The law of unintended consequences in action: Imagine replacing all CO2 emissions with H2O emissions

electrolysis catalyst
Image: Tewodros Asefa A new technology based on carbon nanotubes promises commercially viable hydrogen production from water.

This story, while technically correct, made me chuckle, especially in light of a tweet today by Mashable warmist Andrew Freidman, who was complaining about heat and humidity in NYC. Just think about what it would be like if all those taxis and private vehicles were emitting H2O (as water vapor). – more below.

Rutgers Chemists Develop Technology to Produce Clean-Burning Hydrogen Fuel

New catalyst based on carbon nanotubes may rival cost-prohibitive platinum for reactions that split water into hydrogen and oxygen

NEW BRUNSWICK – Rutgers researchers have developed a technology that could overcome a major cost barrier to make clean-burning hydrogen fuel – a fuel that could replace expensive and environmentally harmful fossil fuels.

The new technology is a novel catalyst that performs almost as well as cost-prohibitive platinum for so-called electrolysis reactions, which use electric currents to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The Rutgers technology is also far more efficient than less-expensive catalysts investigated to-date.

“Hydrogen has long been expected to play a vital role in our future energy landscapes by mitigating, if not completely eliminating, our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Tewodros (Teddy) Asefa, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the School of Arts and Sciences. “We have developed a sustainable chemical catalyst that, we hope with the right industry partner, can bring this vision to life.”

Asefa is also an associate professor of chemical and biochemical engineering in the School of Engineering.

He and his colleagues based their new catalyst on carbon nanotubes – one-atom-thick sheets of carbon rolled into tubes 10,000 times thinner than a human hair.

Finding ways to make electrolysis reactions commercially viable is important because processes that make hydrogen today start with methane – itself a fossil fuel. The need to consume fossil fuel therefore negates current claims that hydrogen is a “green” fuel.

Electrolysis, however, could produce hydrogen using electricity generated by renewable sources, such as solar, wind and hydro energy, or by carbon-neutral sources, such as nuclear energy. And even if fossil fuels were used for electrolysis, the higher efficiency and better emissions controls of large power plants could give hydrogen fuel cells an advantage over less efficient and more polluting gasoline and diesel engines in millions of vehicles and other applications.

In a recent scientific paper published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Asefa and his colleagues reported that their technology, called “noble metal-free nitrogen-rich carbon nanotubes,” efficiently catalyze the hydrogen evolution reaction with activities close to that of platinum. They also function well in acidic, neutral or basic conditions, allowing them to be coupled with the best available oxygen-evolving catalysts that also play crucial roles in the water-splitting reaction.

The researchers have filed for a patent on the catalyst, which is available for licensing or research collaborations through the Rutgers Office of Technology Commercialization. The National Science Foundation funded the research.

Asefa, an expert in inorganic and materials chemistry, joined the Rutgers faculty in 2009 after four years as an assistant professor at Syracuse University. Originally from Ethiopia, he is a resident of Montgomery Township, N.J. In addition to catalysis and nanocatalysis, his research interests include novel inorganic nanomaterials and nanomaterials for biological, medical biosensing and solar cell applications.


The process described above is certainly better and less energy intensive than steam methane reforming (STR) which produces over 100 million tons of hydrogen worldwide every year.

I wrote a paper in college on the topic of replacing gasoline with hydrogen – it seemed a sensible idea then. Now, not so much.

For those that don’t know or don’t recall, the chemical reaction for combusting hydrogen is:


The result of the reaction is water and heat released from combustion, the H2O, unless condensed and trapped, will exit as water vapor into the atmosphere.

When ranked by their direct contribution to the greenhouse effect, the most important greenhouse gas compounds are:

Compound Formula Contribution


Water vapor and clouds H


36 – 72%
Carbon dioxide CO


9 – 26%
Methane CH


Ozone O


Source: Kiehl, J.T.; Kevin E. Trenberth (1997). “Earth’s annual global mean energy budget” (PDF). Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 78 (2): 197–208.  doi:10.1175/1520-0477(1997)078<0197:EAGMEB>2.0.CO;2

The contribution of water vapor ranges far higher than that of CO2.

Imagine in a hyrdogen powered economy, millions of vehicles emitting water vapor from tailpipes instead of CO2.


The panic over temperature from water vapor emissions, which can be double to triple the heat trapping capacity of Carbon Dioxide, would be quite something to watch.

On the plus side trapping H2O is a lot easier than trapping CO2, though in automobiles, would require carrying around all that waste water of combustion, and dumping it when you fuel up, something I have yet to see dealt with in the various Hydrogen powered combustion engines I’ve looked at. Fuel cell systems do better, since they don’t produce much in the way of water vapor, but water is dumped onto the road just the same, where it will evaporate.

Note that this fueling station recently in the news has no provision for waste-water capture:

Linde starts production line for fuel-cell car filling stations

(Reuters) – German industrial gases maker Linde opened what it said was the world’s first production line for hydrogen fueling stations on Monday, in a bid to boost support networks for eco-friendly cars.

Fuel-cell cars, which compete with electric and hybrid vehicles in a race to capture environmentally conscious drivers, use a stack of cells that combine hydrogen with oxygen in the air to generate electricity.

Their only emissions are water vapour and heat, but the technology has been held back by high costs and lack of infrastructure. Fuel-cell cars will go on sale starting at $70,000, and filling stations cost over $1 million to build.

On the back of commercial launch announcements by Toyota and Hyundai and demand in Japan, Linde started up a production facility with an initial annual capacity of 50 stations a year. Until now, it has built them one by one.

The company announced an order for 28 stations from Japanese gas trading company Iwatani, which put the first of its Linde stations into operation near Osaka on Monday, the first commercial hydrogen fueling station in Japan.

We live in interesting times.

From Wikipedia, the criticism of hydrogen powered cars is broad:

In 2008, Wired News reported that “experts say it will be 40 years or more before hydrogen has any meaningful impact on gasoline consumption or global warming, and we can’t afford to wait that long. In the meantime, fuel cells are diverting resources from more immediate solutions.”[82] The Economist magazine, in 2008, quoted Robert Zubrin, the author of Energy Victory, as saying: “Hydrogen is ‘just about the worst possible vehicle fuel'”.[83] The magazine noted that most hydrogen is produced through steam reformation, which creates at least as much emission of carbon per mile as some of today’s gasoline cars. On the other hand, if the hydrogen could be produced using renewable energy, “it would surely be easier simply to use this energy to charge the batteries of all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles.”[83] The Los Angeles Times wrote in 2009, “Any way you look at it, hydrogen is a lousy way to move cars.”[84] The Washington Post asked in November 2009, “[W]hy would you want to store energy in the form of hydrogen and then use that hydrogen to produce electricity for a motor, when electrical energy is already waiting to be sucked out of sockets all over America and stored in auto batteries…?”[85]

