Life after Gasoline: Harnessing Hydrogen to Power Cars, and More

Article excerpt

To consumers unconcerned about gas prices, Jeremy Rifkin would like to issue a wake-up call.

Recent data suggest that within a decade or two mankind will have expended more than half of Earth's oil, including known and estimated undiscovered reserves, says Mr. Rifkin, who heads the Foundation of Economic Trends, a public-policy research group in Washington.

"There are three major crises facing the human family, and they're all connected to oil," Rifkin said during a recent Monitor interview. Rifkin cites global warming, the mounting debt of poorer nations that control no reserves, and the Middle East conflict. "All three of these crises will worsen," he says, "when the global oil supply peaks."

The clear alternative to oil is hydrogen, argues Rifkin in his book "Hydrogen Economy."

The idea has seen flurries of political support. The federal government recently announced an agreement with major automakers to speed the development of fuel-cell vehicles. These cells would turn hydrogen into electricity.

Rifkin concedes that hydrogen may not replace fossil fuels as America's primary energy source for perhaps 50 years. But the element's assets, he says, make the transition inevitable. …

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