven to be a substantial liability, the transition could then continue on to hydrogen cell use.
Of course, I haven't reached the organic chemistry part in my general chemistry textbook, so I am clueless as to the viability of such hydrocarbon synthesis as I described.
Edit: In response to the original post, my point is that I question the necessity to replace the gasoline engine at all.