The Motley Fool stated in 2013 that “there are still cost-prohibitive obstacles [for hydrogen cars] relating to transportation, storage, and, most importantly, production.”[86] The New York Times noted that there are only 10 publicly accessible hydrogen filling stations in the U.S.[59] Volkswagen’s Rudolf Krebs said in 2013 that “no matter how excellent you make the cars themselves, the laws of physics hinder their overall efficiency. The most efficient way to convert energy to mobility is electricity.” He elaborated: “Hydrogen mobility only makes sense if you use green energy”, but … you need to convert it first into hydrogen “with low efficiencies” where “you lose about 40 percent of the initial energy”. You then must compress the hydrogen and store it under high pressure in tanks, which uses more energy. “And then you have to convert the hydrogen back to electricity in a fuel cell with another efficiency loss”. Krebs continued: “in the end, from your original 100 percent of electric energy, you end up with 30 to 40 percent.”[87] Cox wrote in 2014 that producing hydrogen “is significantly more carbon intensive per unit of energy than coal. Mistaking fossil hydrogen from the hydraulic fracturing of shales for an environmentally sustainable energy pathway threatens to encourage energy policies that will dilute and potentially derail global efforts to head-off climate change due to the risk of diverting investment and focus from vehicle technologies that are economically compatible with renewable energy.”[6]

The Business Insider commented:

Pure hydrogen can be industrially derived, but it takes energy. If that energy does not come from renewable sources, then fuel-cell cars are not as clean as they seem. … Another challenge is the lack of infrastructure. Gas stations need to invest in the ability to refuel hydrogen tanks before FCEVs become practical, and it’s unlikely many will do that while there are so few customers on the road today. … Compounding the lack of infrastructure is the high cost of the technology. Fuel cells are “still very, very expensive”.

UPDATE: another unintended consequence I had not considered – leakage. Keeping Hydrogen gas from leaking is quite a problem due to the molecular size being the smallest. This comment sums it up:

Les Johnson says:

well, using H2 would solve the global warming issue, just not the way intended.

Replacing all auto fuel, and assuming a 10% leakage at surface, H2 will cause global COOLING, by tripling stratospheric moisture, plus destroy the ozone by hydroxyls chemistry…

This is disputed by Warwick 2004, but I find a 1% loss rate of hydrogen to be extremely low. We have 10% to 20% loss rates, per day, of liquid N2. And liquid H2 has a much lower temperature.

This has references to both papers, page 3.

he adds later in a second comment:

This is the Tromp et al 2006 paper that shows that hydrogen leakage woul dbe very detrimental.


The widespread use of hydrogen fuel cells could have hitherto unknown

environmental impacts due to unintended emissions of molecular hydrogen, including an

increase in the abundance of water vapor in the stratosphere (plausibly by as much as∼ 1

part per million by volume). This would cause stratospheric cooling, enhancement of the

heterogeneous chemistry that destroys ozone, an increase in noctilucent clouds, and

changes in tropospheric chemistry and atmosphere-biosphere interactions.

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July 14, 2014 2:27 pm

Obviouosly this is a plot by Big Water.

Ken Hall
July 14, 2014 2:29 pm

Isn’t water vapour 20 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2? Wouldn’t that be bad? MmmmKay?

July 14, 2014 2:32 pm

Nice chemical formula.

July 14, 2014 2:35 pm

Journalists seem to love printing these “scientific breakthrough” stories, but if even a hundredth of them panned out then our energy problems would have been solved long ago.

July 14, 2014 2:36 pm

What is the energy balance for the equation?

July 14, 2014 2:38 pm

This article is hilarious. Water vapor does not have nearly the same lifespan in the atmosphere as CO2 or methane; it’s on the order of days vs. 10s or 100s of years. The contribution of water vapor, emitted from vehicles, would be miniscule (do you have any idea how much water evaporates from the oceans every day?) I’m not saying H2 is the fuel of the future, but let’s get the science right (or at least tell the whole story).
REPLY: No disputing water vapor has a shorter lifetime than CO2, but if it is actively being cycled into the air locally and continuously, the effects will be an increased local humidity. I think you missed the premise at the beginning from the complaint by Freedman – imagine all that extra water vapor in a city like New York. It will have an effect.
It is well known that the heat capacity of air is dramatically higher when it is more humid. Overnight temperatures are significantly affected, which is why deserts have such wide diurnal range in temperature, due to such low water vaopr capacity.
DESERTS ARE COLD AT NIGHT: Because of the lack of water in the ground, and little water vapor in the air, most deserts can get quite cool at night. This is because (1) dry ground does not retain as much heat as moist ground, and (2) water vapor is the most important greenhouse gas, so dry air allows the surface to cool rapidly at night through loss of infrared radiation to outer space.
In fact, it has been calculated that the Sahara Desert actually loses more infrared radiation than it gains solar radiation from the sun. This net loss of radiant energy is balanced by the sinking air over the desert, which warms as it is compressed.
So, increased humidity will mean warmer nights…especially in cities where the concentration of H2O producing vehicles would be high.
addendum: For water molecules the overall average is believed to be 9–10 days.
That is certainly enough time to affect local city climate with increased humidity.

Les Johnson
July 14, 2014 2:38 pm

well, using H2 would solve the global warming issue, just not the way intended.
Replacing all auto fuel, and assuming a 10% leakage at surface, H2 will cause global COOLING, by tripling stratospheric moisture, plus destroy the ozone by hydroxyls chemistry…
This is disputed by Warwick 2004, but I find a 1% loss rate of hydrogen to be extremely low. We have 10% to 20% loss rates, per day, of liquid N2. And liquid H2 has a much lower temperature.
This has references to both papers, page 3.

July 14, 2014 2:39 pm

Hydrogen is an explosive fuel which is difficult to contain. Minor crashes could be disastrous.
[It leaks straight through steel pipe walls also. And through welds. And everything else. .mod]

July 14, 2014 2:40 pm

Oxygen is extremely corrosive. Plans to split water to get hydrogen never mention what they are going to do with the oxygen.

July 14, 2014 2:43 pm

Barium says:
July 14, 2014 at 2:38 pm
This article is hilarious. Water vapor does not have nearly the same lifespan in the atmosphere as CO2 or methane; it’s on the order of days vs. 10s or 100s of years. The contribution of water vapor, emitted from vehicles, would be miniscule (do you have any idea how much water evaporates from the oceans every day?) I’m not saying H2 is the fuel of the future, but let’s get the science right (or at least tell the whole story).
Do you have any idea how miniscule the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is?

July 14, 2014 2:46 pm

All fuels must pass a simple ROI test WITHOUT the distortion of government imposed subsidies and taxes.

July 14, 2014 2:47 pm

If we start using hydrogen gas in quantity we will see leakage at all the transfer points – production, transportation, delivery – just like natural gas. Unlike natural gas hydrogen is a much smaller molecule and leaks much more easily. It is lighter than air, which means it will rise through the atmosphere until it reaches the stratosphere where it will find the ozone layer. Ozone is highly reactive – the hydrogen will react with the ozone forming water vapor – simultaneously depleting the ozone and creating a stratospheric clouds of ice crystals, which I believe has the potential to change the Earth’s albedo, with a whole bunch of unintended consequences.

July 14, 2014 2:47 pm

Thanks for citing your source for the percentages. I’ve never seen one for water vapor that low. The usual range is 60-90% of the greenhouse effect.
Even the 36-72% range given by Trenbreth if correct is such a huge range that one has to wonder about the validity of CO2. All about the feedbacks I guess.

July 14, 2014 2:50 pm

Les Johnson says:
July 14, 2014 at 2:38 pm
well, using H2 would solve the global warming issue, just not the way intended.
Looks like Les has the same concern with much better documentation!

John M
July 14, 2014 2:51 pm

Correct reaction is
H2 + 1/2 O2 = H2O
2H2 + O2 = 2 H2O
Also, fossil fuels make plenty of H2O when they burn. Have to do the math on a per-kJ basis though.
[noted – the equation was a general one for layman, but to be absolutely accurate, it has been updated -Anthony]

Alan Robertson
July 14, 2014 2:52 pm

Burning any hydrocarbon fuel releases H2O.

