May 1, 2008
Beit T’Shuvah, Jewish/Arab day schools, Charlton Heston
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Israeli Invention Could Pave Way for Hydrogen Cars," April 25). This is not an answer to transportation needs, as it does not solve the essential problems with converting to hydrogen fuel.
The first problem would be that there are no cars that can operate by hydrogen fuel cell, and it would take an entire generation to build such radically different cars. The investment would be a waste, as it is likely that a more practical carbon nanotube battery technology, making much simpler electric motor cars possible, would be developed long before a hydrogen auto fleet could be built.
Second, the writer errs in stating that hydrogen would be "manufactured." Hydrogen exists. It can be obtained, however, from water. In any case, the thermodynamics defeat the proposal.
Obtaining hydrogen, which always exists in a bound state in nature, takes at least four times as much energy as a liberated H2 molecule would yield on combustion. Then there is the issue that large-scale production of hydrogen fuel would be an unacceptably hazardous operation, as it is extremely explosive and hydrogen can leak out of virtually any containment system, including through steel pipes, creating a highly explosive environment.
Until electric cars become feasible, the best solution to our liquid transportation fuel need is actually a methanol-gasoline (85/15) blend, rather than ethanol (gasohol). M85 takes much less energy input to make, and cellulosic material can be converted much more easily to methanol than it can to ethanol, which would also obviate the use of corn or other foodstuffs.
Marginally arable land can be used to grow cellulose crops, rather than the prized farmland needed for ethanol feedstock. Methanol can also be used to make an excellent diesel fuel, obviating the problem of deforestation in order to plant palm oil crops.
In order to achieve this, America simply needs to mandate at the earliest possible date that all cars made and sold in America should be flex fuel, able to burn either gasoline or M85. Currently we have a small number of E85 (alcohol-based) flex fuel cars.
Mass-produced, the cost would be little more than $100 per car, and even existing cars can be retrofitted, though at a higher cost. As a flex fuel fleet enters the system, the fuel manufacturing and transportation to filling stations is relatively easy.
Cellulosic methanol is also carbon negative, meaning it would decrease CO2 from the atmosphere. The benefits to employment, the trade balance, tax revenue intake and diplomatic, political and military security would be enormous.
Unfortunately, our government has made the two worst decisions: ethanol and hydrogen. The first due to the power of the corn lobby; the second due to science naivete. It is a bipartisan failure.
The book to read on the subject is "Energy Victory" by nuclear physicist Robert Zubrin, Ph.D.
Jarrow L. Rogovin
Hillel Opens Doors
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency article, "Hillel Opens Doors to Non-Jews, Campus at Large" (April 4), has led some readers to conclude that Hillel has shifted its central focus away from Jewish students. Let us be very clear: Our raison d'etre is to foster the identity of Jewish students and to strengthen the global Jewish community. As our mission statement says: "Hillel's mission is to enrich the lives of Jewish undergraduate and graduate students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world."
Our strategic plan calls on us to double the number of Jewish students who are involved in Jewish life and who have meaningful Jewish experiences. Our vision remains "to inspire every Jewish student to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life."
Wayne L. Firestone
Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life
In "Green Endowments Mean Big Returns for Nonprofits" (April 4), Camp Ramah's $36,000 savings from installation of a solar energy system represents a 7.5 percent return not 13.2 percent.
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