My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Whither the Hydrogen Economy for Jamaica

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Whither the Hydrogen Economy for Jamaica

{41:29} Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt:
{41:30} And there shall  arise  after  them  seven  years  of  famine;  and  all  the plenty  shall  be  forgotten  in  the  land  of  Egypt;  and  the famine  shall  consume  the  land; 
{41:31}  And  the  plenty shall  not  be  known  in  the  land  by  reason  of  that  famine following;  for  it  [shall  be]  very  grievous.

Genesis 41 vs 29 – 31

Jamaica, like most countries, is also experiencing the throes of the Global Recession, now confirmed to have been brought on by the bad decision making by Goldman Sachs, an investment and banking firm that sold sub-prime housing loans and created a portfolio of such toxic loans which is offloaded on Banks and mortgage companies. Like a house of cards, the economy of the United States of America is so deeply interconnected that it can easily fall if on card is pulled out. Worse, everyone’s greed pulled them into the money mill and so when the United States of America fell, the rest of the world fell with them.

Reduction in demand in goods from the US also resulted in a reduction in trade and thus the demand for raw materials. Which brings us right back to Jamaica and how we are connected, which is by virtue of Tourism, Bauxite and Remittances all of which are directly or indirectly connected to the American Economy and its demand for such goods and services. Despite this, John Public is not interested in leaving Jamaica, as everything here is nicer, crime not withstanding.

People expect that jobs should be forthcoming in short order and the Government of Jamaica’s JDX (Jamaica Debt Exchange), albeit branded a success and resulting in the required lower interest rates as pointed out by Senator Audley Shaw, Minister of Finance, as stated in the article “JDX ends at 99 percent; Minister says thanks”, published Thursday, February 25, 2010, The Jamaica Observer.

These lower interest rates, albeit facilitating loans and borrowing for export, for which there seems to be a trend for investors looking to capitalize on export as noted by the Jamaica Exporters Association (JEA) President Titus Evans in the article JDX makes exporting more attractive, published Wednesday, April 21, 2010, The Jamaica Observer.

But all this is now halted, as their seems to be a reluctance on the part of JPS Co to liberalize the Energy Sector as stated in the article "Paulwell calls for number portability", published, Wednesday April 21, 2010, Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner which would make it even more attractive to expand businesses by borrowing loans.

With the risk of a double dip recession as expounded by economist Dennis Chung in the article “RISK OF A DOUBLE-DIP RECESSION?” published Friday, September 18, 2009, contributed by Dennis Chung, Business Observer, The Jamaica Observer now obvious from the slower than expected recovery by the United States due to their inability to reduce their dependence on oil which is now rising in price globally, leaves Jamaica vulnerable.

Thus since Energy Sector liberalization is nowhere on the horizon anytime soon, then my prediction of a seven (7) year recovery is pretty much on track based on my rambling from my previous articles. I do so hate it when the trends strongly indicate that I am right yet again.

But there is hope. Already the USA, with engineers in California’s Silicon Valley have begun thinking far ahead into the future without oil and have already come up with practical applicable technology that is not dependent on Fossil Fuels.  The bio-fuels market has already begun to move as stated in the article “'Green' gas and diesel get boost in biofuels grant”, published December 4, 2009 12:33 PM PST, by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech.

With the breakthrough by venture capitalist K.R. Sridar, CEO of Bloom Energy in developing what Leslie Stahl on “60 Minutes”, aired Sunday 21st February 2010 refers to as “the Holy Grail” of Power engineering is a Bloom Power Server, a fuel cell technology that is based on a semi permeable membrane made from pyrolized sand as unraveled my blog article entitled “The Secret of the Bloom Energy Server unraveled - and can be locally Reverse Engineered”.

The Bio-Fuel Industry is being developed by the Americans as a long term strategy to wean the United States of America from its dependence on Corn-based Ethanol. The Bio-Fuel Industry involving fuels such as Anhydrous Ethanol, Methanol, Natural Gas, Methane, Bio-Diesel and Synthetic versions of Fossil Fuels.