Les Johnson
July 14, 2014 2:56 pm

This is the Tromp et al 2006 paper that shows that hydrogen leakage would be very detrimental.

July 14, 2014 3:00 pm

Author needs to fix the equation. It should be 2H2 + O2 –> 2H2O + heat.
[done long before your comment -refresh -mod]

July 14, 2014 3:01 pm

I have a perfect solution. Instead of compressing H2, let’s form it around another molecule, where it is easily compressed and dispensed for combustion with air… Like C. Then, two H2 molecules can form around C and take up less space. Even more, try it with C-C-C which can store four H2 molecules. Old diesel engines could be recycled to use the new, eco-frendly H2 molecule formed with green energy (wind, solar; essentially, weather-power). Input weather power and CO2, output the new C-C-C plus four H2, and the oxygen liberated from the CO2 will help the combustion process.

July 14, 2014 3:02 pm

A presentation on hydrogen as a fuel from June 2014 made many if the points raised above.
Hydrogen from electrolysis is not economic, no matter what catalyst is used. There are basic thermodynamic issues.

July 14, 2014 3:02 pm

Barium says:
July 14, 2014 at 2:38 pm
The contribution of water vapor, emitted from vehicles, would be miniscule (do you have any idea how much water evaporates from the oceans every day?)

1. What does this have to do with the warming effect of output water versus output CO2? Let me ask you a direct question. Would you rather have all CO2 emissions be converted into H2O emissions?
2. Yes, we know how much H2O exists in the air from natural sources. That’s why many of us believe that the amount of CO2 being emitted isn’t definitively material.

July 14, 2014 3:03 pm

While natural gas fired power plants produce about half the CO2/MWh compared to coal they produce twice as much water vapor. That’s why NG fired CCPP use lower heating value so they don’t have to count that water vapor heat loss in the stack.

Tom J
July 14, 2014 3:04 pm

‘The researchers have filed for a patent on the catalyst, which is available for licensing or research collaborations through the Rutgers Office of Technology Commercialization. The National Science Foundation funded the research.’
Now wait just a gosh darn minute here! Shouldn’t the taxpayers, who funded this research courtesy of the NSF, partake of at least a wee portion of the royalties if the patent proves successful? What are the taxpayers; chopped liver? It may surprise many people that the lightning rods in use to this very day (to protect our structures from lightning strikes) were designed way back then by Benjamin Franklin (who will probably disappear from our new enlightened American history books). Last time I checked Franklin hadn’t applied to the NSF for a grant through which to pursue the invention of those rods. And he never patented them since he felt that something of important benefit to society should be readily available to all. Now, despite Franklin’s wonderful example with which to follow, I certainly wouldn’t belabor our intrepid researchers for choosing to patent their invention. But, not when they’ve invented it with my damn money.

Rhoda R
July 14, 2014 3:06 pm

I did some research on hydrogen as a fuel when I first heard about it and one of the factors that hasn’t been mentioned yet is that engines running on hydrogen operate at a much higher temperature than engines running on fossil fuels. I lost my source for that info in a house fire so I cannot provide a link at this point.

July 14, 2014 3:06 pm

Electricity will power our future cars quite nicely – the only missing ingredient is a practical battery and I think Japan Power Plus’s cotton battery, due to begin rigorous testing by a Japanese race car company in August, will prove that the battery can do it all. The only issue is likely to be cost – perhaps not a lot cheaper than current li ion batteries, although that may change, since the
components of the battery appear to be fairly cheap and plentiful. Hydrogen has too many
negative issues and is a very complicated way to (basically) use electricity to power the vehicle.

July 14, 2014 3:07 pm

I’m about 97% sure that in cold climates, dropping water onto the frozen pavement might cause a few more accidents too.

July 14, 2014 3:15 pm

Lance, you beat me to the punch. It’s bad enough considering the upper Midwest in winter having each vehicle dripping water on the roads. Now, add hills: Seattle, Tacoma, Butte, Denver, even San Francisco….well, you get the picture. You wouldn’t need snow or any precipitation, just freezing temperatures. No thank you.

Dr Ken Pollock
July 14, 2014 3:16 pm

The crucial point about using hydrogen is that the whole process cannot break the second law of thermodynamics, namely that you cannot get more energy out than you put in. So you have produced a clean fuel of a certain energy value, but you used fuel of a greater energy value to “create” it, so its only merit is storability and portability, compared to the electricity (cleanly generated) that you used to make it.
And if you can’t store it…

Ben Wilson
July 14, 2014 3:22 pm

Actually, for each gallon of gasoline burned, there is about a gallon of water created.
To put it more specifically — a mole of octane (C18H18) weighs 114 grams. It will produce nine moles of H2O, which has a molecular weight of 162 grams. Therefore — the ratio for mass water produced / mass octane burned == 1.42. A gallon of gasoline weighs about six pounds, and will produce about 8.5 pounds of water — or about 1.06 gallons in its liquid form.

Ben Wilson
July 14, 2014 3:23 pm

Uh, the octane should be C8H18. . . . otherwise I think the figures are correct.

Curious George
July 14, 2014 3:23 pm

Please keep your cool This is merely an outline of a new – potentially industrial – process, which ultimately creates water from water while wasting a lot of energy.
There is a small heat-trapping side effect, because the primary water is liquid and the water created by burning hydrogen is a water vapor, a greenhouse gas. Remember that even in Sahara desert an average humidity of the air is 25% (that means that the air is 25% saturated with water vapor, not that it contains 25% of water vapor; in a laundry room – or in a cloud – the air may be 100% saturated with water vapor). We won’t be adding much to those 25% or more Besides, carbon dioxide absorbs some infrared frequencies that water vapor does not absorb; adding more water to a moist atmosphere which already absorbs all that water can absorb will have a minuscule effect if any, and it does not counter any (extremely rare) valid points about the effects of carbon dioxide. Now I’ll use my organism to convert some Scotch whisky to water vapor.

July 14, 2014 3:24 pm

It always makes me wonder about people who advocate using hydrogen as fuel because it is cleaner that fossil fuels. Do they not understand that the hydrogen is to be made by using electricity? Do they not understand that much of the electricity being used is created by burning fossil fuels? The effect of this technology will be to increase fossil fuel use. Oh Boy!

July 14, 2014 3:24 pm

Not that the conversion ratios weren’t mentioned? It takes several watts of power to make a watt of hydrogen. This is why we currently produce hydrogen by breaking down natural gas. The other issue is the big problem with fuel cells is they require a membrane between the oxygen and hydrogen side. All is well unless the temperature drops below freezing. Once it does, the ice crystals puncture the membrane damaging the fuel cell. They have many problems to solve before this becomes more than a rich mans toy.

