Fueling the Hydrogen Economy: Energy Independence Now
Environmentally benign technologies can meet the president's hydrogen plan.
The prophets of doom have again been disappointed by worldwide estimates of proved reserves of oil and gas. We are definitely not running out of oil and gas. In fact, total world oil reserves increased from 1,032 billion barrels (Bbbl) to 1,213 Bbbl, and natural gas reserves from 5,451 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) to 5,501 Tcf over the past year. Even in the United States, proved oil reserves increased from 22.045 to 22.446 Bbbl and proved natural gas reserves from 177.427 to 183.460 Tcf thanks in part to oil reserve additions that exceeded production by 21 percent in 2001, and gas reserve additions that exceeded production by 31 percent in 2001 [see bibliographic references 1 and 2].
Another positive development is that OPEC's share of worldwide crude oil production dropped from 40.5 percent in 2001 to 38.2 percent in 2002 [see bibliographic reference 1]. The latest Energy Information Administration (EIA) report for 2001 , documents year-end proved reserves of 22.446 Bbbl of crude oil, 183.460 Tcf of dry natural gas (after removal of the heavier hydrocarbons beginning with propane), and 7.993 Bbbl of natural gas liquids (i.e., condensate, natural gasoline, and liquefied petroleum gases) .
Furthermore, the latest data suggest that U.S. energy independence will not be a credible concept for a long time, even though President Bush has outlined some strategies to gain this independence, such as conversion of surface transport to highly efficient electromotive drive powered by Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cells that operate at about 180°F. The ideal interim source of this hydrogen, both economically and environmentally, is on-board compressed storage from hydrogen filling stations that use fully commercialized, packaged natural gas steam reforming technology. Of all the currently available options for hydrogen refueling, this has the lowest well-to-wheels emissions of carbon dioxide (CO 2). Moreover, the emissions of conventional pollutants-sulfur and nitrogen oxides, carbon moNO Xide, reactive (non-methane) hydrocarbons, heavy toxic metals, and particulate matter-from this source of hydrogen are negligible .
In regard to energy independence, the United States can deal with this issue in spite of its need for oil imports from the politically unstable Middle East. Since the 1973-74 oil embargo, OPEC has increasingly become a positive force in maintaining a balance between world oil demand and supply and price stability, such as its current $22-$28/bbl price band policy (equivalent to $24-$30/bbl for U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude). The military action by the United States and Great Britain to dismantle the regime headed by Saddam Hussein and his sons should stabilize Persian Gulf oil production.
In any event, the latest oil and gas reserve data  belie the doomsayers and offer hope that the global abundance of the least carbon-intensive fossil fuel, natural gas (atomic hydrogen to carbon or H/C ratio of 4:1) and oil (H/C ratio of 2:1), will give us enough lead time to arrive at a least-cost strategy to transform the global energy system to sustainable and carbon-emission-free technologies . The United States has so far chosen not to tap