The Bio-Fuel Industry in general, specifically as it relates to the production of Anhydrous Ethanol using sewage, and pyrolized organic waste from any organic source as stated in the articles:

1.      Microbes to start making ethanol, Chemicals”, published November 18, 2009 9:52 AM PST by Martin LaMonica, CNET News – Green Tech
2.      Microbe converts sludge into ethanol”, published Friday 11, December 2009, by Martin LaMonica, CNET News – GreenTech
3.      Wood-chip ethanol maker opens plant”, published October 15, 2009 7:50 AM PDT by Martin LaMonica, CNET News – Green Tech
4.      A Forest epidemic turns into Energy opportunity”, published April 7, 2010 2:04 PM PDT by Candace Lombardi CNET News - Green Tech

Ditto for Bio-Diesel:

1.      Gene-altered bugs make biodiesel”, published Wed Jan 27, 1:31 pm ET by, AFP, Yahoo! News
2.      'Green' gas and diesel get boost in Bio-Fuels grant”, published December 4, 2009 12:33 PM PST, by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech
3.      Researchers coax bacteria to make Biodiesel”, published January 27, 2010 3:59 PM PST by Martin LaMonica.

Both must be accelerated. Additionally, it has the benefits of being Sulphur content free, satisfying the requirements of any Diesel vehicles coming to Jamaica.

Further investment in the Oil Refining Industry in Jamaica will only deepen Jamaica’s dependence on Foreign Imported Oil and would be out of step with Jamaica push towards breaking our dependence on Foreign Imported Oil and reducing our Oil Bill before the year 2015 AD.

This is not my opinion, but the advice of British Industrialists such as Sir Richard Branson of Virgin as stated in the article “World Faces Oil crunch by 2015”, published Sunday 14 February 2010, AFP, and the IEA (International Energy Agency) as stated in the article “IEA official warns of shrinking Oil Supplies: Report”, Sunday August 2nd, 9:04 pm ET, AFP, Yahoo! News, 2015 being the year when Peak Oil is slated to Occur.

But albeit all of these things are good and well, John Public, who is not an American, is quick to note that to produce Energy, you have to use Energy from some other source or risk violating the Third Law of Thermodynamics.

Thus where is the Energy coming from to Power all of these contraptions? Granted, in the case of the eSolar plant, some of its own produced Power would suffice, with Fossil Fuel generators initially needed to start the process. But the other projects involving growing plants for fuel such as necessary for the production of Anhydrous Ethanol, bio-diesel and other forms of renewable fuel require Power, be in electrical form or self generated using generators, which is more expensive of course.

Therein lies the dilemma for any local entrepreneur willing to go into the production of bio-fuels: unless you have economy-of-scale as in the case of First Solar as stated in the article “First Solar opens utility-scale Power plant”, published December 21, 2009 6:48 AM PST by Martin LaMonica, CNET News – Green Tech, the production of any bio-fuel will drain land resources and be very expensive without farming subsidies.

This is currently the case in the USA, where farmers have been complaining that the use of corn to produce Anhydrous Ethanol is impractical as it should have long weaned itself of farm subsidies, which should be for farmers only. Even growing algae to feed to fish to produce bio-diesel as stated in the article “PetroAlgae signs deal with Indian Oil”, published November 5, 2009 6:55 AM PST by Candace Lombardi, CNET News – Green Tech

This is going to prove impractical as the fish require processing to make bio-diesel. I suspect that the people involved in these ventures use the excuse that they are not using prime farm lands as well as the fact that the price of oil will rise, making their product which also would have a high pricing point, cheaper by comparison once economy-of-scale kicks in. Simple as that.

But it seems a more long term solution would be to develop low cost long term production of Hydrogen Gas and move society towards a Hydrogen Economy by the development of a catalyst that with Power from Solar, can be used to split Seawater, with the help of a suitable catalyst into Hydrogen and Oxygen.