July 14, 2014 3:25 pm

“Expensive and environmentally harmful fossil fuels”? We mine, and refine, fossil fuels because the process yields a positive profit margin from the substantial chemical potential energy in the raw fuel. The profit margin in H is negative. If the article is about government incentives, it ought to say so. And at least in the capitalist world, we clean up our mess from the mining and burning. The headline is about CO2, but it is environmentally beneficial, a greening agent.
The big, bold equation is idealistic. The LHS should be H + Air. Now what’s on the RHS? Either that, or we have another financial burden to extract O2 from the air.
And “heat trapping capacity of Carbon Dioxide”? Heat is energy in transit. It cannot be trapped. If the energy in transit is stopped, it’s no longer heat.
For Barium @ 2:38 pm: the notion that CO2 is long-lived in the atmosphere is a fiction necessary for the AGW conjecture to work, based three ways on faux physics. (1) The conjecture is that the surface of the ocean is in equilibrium so that the equilibrium carbonate equations apply, creating a bottleneck for CO2 until it is sequestered in deeper layers of the ocean. None of the layers is ever in thermodynamic equilibrium (the only kind of equilibrium of any use in climate). (2) The conjecture is that natural CO2, with over 15 times the flux of anthropogenic CO2, is absorbed as fast as it is emitted, so that the ocean helps the AGW conjecture by penalizing ACO2 but not nCO2. (3) CO2 is absorbed in the ocean according to Henry’s Law, and absorption is dependent mostly on temperature, secondarily on salinity, possibly isotopic weight (TBD), and under the AGW conjecture, water pH (easy to show, but never proved). We don’t have Henry’s coefficients other than in equilibrium, but the absorption is instantaneous on the time scale of climate. IPCC has yet to mention Henry’s Law, and when it popped up in the analysis of the Revelle Factor, IPCC concealed it. The bottleneck is in the ocean surface layer, not the atmosphere.

July 14, 2014 3:26 pm

And what do you get when you burn gasoline?

July 14, 2014 3:27 pm

Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t the combustion in ordinary fuel cars also produce H2O among the exhaust gases?

July 14, 2014 3:32 pm

But, if you are talking a hundred percent humidity, which is what you are looking at on those really hot humid summer days, wouldn’t any more water vapor simply condense out?
Be great in farm land. The dew point would mean the plants would get a good soaking every night.
Now for the perfect unicorn friendly vehicle you’d want technology so efficient that you could fill a car with water, and it would split it into Hydrogen and Oxygen fast enough to fuel the car on the go.

Transport by Zeppelin
July 14, 2014 3:33 pm

Atmospheric water vapour volume, particularly at high altitudes where the radiative effect is greatest, is not determined by either the rate of evaporation from the surface (land & ocean), or in this case, through emissions by vehicle exhaust. It is determined by precipitation systems.
Vehicles emitting water vapour would make no difference to atmospheric volume or to global temperature.

July 14, 2014 3:33 pm

Think heat and humidity in the summer is bad, wait until winter when all that water freezes on the streets and highways!

Tim OBrien
July 14, 2014 3:36 pm

OMG, save us from Dihydrogen Monoxide!!!

July 14, 2014 3:39 pm

wobble says:
July 14, 2014 at 3:02 pm
1. What does this have to do with the warming effect of output water versus output CO2? Let me ask you a direct question. Would you rather have all CO2 emissions be converted into H2O emissions?
Combustion of ordinary fuel for cars produces CO2 — and — H2O
How much energy is obtained per molecule of H2O emitted, however, is a question for which I don’t have the answer. But it may happen that combustion of H2 is even more H2O efficient.
In any case, it is irrelevant. The ammount of CO2 exiting the exhaust of your car significantly increases the CO2 concentration in the area, whereas the ammount of H2O is irrelevant compared to the H2O that is already there, 25 times greater than CO2 on average.

July 14, 2014 3:40 pm

[snip -off topic]

John M
July 14, 2014 3:58 pm

I concur with Ben Wilson’s calculations.
Here’s some more numbers.
H2 + 1/2 O2 = H20 142 MJ/kg H2*
CH4 + 2 O2 = CO2 + 2 H2O 55.5 MJ/kg CH4*
C8H18 + 12.5 O2 = 8 CO2 + 9 H2O 45.8 MJ/kg C8H18*
Using those values and working through the molar stoichiometry…
Fuel………kg H2O/MJ
*energy content from this website
So H2 worse than fossil fuels in terms of water production per MJ, since the ff also get energy from making CO2.
Of course, fueling up with and hauling around 1 kg of H2 and CH4 for transportation is a bit more challenging than putting 1 kg of gasoline into the tank…

July 14, 2014 4:06 pm

Would hydrogen fuel cells in case of a collision turn the car into a modern Hindenburg? How could this be prevented? What would it cost and what would the unintended consequences include?

Nick Stokes
July 14, 2014 4:15 pm

[snip – off topic – this thread is about water vapor, not methane -mod]

July 14, 2014 4:18 pm

Not to worry, the Canada clipper is here. Was 14 (57F) this am and maybe 70 this afternoon. Will be colder tomorrow and then it is all moving to the US. Cheers.

July 14, 2014 4:22 pm

The complete combustion of 114g (1 mole) of 2,2,4-trimethyl pentane (isooctane, gasoline equivalent with specific gravity of 0.69) would remove 400g of oxygen from the atmosphere while producing 352g of carbon dioxide and 162g of water. For every gallon of gasoline burned approximately two gallons of water (liquid) are produced. I find it almost humorous that this water is ignored when talking about burning hydrocarbon fuels, but somehow it becomes very important when considering hydrogen as a fuel. It is unimportant in both cases.

July 14, 2014 4:25 pm

This is where we will see the ecogreen actual position: water vapour is “natural”, whereas fossil fuel CO2 is “unnatural”.
The Luddite in the eco-green will accept the bad results of a natural but not of an unnatural: he will accept the blindness and death of Vitamin A deficient 3rd worlders, but not the profit-making technology of Golden Rice.
When God (Nature) smacks people, that is okay.

Evan Jones
July 14, 2014 4:25 pm

Isn’t water vapour 20 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2? Wouldn’t that be bad?
Not on a molecule-to-molecule basis. More important, H2O has almost zero persistence, while CO2 has a very long persistence. Methane is 20+ more potent than CO2 molecule-for-molecule. But methane has only a modest persistence; it abrades in ~12 years, unlike CO2, so it it not the same issue, really.

F. Ross
July 14, 2014 4:28 pm

Just think about what it would be like if all those taxis and private vehicles were emitting H2O (as water vapor).

Years ago, here on WUWT, I brought up exactly this point. A supposedly knowledgeable respondent (who still posts here) informed me that I should not be concerned. Perhaps that respondent, if he remembers his post, would like to reiterate it …or not.

Paul Westhaver
July 14, 2014 4:32 pm

Yeah Hydrogen is just what we’ve all been waiting for.
In an earlier post about a new battery technology I spoke about the progression of my design days from battery powered stuff to wood powered stuff.
Wood is just the best energy storage medium there is, and it is 100% recyclable.\
Hydrogen is great for emmisions. Yes it is. EXCEPT,
1) where does one get hydrogen?
2) how does one store protons?
Electrolysis is the smart-a$$ answer to 1) but electrolysis requires a lot of DC electricity and replacing coal, oil and nat gas, with hydrogen will require converting a lot of coal, oil and nat gas to hydrogen, so that the green elite can drink water from their cars. ie the carbon has to go somewhere.
so…not gonna happen…
Storing an explosive material like H2 is not trivial, especially on 3000 lb projectiles.
H2 migrates into the steel and causing embrittlement, H2 is notorious for leaking.
It is a proton!!! It is very small.
So better we store the hydrogen in a safe solid form (wood) or a safe liquid form (diesel) so that we can extract the hydrogens safely when we actually need them.
No, the EPA cannot regulate water, but they are regulating the pathway to water.. so I am not laughing.

