Still looking for the holy grail…..

3 08 2013

A radically new way of producing hydrogen fuel from water — one that wasn’t even thought to be possible — has been developed by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder. The researchers think that this new technique/system could pave the way for the mainstream use of hydrogen as a fuel.

The new technique is, essentially, simply an enormous solar-thermal system — sunlight is concentrated on a tall central tower by a large array of mirrors, which heats the tower to temperatures as high as 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, this heat is then redirected into a reactor containing chemical compounds known as metal oxides. As the metal oxide compound heats up, it then releases oxygen atoms, which change its material composition, causing the newly formed compound to seek out new oxygen atoms. With the “addition of steam to the system — which could be produced by boiling water in the reactor with the concentrated sunlight beamed to the tower — it would cause oxygen from the water molecules to adhere to the surface of the metal oxide, freeing up hydrogen molecules for collection as hydrogen gas.”

“We have designed something here that is very different from other methods and frankly something that nobody thought was possible before,” stated lead researcher and CU-Boulder Professor Alan Weimer. “Splitting water with sunlight is the Holy Grail of a sustainable hydrogen economy.”

splitting hydrogen with sunlight

As the researchers note, the key distinction between this new method and previous ones is that the new one makes it possible to conduct two chemical reactions at the same temperature. “While there are no working models, conventional theory holds that producing hydrogen through the metal oxide process requires heating the reactor to a high temperature to remove oxygen, then cooling it to a low temperature before injecting steam to re-oxidize the compound in order to release hydrogen gas for collection.”

When I found this my BS detector went into overdrive…..  Hydrogen is not a fuel for starters, it’s an energy storage strategy, two very different things.  So I contacted Susan Krumdieck for her take on this extraordinary scheme labelled here as “developed” only to be later told “ there are no working models“…..  Susan’s simple response was “Graham Leicester: Knowing but not owning up

That was such a stunning article, I immediately thought of sharing it here….

THE technical term is “uncomfortable knowledge” – that we know but would rather we didn’t. Like the fact that a lake has just formed from ice melting at the North Pole, even as we enjoy our own unusually hot summer.

Any feeling of discomfort need not last long. Our defences rapidly kick in to make things alright (this situation is quite normal, it was worse last year, and so on). The natural thing to do with uncomfortable knowledge is to suppress it.

But there can be unfortunate consequences when that natural human response starts to guide policy. This is what sociologist Kari Norgaard in a fascinating recent book on climate change (Living in Denial) calls “the social organisation of denial”

Actually, we are rather enjoying an unusually hot winter here….  not a frost to be seen, and all the fruit trees think it’s spring…..  thy are all flowering, even some mango trees another Permie told me the other day..!  All due to the northerly winds we are experiencing instead of the more traditional cold Westerlies we normally take refuge from at this time of year.  Live on the land, and I’m afraid denial of Climate Change is just not possible.  Unless of course your name is Len and you won’t even believe the photos of the totally ice free North Pole…..  it seems human capacity for denial and grasping at straws is limitless.  A classic recent example is the financial crisis.  When the Queen asked in November 2008 why nobody had seen it coming, the British Academy told her that “the dangers were indeed foreseen.  but nobody wanted to hear about them”.

Denial, Leicester insists, is a paradoxical condition of “knowing and not knowing”.  It works at a collective level “precisely because it becomes natural, like everyday life, and thus invisible”.  Silence on the subject of climate change should not be interpreted as disinterest.  Norgaard reminds us the root meaning of the word apathy is the avoidance of pain (a-pathos).  Does this mean “no pain, no gain”?

Norgaard discovers a strong cultural dimension to the processes of denial in Norway – a small country with an established sense of itself as humanitarian, egalitarian and environmentally aware. It has a large part of its national identity invested in nature – “the wellspring of Norwegian psyche and spiritual and emotional life”.

The people are proud of Norway’s early environmental leadership – for example former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland’s pioneering work in the 1980s on sustainable development.

Yet at the same time, and over the same period, Norway has grown to become the largest oil exporter in Europe with its much praised Oil Fund the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world. Most oil and gas production is for export (Norway has a highly developed domestic hydro and renewables sector).

Yet the industry also contributes 25 per cent of Norway’s carbon emissions and the country is still struggling to meet its Kyoto targets to reduce them. Norgaard points out that expansion of oil production in the 1990s coincided with the percentage of Norwegians claiming to be “very worried” about climate change dropping from 40 per cent to 10 per cent.

Amongst the tools of Norwegian innocence Leicester tells us, is the oft-heard phrase “Norge Er et Lite Land” (“Norway is a Little Land”).  The Norwegians are a simple and a humble people and there are only five million of them.  What influence can they possibly have?  The “little land” evokes both a sense of tight-knit community and a lack of culpability for the ills of the world says Leicester.  The parallels with Australia are stunning.  We may not be a little land, quite the opposite in fact, but we export huge quantities of coal (as opposed to oil), and at 22 million we may be a larger population, but the [false] argument that we only represent 1% of world emissions is constantly put forward as an excuse to do nothing…

The root cause of our denial is a worry that, no matter how bold our policy statements, we do not really know how to address the predicament we face, so intimately tied to globalisation and seemingly beyond our control.  As we too fail to square that circle in Australia, I wonder what tools of order we will draw on from our own culture to reassure us, and what tools of innocence?  Hydrogen facilities driven by sunlight?  I could not help thinking that the Martian setting used by the artist for his/her impression of what that facility might look like was almost prophetic.  Too little too late.




