The year was 1975 and the Hydrogen Homestead made the news. The homestead project consisted of a two story residence that was heated and cooled using hydrogen, along with hydrogen run kitchen appliances, fireplace, outdoor grill, a dual fueled automobile and farm tractor. Hydrogen for the homestead was produced by solar energy using photovoltaic cells and by electrolysis. What happened??
The first gas crisis in the US since WWII (the winter of 1972-3) sent the US into a panic. That got a lot of people thinking about alternative forms of energy and how to harness it. That’s how innovators like Dr. Billings came onto the scene. When the second gas shortage took place during the summer of 1979, gas prices broke (at least in the Northeast U.S.) $1.00 a gallon for the first time. We now might call those as the good old days, yet a mere twenty years earlier, the price at the gas pump was as low as 19cents a gallon. Fast forward to 2008, when, for many parts of the United States, gasoline topped $4.00 a gallon for the first time, and what was really going on? Profits for the oil industry seemed to be rising daily, while they continued to make us pay at the pumps. That’s where we are still today, 2011.
Despite the fact that we are over 30 years down the road since the last energy crisis, we are still almost totally dependent on petroleum-based fuel. Why is that? We continue to be lulled by the oil companies by them continuing the price cycle, raising the prices as high as they dare to, then dropping the price back a bit claiming it is the diminishing reserves and fuel prices supposedly controlled by the oil cartels. Then repeating that cycle a little higher each year, while they report record profits. Are we consumers that stupid or do we just feel that we have no other alternatives? Electric, natural gas, solar, hydrogen and to a lesser extent ethanol, have failed to make a significant dent in our demand for petroleum-derived gasoline and diesel fuel. One of the main reasons that the oil companies remain as the only game in town, is because they have been so successful at buying up the alternatives or enjoying controlling interests in other technologies, while they tell us that those technologies are not yet out of the laboratory stage and not economically competitive, so we have no choice but to remain their “ENERGY PRISONERS”!! They in our opinion are unscrupulous!
American auto manufacturers that are pursuing alternatives but only because of the pressure of foreign auto manufacturers market competition. Chevy has a dual fuel so called electric hybrid, the VOLT, that they are presently touting, however they also had an all electric, EV1 back in 1990 that had much better range than what they put out today and because it was a lease only, they were able to forcibly recall every one, probably because it was too successful and they destroyed them by crushed everyone of them. Most of the real successful all electric vehicles seem to be from foreign sources except for the TESLA Roadster and Model S. As consumers we need to encourage all-electric, natural gas or hydrogen vehicles on the road, along with alternative-fuel vehicles in some fleets, such as utility company, transit authority and delivery company vehicles. The time has come to help along, for all practical purposes, the demise of gasoline and diesel, in order to remove the strangle hold in our opinion that the oil industry has over our country. That includes routing out those who would continue to hold us as “energy prisoners”!