July 14, 2014 4:33 pm

For every gallon of gasoline that is burned, one gallon of water (liquid) is produced. Correction of earlier post.

July 14, 2014 4:35 pm

This is supposed to be green?
Turning the most important molecule on earth, that makes life possible on this planet, into a fuel source for cars?
I knew the green cult was destructive but this is asinine.

Paul Westhaver
July 14, 2014 4:36 pm

.. in other words:
water from H2 requires H2 from Oil yielding carbon waste at the H2 producer, which, is regulated by the EPA.
BTW, CO2 is not pollution.

Bill Illis
July 14, 2014 4:37 pm

Water vapor cycles through the atmosphere each 9 days.
Hydrogen, the smallest atom there is. H2 gas, the least dense, smallest molecule there is. It leaks easily, even in the highest engineered seal systems. It reacts extremely rapidly with O2 such that in a large quantity, it can be considered explosive. Given its tiny density, to provide any type of long-lasting energy, it must be highly compressed in a highly engineered high pressure vessel.
Explosive, high pressure vessel, rapidly expanding reaction gas, equals bomb.
Hydrogen loves its oxygen. Once combined, it is extremely difficult to break the bond. All the water on Earth was formed 8 billion, or 6 billion or 4.5 billion years ago. And they are still bonded together today. That’s how much hydrogen loves its oxygen. Simplistic, “we can separate hydrogen from water on an industrial scale without adding any significant energy in the first place” breakthroughs are just not believable. Almost always, a coal-fired power plant would be providing the electricity to break the bond in the first place. Result, CO2.

Jack Okie
July 14, 2014 4:45 pm

Here is a link to an interesting process that uses a form of carbon as a catalyst to produce hydrogen on demand from aluminum and water. Don’t know yet if there is anything to it – I suppose if there were, those trying to commercialize it would play it pretty close to the vest.

July 14, 2014 4:46 pm
John M
July 14, 2014 4:47 pm

Jack Okie,
Where’s the aluminum come from?

July 14, 2014 4:52 pm

paddylol said Would hydrogen fuel cells in case of a collision turn the car into a modern Hindenburg? How could this be prevented? What would it cost and what would the unintended consequences include?
What actually caused the fire on the Hindenburg to be so spectacular is contentious issue, my personal favorite is the paint on it, aluminum pigmented nitrocellulose lacquer, that was basicaly thermite bound with gun cotton. While I’m not trying to trivialise the hazards of hydrogen gas, it’s probally safer than gasoline because the explosive vapors don’t pool on the ground like gasoline does.

michael hart
July 14, 2014 5:03 pm

Anyone have a link to the actual paper? I can’t see it here or at Angew Chem.

July 14, 2014 5:03 pm

Over head power lines do electrolysis when it rains, I would imagine a lot more than hydrogen cars would produce on a global scale at the present. The other thing is, the sun evaporates and controls how much humidity is in the air NOT CO2 regardless of its source.

July 14, 2014 5:17 pm

Depending upon temperature and humidity, the proportional contribution of water vapor to the greenhouse effect varies significantly. At 298K and 50% RH, there would be 96 water molecules for every 4 carbon dioxide molecules. At 273K and 50% RH there would be about 20 water molecules for every 4 carbon dioxide molecules. At 273K and 10% RH the number of water and carbon dioxide molecules in a sample of air would be equal. Water absorbs IR more broadly across the spectrum.

July 14, 2014 5:18 pm

The only solution is to keep the hydrogen in water form until ready for use. And that technology is not around yet at an economic price.

July 14, 2014 5:38 pm

This is why the fuel cells envisioned by the automotive industry around a decade ago had a reformer stage. The hydrogen was stored as hydrcarbons, which were cracked as needed. Which solved the problems of storage and handling leakage, lack of hydrogen infrastructure, but would waste a lot of the energy in the hydrocarbons.
All to pander to superstitions.

July 14, 2014 5:46 pm

As cited above storing hydrogen is not yet practical. If you liquefy it you lose a lot to leaks and if you store it in gaseous state then the density is not high. On demand is very difficult but might work and storing it in gas in a hydride tank is perfectly safe (even when shot with armour piercing incendiary bullets) but too low density.
As with electricity safe, cheap, long term, high power to weight storage is not here yet.

July 14, 2014 6:02 pm

“The crucial point about using hydrogen is that the whole process cannot break the second law of thermodynamics, namely that you cannot get more energy out than you put in.”
I hope you don’t confuse the first and second amendments like you confuse the first and second laws of thermo, or the first guy who says “shut up” will be walking away with your gun.

July 14, 2014 6:07 pm

Does everyone realize we live on a water planet?

July 14, 2014 6:13 pm

This can all be summed up as: “The gas is always greener on the other side.”

July 14, 2014 6:15 pm

A more efficient use of a “water planet” would be to produce helium from the hydrogen contained in the water.. Do I have to actually tell you how? surly people get paid for this?

Gary Pearse
July 14, 2014 6:24 pm

You think because using hydrogen as a fuel for cars is stupid that it wouldn’t be done. So what do you think about solar panels in Scotland? So what do you think about cutting down a hundred km strip of national forest along the sea coast of a country that is only 300km in maximum dimension (Denmark) to build windmills, covering vast tracts of UK’s best scenery with this ancient technology? Or shipping hardwood firewood from North Carolina to UK to be burned in former coal fired electricity plants because the wood is renewable – even the coal is probably renewable in the extremely long run and it is the planet we are worried about isn’t it?
No, sadly, the stuff coming out of this eco-farce wouldn’t get a passing grade in a grade 6 science fair.
O BTW, with gasoline engines emitting a bigger mass of water than the mass of the fuel, I haven’t noticed icing of the roads in Canada from it. Once, standing at a bus stop in deep freezing weather, I watched the plumes of condensed vapor issuing from the mouths of those around me and noted it disappeared in half a metre distance. Humidity is generally low in these conditions and it simply evaporated into the air. I suppose vehicles could enhance a snow storm but then, if its bad enough the vehicles stop going!!

July 14, 2014 6:27 pm

As to hydrogen, nope. Never. Hydrogen should be thought of as an alternative battery, no better than lead-acid, no matter how good we get at making it out of other fuels or water. If we can solve the battery problem, we will all drive electric cars. Hybrids will go away, and hydrogen will never come. The other thing that would give us all electric cars is installing the infrastructure in the highways to deliver the required power to the vehicles in-route. Such could eliminate the need for better batteries. If the batteries only need to provide a few minutes of power between one’s residence and the electrified roadway system, then they are already good enough. Of course, there is a huge cost and an exceptionally long installation period if that is what we want to do. Primarily, electric prices have to fall. They will if we let them.

July 14, 2014 6:38 pm

Gary Pearse, good point (but sad). Sparks, do you understand fusion? I do. For twenty years I have been saying it is 100 years away. I still think so. It is not a physics problem; it is an engineering problem. Also, we cannot fuse hydrogen into helium like the sun. Not possible on earth. We can fuse deuterium and tritium, but we must first make the tritium. There are various possibilities for that, but right now we make it out of lithium, in current fission reactors.
The whole of fusion is a long story. I assert that all power (essentially) humans of the eventual future will be produced with fusion reactions, but the route from here to there is unclear, and the current engineering and economic impediments are insurmountable with current knowledge, technology, and materials. Materials are the biggest problem so far. 14 MeV neutrons ( do bad things to materials. Bad things.