13 responses

3 08 2013
len gardener

another way to take up space for habitat, if it gets off the ground(oil co’s will block it) it will be yet another tool for corporate and gov’ greed.

people over here put units in their cars to take hydrogen out of water to supplement their fuel us they claim up to 15% benefit, so multiple units more benefit.

so like solar and wind another possible eyesore.


3 08 2013

Len, you don’t know what you’re talkin’ about….

4 08 2013
len gardener

read these song lyrics:

In the year 2525
If man is still alive
If woman can survive
They may find

In the year 3535
Ain’t gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lies
Everything you think, do, and say
Is in the pill you took today

In the year 4545
Ain’t gonna need your teeth, won’t need your eyes
You won’t find a thing chew
Nobody’s gonna look at you

In the year 5555
Your arms are hanging limp at your sides
Your legs got not nothing to do
Some machine is doing that for you

In the year 6565
Ain’t gonna need no husband, won’t need no wife
You’ll pick your son, pick your daughter too
From the bottom of a long glass tube

In the year 7510
If God’s a-comin’ he ought to make it by then
Maybe he’ll look around himself and say
Guess it’s time for the Judgement day

In the year 8510
God is gonna shake his mighty head
He’ll either say I’m pleased where man has been
Or tear it down and start again

In the year 9595
I’m kinda wondering if man is gonna be alive
He’s taken everything this old earth can give
And he ain’t put back nothing

Now it’s been 10,000 years
Man has cried a billion tears
For what he never knew
Now man’s reign is through
But through the eternal night
The twinkling of starlight
So very far away
Maybe it’s only yesterday

In the year 2525
If man is still alive
If woman can survive
They may find

In the year 3535
Ain’t gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lies
Everything you think, do or say
Is in the pill you took today ….(fading…)
Lyrics from

4 08 2013

we only need to wait to 2025 to see the big descent…. on 12 years away.

4 08 2013
len gardener

yes mike,

that’s a distinct possibility, hey? just the end result may not be what people are thinking? be lots of bloodshed and violence as blood lust takes over.

anyhow our hope is the common man will wrest control and care for the planet as it should be cared for.

rapideffect, yes the greedy corporate and gov’ sector think they merrily carry on raping the habitat and the people.


4 08 2013
Terry J Wall (@terryjw7)

New Zealand was on a path not unlike Norway. While a small country with nearly 5 m population, it was going to do its bit. It set up a carbon trading desk using forestry as an initial source (modeled on its proven tree milling rights secured against the land title) to create the NZUnits and the electricity industry was buying them to eliminate future uncertainty. Was looking good until the EU messed up their free units and the carbon price dropped to a level where timber becomes the incentive to grow trees. Strangely with new technology and earthquakes, timber is suddenly in demand again.

4 08 2013

From the people I have talked to about our future problems, the belief that we can continue business as usual is strong. Why, well one reason I think it’s because the problems aren’t effecting them enough yet to realise. And if one doesn’t accept there is a problem, then to them there is no problem.

In time even people who deny the evidence will have no choice but to accept it, since it will be directly impacting there lives…

4 08 2013

I sat here and wrote this and that, then had to simply scrap it all?

All this analysis, gathering of information and data, discussion and never ending massaging of the intellect is at least partly responsible for what got us in this pickle in the first place.

After all, if you take a long view of history, who do you think has caused the greater demage on this planet? Our peasant monk living a life in the forest or the high society interlectual with a head full of stuff? Where do you fit in along this continuum? I must admit I spend way to much time in my head for my own good:-)

My guess is there is a great turning and change is already upon us.

And what should we do? Live a simpler life just because it’s a better life. END OF STORY!

What do you get in return?

Wake up when you want. Maybe fuck all morning if that’s what you want to do. Write some poetry. Potter round the garden for a few hours. Eat some lunch. Take a nap. Play with your kids. Help a neighbor do something. And do it all in good spirit.

And how does one make that happen?

Work like a dog for a couple years. Save everything. Live in a caravan / tent parked in a mates back yard. Buy a cheap block of land in the country (50K) and put your caravan, tent, yurt, or whatever on it and live!!!



p.s LEN – I don’t understand what pulls you back to this site week after week?

4 08 2013

Thanks Glenn……. you do realise much of that land’s in Tara, the Kingdom of Fracking..??


4 08 2013
len gardener

g’day glenn,

there are good people here they just need to come outside their box and comfort zones, lateral thinking along common sense lines will help, we simply cannot be defeatists and sit back and let the human suffering and misery spread until it enters our lives.

we by the grace of God wake up each wonderful morning, an get on with life, we like many others just have to wait until the blade of the doomsayers falls on us.

take care


4 08 2013

I wake up because the SUN comes up….. grace of god indeed…..

4 08 2013
len gardener


dunno about tara mate, we have friends own land out there they deamt of a straw bale home, each to his own, very dry country when no rain, might need 30 acres to run 2 head of cattle if that’s the plan. stick to east of the range my suggestion, by north facing aspected land, 200k north of gympie places like glenwood still have affordable 1 acre blocks, don’t pay asking price, ranges 70x to 90k, lots of bad soil up here scrub country stuff. good stuff to be found by the astute buyer.


7 08 2013

OOOoops. Tara wasn’t my point. More so if you look around and then some more, you can find a ‘cheap’ block of land somewhere in this big country of ours. Sorry bout the misunderstanding.

LEN … I would say we all ‘need to come out of our own box’ as you put it. And that only happens if and when ready.

If you think there is a lack of awareness in the developed world, spend a bit of time in the ‘developing’ world running full steam ahead and you will see how much trouble we are all in.

Civilizations hardly ever ends pretty. So the records tell us.

Let’s hope in the coming descent we can at very least, do it peacefully.



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