This product, called Brown’s Gas, can be used in Fuel cells or even traditional Gas turbine generators, such as those designed to use LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) that can Power the above processes and as such is most suitable that using Power derived from Fossil Fuels.

The usage of LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) to Power motor vehicles is nothing new, as this a fuel that is commonly in use in the Dominican Republic. What is even more curious is that is that there is a need for the usage of LPG, as the only market here in Jamaica is for forklifts, which traditionally purchase their LPG gas cylinders for fuel from a LPG Retailer. LPG an alternative fuel to gasoline and diesel that is not only cleaner burning, but also cheaper as well, averaging about JA$50 per liter.

What is new to us Jamaicans is that LPG usage may become more prevalent, if a small local transport company has their way. Challenger Transport Company Ltd (926-6414) is a company more known for the rental of buses and trucks has decided to launch the installation and servicing of such units in Jamaica, after apparently having undergone two (2) years of extensive training of its technicians to be ISO9001 certified to not only offer the installation but the sole maintenance of the units based on the presentation made on “Smile Jamaica Morning Time, aired 8:15am March 16th 2010 on Television Jamaica, a member of the RJR Communications Group.

According to their presentation and a subsequent call to the Marketing Manager, a Mrs. Valere, their system comes with a switch that allows the engine to toggle between using the LPG and the regular vehicles fuel and is compatible with vehicles older than 1986. Albeit nothing new, all the learned John Public can say: why was this not implemented earlier, as the Dominican Republic currently uses this alternative fuel?

Factor in the coming of LNG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) soon to come to Jamaica as stated in the article as stated in the article “LNG for Jamaica a national priority - Manning”, published Friday June 26, 2009, The Friday Gleaner, by Linda Hutchinson-Jafar, Business Writer, The Jamaica Gleaner

Despite the coming of elections in the Peoples Republic of Trinidad and Tobago called by current Prime Minister Patrick Manning,  as stated in articleManning's Big Secret”, published Wednesday April 14 2010, The Daily Gleaner, (CMC) The Jamaica Gleaner has decided to call snap elections at an unknown date after declaration of “no confidence” in his leadership by the opposition UNC (United National Congress).

This in what is being described by the leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad Bissessar  as the worst recession to hit the Twin Island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in years.

Then in the United States of America, there is the Bloom Energy Server, developed by venture capitalist K.R. Sridar, CEO of Bloom Energy on “60 Minutes”, aired Sunday 21st February 2010 is really the star of the show as with time its hefty initial price tag for a 100 KW system mentioned in the report of US$700,000 to US$800,000 for a full setup as stated by the article “Bloom Energy unveils fuel cell of the future”, published Thu Feb 25, 9:01 am ET by Glenn Chapman, AFP, Yahoo! News will come down and make low cost Energy for any application a reality both in the USA and Globally.

For now, low cost Energy is an elusive dream than can be achieved but now can be attained, but if the Bloom Energy Server is anything to go by, even after a critical analysis of its functionality based on oxides as stated in the article “Parsing fact from fiction with the Bloom Energy Box”, published March 1, 2010 11:11 AM PST by Martin LaMonica, CNET News – Green Tech, it still remains the true Holy Grail of Energy and for now is the brightest thing to come out of Silicon Valley.

Thus combining the development of the Bloom Energy Server and the current availability of cheap LNG for Jamaica from both the Twin Island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago as well as LNG from China and the Far East to supply the United States of America, which appears to be the long term plan for the United States of America weaning itself from Oil but keeping the Oil producers happy, may also play into the hands of advocates such as my self, who have some time now been pushing for a Hydrogen Economy

This is a long term bet but a sure bet, if every there was any, as we are alas headed into a period of sever droughts and other strange weather based anomalies based on the phenomenon of Global Warming that are sure to put pressure on Global Food Supplies. Despite such naysayers as Dr. Ulf Bossel in his published paper entitled “Why a Hydrogen Economy doesn't make sense”, published December 11 2006,, states is the inherent “transportation problem” and the inherent energy losses involved in extracting Hydrogen from Natural Gas or Seawater, even if Solar Power is used.