R. Shearer
July 14, 2014 6:48 pm

As a few have pointed out, hydrocarbon fuels already produce a lot of water upon combustion. That part of this piece is just silly.

July 14, 2014 7:03 pm

If you use fossil fuels to generate the electricity you will never beat the conversion efficiency of a steam methane reformer, period. Using platinum catalyst, large scale electrolysis is ~80% efficient and the most efficient gas turbines are ~60% efficient. So 48% thermal efficiency is the best you can do. That means ~675 btu of natural gas would be combusted to create 1 cubic foot of H2 (100% efficiency for electrolysis is ~323 btu/cubic foot.) Feed + Fuel for a low export steam reformer now approaches 390-400 btu NG / cubic foot.
Unless you are able to use nuclear or renewable fuel in the generation of H2, from a raw emissions standpoint, you will always be worse off on both an H2O and CO2 basis through electrolysis. On a net emmissions basis, assuming carbon capture on both, you would be roughly the same or better on the reformer assuming 95% capture.
As far as losses on liquid hydrogen, the losses are low. 1-3% loss is accurate for liquid hydrogen. Most losses are not from leakage, but rather venting to maintain tank pressure within safety limits as the liquid hydrogen warms up and vaporizes, therefore heavier insulation to limit losses is cost effective, even on a small tank. In a compressed gas situation losses are as low as 0.1%.
As far as sources for the above information, it’s personal experience. I’m a controller for my company’s California and Canada hydrogen franchise, and as such I deal with the operational and finacial analysis of steam methane reformers every day. Losses quoted by myself here represent what I normally expect to see from my fleet’s operations, which have both liquid and gas pipeline delivery.

July 14, 2014 7:03 pm

Fusion . . . any century now.

John Scogin
July 14, 2014 7:49 pm

I would just like to point out that there are only two reasonable sources of hydrogen – from fossil fuels or from cracking water. In the first case, the hydrogen is only an intermediate to the ultimate product of water. In the second case, well …. that’s pretty obvious.
So there is no net difference in net water emission regardless of the fuel cycle of the hydrogen engine.

July 14, 2014 7:50 pm

In 2008, one of those big university press releases came out, in this case essentially preserved at . No, it has nothing to do about solar power – it is about a new, cheap catalyst that could split water in an electrolysis cell and hence make solar photovoltaics feasible.

Researchers have made a major advance in inorganic chemistry that could lead to a cheap way to store energy from the sun. In so doing, they have solved one of the key problems in making solar energy a dominant source of electricity.
Daniel Nocera, a professor of chemistry at MIT, has developed a catalyst that can generate oxygen from a glass of water by splitting water molecules. The reaction frees hydrogen ions to make hydrogen gas. The catalyst, which is easy and cheap to make, could be used to generate vast amounts of hydrogen using sunlight to power the reactions.

It would be good for wind turbines – you could even ship the H2 (and O2) via pipeline.
So six years later, they’re still around, sort of. No products yet, see
Oh wait, that’s a Harvard link.
Confused? talks about a catalyst from Canada, but also notes:
Harvard professor Daniel Nocera, while at MIT, introduced a low-cost catalyst made of an amorphous cobalt oxide for splitting water to make hydrogen fuel. A company called Sun Catalytix was formed in 2009 using venture and government funding to commercialize his work but it has struggled to make a viable product and has since shifted its focus to making flow batteries. (See, Sun Catalytix Seeks Second Act with Flow Battery.)

So, maybe they have something, maybe they don’t. I won’t hold my breath!

July 14, 2014 8:27 pm

I believe most power plants use steam turbines, most of which vent much more H20 to the air than that produced by fuel combustion. Along with irrigated agriculture this adds slightly to the rain down wind, emitting a little heat to space in the process. –AGF

Mike Wryley
July 14, 2014 8:46 pm

Even if the energy and process used to create the hydrogen was free, everyone would be much better served if the H2 was used to make synthetic gasoline or diesel.

James the Elder
July 14, 2014 9:35 pm

Gamecock says:
July 14, 2014 at 2:40 pm
Oxygen is extremely corrosive. Plans to split water to get hydrogen never mention what they are going to do with the oxygen.
Turn it loose, burn it, repeat. When I can fill up for less than $40 and am reasonably sure of no low earth orbit if I take a speed bump too fast, I’m in.

John F. Hultquist
July 14, 2014 9:41 pm

When the hydrogen embrittlement issues are solved across thousands of items for 24/7 use and Murphy’s Law repealed – these are things we know – let me know. Then there are the things we don’t know.

Joel O'Bryan
July 14, 2014 10:04 pm

nature figured out the hydrolysis reaction 3+billion years ago… chlorophyll reaction centers using visible light photonic energy to drive a proton gradient and electron transport with corrosive O2 as a toxic pollutant in ancient anoxic oceans and atmospheres. O2 forced iron out of solution, reducing bioavailability of this essential plant (chlorophyll) nutrient.
So O2 was the original pollutant. We animals are pollution consumers to keep the photosynthetic plants happy. We helping them out further by increasing their other essential nutrient now… CO2.

July 14, 2014 10:22 pm

If the Sun dries out the air in the day time where does all that dried out water vapour go.
The way I understand it is that the Sun warms the air .The air expands thus giving the impression that the humidity is going down.

Greg Goodman
July 14, 2014 11:45 pm

The panic over temperature from water vapor emissions, which can be double to triple the heat trapping capacity of Carbon Dioxide, would be quite something to watch.
On the plus side trapping H2O is a lot easier than trapping CO2, though in automobiles, would require carrying around all that waste water of combustion, and dumping it when you fuel up, something I have yet to see dealt with in the various Hydrogen powered combustion engines I’ve looked at.

WUWT REPLY: No disputing water vapor has a shorter lifetime than CO2, but if it is actively being cycled into the air locally and continuously, the effects will be an increased local humidity. I think you missed the premise at the beginning from the complaint by Freedman – imagine all that extra water vapor in a city like New York. It will have an effect.
Water vapour is less dense than air. Presumably this would lead to updraft over large cities as it does over the ocean. One consequence could be stronger winds towards cities, this would lead to cyclonic rotation.
Even with this effect it would need higher humidity to drive it, so net daytime humidity would be higher. However, the added ventilation could help remove UHI and other pollution from cities.
The average residence time of an H2O molecule in current climate it probably not the relevant factor to consider. A locally over-humid volume of air will condense out rapidly.. As the water laden air rises it will form cloud.
So if we take the alarmist line, I suppose we should say that if hydrogen cell vehicles become widely used, by 2040 there will be daily cyclones over NY city and LA.
However, the author’s suggestion that relative GHG potential of water vapour ( which is always worth emphasising ) would cause substantial warming or less nocturnal cooling seems questionable.
Also it should not be forgotten that one of the major combustion products of both gasoline and LPG is water vapour. How much more WV would be produced, per mile travelled, by burning H2 ?
My guess is it would be about the same.

