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Confluence of Solar Energy and Hydrogen Fuel Key to Success of Sustainable Mass Transit Systems

Posted May 26 2010 8:00am 1 Comment

Can a transportation system yield happier, more productive people? If it embraces the 3 pillars of sustainability, the answer is an unequivocal yes. The fundamental, fatal flaw of conventional mass transit is the consumption of fuel. Even in nations with vast carbon resources, the price paid per ton of fuel can fluctuate in a capricious market. Such variations make it difficult if not impossible for strained municipal budgets to plan from year to year.

Consumption of any type of fuel involves an expense, does it not? Yes, indeed. However, humanity possesses the technology to migrate to the least costly fuel which also happens to exist on every continent, solar radiation, in varying forms, direct sunlight being the most common.

If we adopt solar energy for mass transit system, the only ongoing cost lies in the method of harnessing and later tapping the power from the sun. Hydrogen, solar hydrogen to be specific, as advocated by noted scientists such as Dr. Roy McAlister, unlocks the potential to embrace all aspects of sustainability, not just environmental conservation, because the costs of using it are a mere fraction of the total cost and impact of fossil fuels.

How, specifically, does solar hydrogen achieve this important goal? The hydrogen is cracked from water during hours of sunshine or blowing winds and stored in large tanks from which the vehicles are fueled. If the hydrogen is compressed sufficiently, it can provide performance and range comparable to liquid fossil fuels.

People – The first pillar of sustainability is people. No successful policy for environmental sustainability can forget people. They are the ones inventing and adopting the green techniques and technologies of yesterday, today and tomorrow which can help preserve the planet for all living things.

People need reliable transportation. The freedom of movement is a basic human right but too many people suffer from poverty of locomotion. What is to be done?

Many mass transit systems operate with government subsidies, most of which are dedicated to purchasing fossil fuels for energy. With a system powered by solar hydrogen, the subsidies can be dedicated to the short-term project of acquiring the technology to produce, store and dispense the hydrogen as well as converting the vehicles to burn hydrogen. Once those steps are complete, the same fare box and advertising revenue which the system generated while burning fossil fuels should be adequate to buy the water to convert to hydrogen and maintenance of the hydrogen production equipment.

In short, the subsidies can end or they can be used to add new routes and increased service.

Planet – It is the unanimous conviction of properly informed government officials of every level in every nation that anthropogenic global warming is real. What is to be done? People still need to move from place to place and earn a living. Converting mass transit systems to solar hydrogen eliminates nearly all pollution from fuel and can reduce urban smog significantly as the tailpipe emissions consist of water and filtered air.

Profit – The effects of the global economic crisis continue to wreak havoc on municipal, provincial and national governments the world over. As commerce slows, the reliance on social obligations by disadvantaged, and even middle class, citizens rises with inverse proportionality. Further complicating matters is the slowing of revenue into government coffers from constricted commerce, leaving less for subsidies to the same mass transit systems upon which even more people rely.

Conventional for-profit mass transit solutions seldom offer permanent solutions as their stockholders demand a steady, positive trend in annual profits. What is to be done? A properly managed mass transit system which uses solar hydrogen for fuel not only can free its benefactors from the need to contribute ongoing subsidies but turn a profit as economies of scale begin to apply and operation of the system is optimized. By reducing the cost of fuel to bare minimum, a new paradigm of profitable mass transit systems with low fares emerges.

In closing, if you are skeptical as to the viability of embracing solar hydrogen for mass transit systems, I invite you to contact me. I will be delighted to connect you with peers of mine who can point you to proven, cost effective technologies which exist today.

Fomenting the Triple Bottom Line

Corbett Kroehler

Comments (1)
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I can't wait till a widespread mass transit system is implemented in the United States. I know I've heard that there are plans to build a number of bullet trains connecting major cities, kind of like the bullet train system they have in Japan, and the EU. That would rock, and as far as solar power goes, I hope our country can move forward with its solar panel plans. I think the recent oil spill in the gulf will put a lot of public pressure on companies to go "green" or more accurately go "clean energy", which will be good.
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