A magazine arrived in the mail the other day from my car dealership – I found it opened up at my breakfast place to a spread about the new hydrogen fuel cell concept car billed as the "Next Generation Mobility" – my son smiled cleverly, "It's my future, Dad."
We have long been awaiting that fulfillment of dream to reality, of a vehicle that only vents water vapour from its exhaust pipe, and here it was in front of me with my morning porridge. Calculating three more years of high school, my youngest son's planning might be pretty good. The company that makes my vehicle has never failed to impress me, beginning with their research and application of re-generative braking energy storage and hybrid gas/electric vehicles. But hydrogen fuel was always the holy grail. The quandry was where to fill up?
The problem, of course, is production and storage. If you want fuel cells produced and hydrogen fuel available, then you need a production centre (electrolysis, or steam methane reforming) and a distribution centre. Many facilities across North America, recognizing the benefits of clean energy, now have specially protected storage areas for storing liquid hydrogen, and some even have the capacity to produce on site. Given that the safety risk of hydrogen can be even lower than that of gasoline, we should be more concerned about our dirty fossil fuel storage (and emissions) at the gas stations in our neighbourhoods.
In my community, misguided citizens and overzealous lobbyists have tried to portray hydrogen as an extreme safety risk for local residents. If you want to create a crisis, like climate change deniers do, you just co-op a gullible media. The latest attempts influenced local reporters and even Star reporter San Grewal to try their best to create an issue over the possibility that Town Council would even consider the concept of hydrogen fueled fork-lifts and trucks at the new Canadian Tire facility in Caledon. I live in Caledon. This project was advertised from the beginning as a high tech, clean energy facility, so the discussion of hydrogen fuel is no big surprise. In fact, it is a welcome proposal.
Hydrogen fuel cell use and even on-site hydrogen production have been taking place at facilities across North America for over a decade with a clean safety record. But the media misinformed and alarmed local residents with headlines declaring "Safety at issue" and "Project poses 'extreme' fire protection risk". Let me assure you that hydrogen fuel cells are far safer than disingenuous reporters and lobbyists.
Imagine energy refueling stations of the future with electricity and hydrogen outlets. They may eventually come to our neighbourhoods as long as we don't let the tiny, enraged mob with torches and pitchforks try to destroy the dream.
My first choice for my young son was the horse and buggy, but we already have enough horse excrement in Caledon. Hopefully, when he buys his first hydrogen fuel cell car, he may even be able to get it filled up close to home. The future will come if we let it.
Skid Crease, Caledon