July 15, 2014 12:37 am

Did you do the numbers before posting this story? My first reaction was to wonder if H20 emitting cars could possibly have any significant effect on the local weather and humidity.
I tried to Google for some numbers. Hopefully someone can improve on what I found. One place it said that 9 kg of water will produce 1 kg of hydrogen which is good for 100 miles of driving. Lets say that the average car on the road in NYC emits 3 kg of water per hour. I couldn’t find good numbers on how many cars there are in NYC per km² actually on the road driving. But lets consider the tiniest of rainfalls, 0.1 mm, just enough to wet the ground, which will evaporate within minutes and hardly have much influence on humidity after an hour. 0.1 mm equals 100,000 litres of water per km², in this case the equivalence of 33 thousand cars. Lets consider Manhattan. Manhattan is a about 60 km². Can you have 2 million cars driving in Manhattan at the same time, needed to produce the equivalent of 0.1 mm of rainfall per hour? I don’t think so. I think the car emissions will be more like the equivalence of the evaporation after a 0.1 mm rainfall in a whole day.
So the effect on the local weather has to be tiny. It wouldn’t surprise me if the effect of painting all the cars black would be greater.

July 15, 2014 1:01 am

When I first looked at Hydrogen Fuel Cells, the Platinum was the cost prohibitive issue, probably around a decade ago. As I’ve followed up they’ve been working on how to use the water itself and create a closed system that would be supplemented, which, after reading your paper, suggests they are well aware of this gripe relating to our terrestrial environment and water vapors.
Interestingly enough I had occasion to reach the Japanese Consulate in the course of that decade and their people had been working on using nanotubes as the PEM (to replace the need for platinum) which is what this Rutgers research appears to be claiming. Additionally their power company has actually issued hydrogen cell systems to people’s homes, the system basically replaces the water heater while also generating electricity, and yes using a fuel the power company pipes to the home. This was before the tsunami that hit Japan however (so maybe it’s been more than a decade :p)
I contend that a lot of this is not objective science but self-interested noise and one has to follow the money to understand and appreciate the reality of science losing its objectivity and being more of a religion, meta-narrative and all.
The Chicago carbon credit exchange is closed,, however, in 2007, the first time that Union Pensions invested in Oil Futures and chased the price up to around 150, you’ll find they also made a huge investment in natural gas futures, I contend this has and will continue to skew the honesty of the variety of so called scientists who study Global Warm… er…. Climate Cha…. er …. Climate Disruption, to make every effort to move us toward wherever the deeper pockets of money will be more than happy to fund them to espouse is “scientifically proven” in the future.
I further contend we haven’t much data on the variety of planets in our solar system, as far as concise experiential data on atmosphere and cycles (100 years or more) that would be to a certainty not subject to debate in so far as whether there is a “weather pattern” for each of them. This, taken along with recent NASA discoveries regarding Mars ( could be used by one of these above mentioned scientists to explain by argument ad infinitum, that is rebutted just as well, and merely be an exercise in futile wastes of arguing fervor solely because we haven’t enough real data to settle such a contest. We’re always and unable to escape our terrestrial equipped relationship imposing itself on our view of another planet, completely unequipped but by assumptions based on our terrestrial certainties, for an extra-terrestrial relationship even with planets in our own solar system.
In any event, by Mars Polar Caps melting, you can see this could make 2 planets having some sort of climate change amongst our considered 9 in this Solar System, and that isn’t conclusive enough to suggest it’s a solar event…. That is until you add Jupiter and what is happening to its Great Red Spot that’s been assumed a massive hurricane, and
Thus we have 3, yes 3 planets that we know enough about to know they’re going through what appears to be, by what data we have, atmospheric changes, and yet we have no idea if these are normal cycles or abnormal ones in the larger “bandwidth” of the measure of time, and yet all happening by co-incidence at the same time as what we’re willing to claim is man-made on our own planet. Yes I am a skeptic as to the man-made assumption, and that is due to other finds by NASA regarding the Heliosphere.
As is displayed regarding the Rutgers discovery and the noise of these near 20 years of so-called “inconvenient truth,” there remains the wealth sought by the story telling movie-maker and former Vice President Al Gore, who was surely knowledgeable in the activities of the HAARP project which blasts, I believe, 3 gigawatts of electricity into the Ionsphere that must be dissipated, every 6 months to test punching through it and whether or not a “communication dish” of a surface can be forged by doing this (so we’re not reliant on our satellite systems, a military idea). And also the wealth sought by science in the form of grants, as well as the above mentioned unions investing in natural gas futures It doesn’t take rocket science to see that there is a gap between what may honestly and actually be happening, and our apparent need to claim suicide by claiming manmade causes when all of this is merely keeping us from finding real solutions regarding survival of what happens when the Heliosphere loses another 20% of its pressure, thinning out and contracting further, the same amount as the Heliosphere has lost in the last 30 years of the 50 we’ve been monitoring it and prompted a special satellite be put up by NASA to analyze the Sun, and (please note all of this is happening at the very same time as what we believe are atmospheric changes to the Earth, as well as Mars and Jupiter, apparently science is somehow convinced these are unrelated “co-incidence”) that in some reports scientists explain the Earth would then be almost unlivable — yes in a shorter timeframe than the global warming alarmists projected for their, what appear to me have become, if they weren’t originally, erroneous and self-aggrandizing claims.
Great that we are figuring out alternative forms of energy, and likely this will lead to saving money and greater national security with a less centralized utilitarian power distribution structure, and less infrastructure cost, but it’s not going to save the world from extra-terrestrial forces of the universe that we’ve not a pinheads knowledge of, let alone understanding, especially for the “bandwidth” of 500, 1000, and 10,000 year cycles from actual experience of them. To illustrate, using our latest and greatest technology, Mother Nature’s Universe well reminds us of our infancy, I am sure you’re all well aware that Cosmic Rays are nothing new, so to what do we owe our certainties but terrestrial assumptions, literally in the vacuum of space without a scintilla of reason to be so arrogant.
May we step off our pedestal long enough to save our race, then again maybe our ideological differences and pride in these have assured us we’ll never again find any reason to,
Toddy Littman
P.S. I am no scientist and no grammarian so apologies in advance.

Steve Garcia
July 15, 2014 1:02 am

Several folks beat me to the punch on exhausting that water onto the road surfaces in the wintertime. THAT should be something that engineering can deal with, though – to collect the water. I’d think it would be doable, even if they have to get inventive to do it.
The OTHER time of the year you don’t want water vapor on the road surface is when there hasn’t been rain in a good while, when oil has formed a bit of a film on the road. Rain rinses that oil film off the road, so other times of the year that is not problem.
Anecdotal: I was in Cairo, Egypt one December, when it hadn’t rained since springtime. Driving after that first rain in 8 months — I have NEVER driven on such slick roads before or since. Steering was a nightmare, and every little hump in the pavement or tiny little steering adjustment sent the rear wheel drive ass-end to one side or the other. And that was at about 30 mph, which was the functional max speed on the crowded streets of Cairo and Giza. I am no wimp as far as icy roads. I endured winters in Maine (150″ of snow that winter), Denver, Chicago, and the “Snow Belt” of NE Ohio for 43 years total. And never have I driven on such a dicey surface as a fresh rain after 8 months of dry in Egypt.
I’d imagine, then, that most dry states would have this problem with the first rain after a few weeks of dry. And some not-so-dry states, too.