Reasons often bandied about which point to Hydrogen being an inefficient carrier of energy due its storage problems, all that is needed is research to develop a means of extracting Hydrogen in one single step from Seawater. The Government of Italy is putting its faith in Hydrogen, with their construction of a Hydrogen Power Plant, the first and only of its kind as stated in the article “Italy launches first clean hydrogen Power plant”, published August 14 2009, AFP, Yahoo! News MILAN, Italy.

Meanwhile the United States of America still dabbles with Fossil Fuel, its Achilles heel, with President of the United States of America, Senator Barack Obama's attempts at restraining the Oil Industry by having a six (6) month moratorium placed on Offshore Oil Exploration as stated in the article “Obama: End dependence on fossil fuels”, published Wednesday June 2010, By JULIE PACE, Associated Press Writer, Yahoo! News.

Ironically, this is being hamstrung by the very same American Courts, most likely on Big Oil’s payroll as stated in the article “Judge blocks Gulf offshore drilling moratorium”, published Tuesday June 22, 2010 By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, Associated Press Writer, Yahoo! News and confirmed by the article “Big Oil Strikes Back, slams Obama’s drilling plan”, published June 22 2010 by JANE WARDELL and JENNIFER QUINN, Associated Press Writers, Yahoo! News.

To be fair, Dr. Ulg Bossel’s suggestion of adopting an Electron Economy is indeed more easily implemented and desirable, not to mention more efficient and strides have been made in this regard in the form of the Nissan Leaf as described in the article “Nissan Leaf projected to be in the black”, published April 30, 2010 5:44 AM PDT by Reuters, CNET News - Green Tech as well as in the article “Nissan begins limited test-drives for Leaf EV” published June 11, 2010 6:32 AM PDT by Reuters, CNET News - Green Tech.

Now with a noisemaker to make its otherwise stealthy approach have a presence as stated in the article “Nissan Leaf brings the noise”, published June 11, 2010 9:51 AM PDT by Wayne Cunningham, CNET Reviews - The Car Tech blog. It is an all electric car, a car whose potential as a consumer product to attract droves of followers similar to that of Apple and its product cannot be underestimated, as battery powered cars are the future and will be the wave of the future.

Apple Engineers have mysteriously been filing patents to develop Solar powered devices, possibly with the processor of these devices such as the:

1.      Apple iPod
2.      Apple iPod Nano
3.      Apple iPod Shuffle
4.      Apple iMac
5.      Apple Mac Mini
6.      Apple TV
7.      Apple Macbook Air
8.      Apple MacBook Pro
9.      Apple iPad, their latest toy

Possibly from ambient light of even radiation from any part of the Electromagnetic Spectrum via the touch screen display as stated in the article “Apple eyes gadgets with built in Solar panels”, published January 22, 2010 7:46 AM PST by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech and as further asserted in the article “Apple patent bid combines solar with touch Screen”, published June 7, 2010 6:31 AM PDT by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech, thereby in theory eliminating the battery charger from their devices altogether.

This is an impressive leap forward by Apple, and it is hoped that the development of these Solar powered devices will result in a virtual extension of the battery time of these devices, and bring the convenience of self-charging Solar Technologies, long being designed for African countries with limited access to electricity, to Developed countries with consumers willing to pay a premium for technology that basically would cut the tethered electrical cord, still the last relic of an analog era that most devices have yet to free themselves.

With an abundance of Water and sunshine, as well as the availability of LNG and LPG, and the now ecological disaster that is the Deep Horizon Oil Leak, now nine (9) weeks and three (3) days since Tuesday April 20th 2010, when the Oil Rig of the coast of Louisiana exploded, sank and is still spewing its Black Death into the ocean, one is hard-pressed to understand the lack of research into the Hydrogen Economy as the Seven (7) Years of Famine approaches………….

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