July 15, 2014 1:51 am

Hydrogen as well as leaking out of almost any container, can’t be readily liquified. In its gaseous state it is very volume inefficient. IE: there is far more energy in a litre of gasoline than a litre of hydrogen. As well as being practically impossible to contain it also loves to hydrolise the containers resulting in severe embrittlememt of metals. And it’s very reactive making it rather dangerous to combine with quite a few things including nitrogen, producing toxic ammonia, and chlorine producing hydrogen chloride which when hydrated becomes hydrochloric acid.
Frankly one would be much better off using ammonia NH3 as a fuel since there are three hydrogens per molecule and it’s a liquid, albieit a toxic one. Then again, wonders will never cease, CH4 is even better, packing 4 hydrogens per molecule, is readily liquified and weighs less, and unlike toxic ammonia just happens to conveniently combust in air, oh and there’s a whole class of similar hydrogen packed variations, packing huge numbers of hydrogens per molecule, which are even more volume efficient. Oh but of course we can’t use them because that causes release of the magic gas of maximum harm (/sarc if anyone actually needed that).
No matter what you do, when you discuss hydrogen you end up discussing hydrocarbons.
Ps, another good carrier would be cellulose C6H10O5 or glucose C6H12O6 but they have that tricky oxygen attached.

M Courtney
July 15, 2014 2:10 am

Obvious points:
1 If the hydrogen is split out from water then burning it causes no net increase in water vapour. We are back where we started.
2 If the hydrogen is split out from methane then we are just adding an extra step that decreases efficiency and produces an even less user-friendly gas than the original methane.
3 If the hydrogen is split out from water at the point of use (as water is convenient for storing) then the energy source required for the splitting needs to be carried by the user. They may as well use that.
So what is the attraction of hydrogen as a fuel?

Leo Smith
July 15, 2014 3:24 am

ER… conventional diesel/gasoline cars already emit more water vapour than carbon dioxide.
Long chain hydrocarbons are typically Cn H2n +2 so always more water than CO2 in molecular terms. Only going to aromatic compounds will get CO2 above H2O levels..

Whatever, I forget. This will suely make someone mad...
July 15, 2014 4:03 am

Actually we have this in a way. In Iowa and other high corn regions we take in billions of tons of CO2 and they emit billions of tons of water into the air…every summer.

July 15, 2014 4:55 am

The entire fixation by so many otherwise rational people about “fossil” fuels is irrational. I guess they are seeking a way to eternal life through “sustainability”, even though the sun itself will eventually burn out, killing all life on earth in the process.
Instead of specious silliness like ” The need to consume fossil fuel therefore negates current claims that hydrogen is a “green” fuel.”, we ought to focus on producing the energy and fuels that we do need with a minimum of pollution and at the lowest cost. In other venues, methane is praised because it can be made from organic waste and sewage sludge, which is in fact anti-fossil in nature. Such silliness is made even more silly because an obvious way to reduce “fossil” fuels is to use nuclear power when possible, but people would rather throw money to the wind (power) with bird-Cuisinearts rather than help to develop walk-away-safe forms of nuclear power.

Jeff Alberts
July 15, 2014 7:06 am

Nick Stokes says:
July 14, 2014 at 4:15 pm
[snip – off topic – this thread is about water vapor, not methane -mod]

Mods, please apply the same level of moderation to ALL OT posts. Especially those by Pat.
[done – mod]

July 15, 2014 7:16 am

Why do people still fall for this stuff about hydrogen as a fuel? If the source of the hydrogen is water (as it is in this technology), the first and second law of thermodynamics guarantee that it is not actually a net fuel, since it would take more energy to produce than you could get back by burning it as a fuel. At best, it could be viewed as a battery of sorts as a way to store energy produced by some other means for later use. Where would we get all of the energy to create all of the hydrogen? Why not store that energy in a safer battery or burn that natural gas directly in the vehicle rather than taking the energy loss by converting the energy to hydrogen as an inefficient intermediate step? The whole idea of hydrogen from water as a “fuel” has baffled me for decades and I’ve yet to hear a good explanation as to why we should waste money funding this idea? The best possible case I can envision is using intermittent energy producers like windmills to produce hydrogen (essentially storing the energy for use when we need it), but we already know that wind mills are very inefficient and not cost effective (in addition to being eyesores and killing birds and bats).

July 15, 2014 7:57 am

The one major flaw in this argument is that the author is comparing chemical reactions without reference to how efficiently the energy from these chemical reactions can be captured.
If the hydrogen is reacted inside a fuel cell then efficiency of electrical production is around 50% and this electricity can be utilised at 98% efficiency by hub motors. This is further enhanced by using regenerative breaking to recharge on board peaking batteries.
This efficiency goes far and away above the efficiency of typical gasoline drive trains which might be in the order of 20-25% all told.
The high efficiency of fuel cell powered vehicles means that much LESS water will be emitted by a fuel cell vehicle for an equivalent distance travelled.
Also, if the hydrogen is manufactured from water via electrolysis then no net water will be emitted at all.
The most important benefit from switching to hydrogen fuels has nothing to do with CO2. It is to do with reducing photochemical smog and ground level ozone production which is a direct result of hydrocarbon combustion in automobile engines. City air pollution is a huge health issue and needs to be addressed urgently in all major industrial nations.
There is middle ground here where people who are rightly concerned about point source pollution can join hands with those concerned about the destruction of the scientific method by the CO2 high priests but sadly this article misses the mark.

July 15, 2014 9:42 am

Since water is also produced when burning a hydrocarbon, exactly how much more are you going to have with straight hydrogen?
Also, if these tanks are liquid hydrogen, you can assume minimum 1% probably 2% loss per day. Those tanks HAVE to vent. Our H2 bulk tank on the other side of the parking lot loses 1.3%/day average.

July 15, 2014 10:13 am

Interesting thought on the “Unintended Consequences” aspect. I never thought of the water vapor aspect. I have long thought that we would eventually migrate to a Hydrogen based fuel cycle, away from the Hydro-Carbon we currently have. I had discussions on other sites (long ago) about Hydrogen storage for use in vehicles, and even at home. One of the possible solutions was to store it in a Nickle alloy:
Please note that I’m posting that link just as a point of reference, it was the result of a very quick web search, I do not pretend to comprehend the chemistry aspects. And I do not know the background of the above company, I just link it to provide a little background on storing H2 in a solid form. From what I understand, more H2 may be stored in this solid form than could be in liquid form. Plus to release any H2, the NiMh would need to be heated above normal room temperature, so storage in a car could be safer and reduce the leak rate. But that would reduce the efficiency, needing energy to release the H2. Once spent, the NiMh could be recharged with fresh H2. The NiMh could be in a granular from, to allow for easy refueling. As for accidental release, especially from a liquid/gas form, H2 would rise up from the ‘accident scene’ and dissipate. Something like LNG leaking, or Gasoline vapor would stay on the ground and pool in the lowest elevation, gaining in concentration until an ignition source releases its energy.
As for leaking plumbing/connections, I would offer the solution of a double wall fuel tube, where the inner tube delivers the H2, the outer tube would be fed to a recovery fuel cell to burn off the errant vapor and recover the energy. Double wall gas delivery is very common with dangerous chemicals, Flourine (ArF / KrF) gas for Eximer lasers as an example.
There are challenges with any form of energy we choose to use, which provides opportunities for engineering solutions. None are perfect, but we need to find the right blend with the most efficient and cost effective use. What I post above are just random thoughts, I could be completely wrong, just ask my wife, she’s the one to keep track of that, she’ll let you know.

July 15, 2014 10:53 am

M Courtney says:
July 15, 2014 at 2:10 am
Obvious points:
1 If the hydrogen is split out from water then burning it causes no net increase in water vapour. We are back where we started.
Nope. Unless the plan is to electrolyze water vapour (you British?), the overall process will create water vapor from liquid water. Not where we started.

Wyatt Storch
July 15, 2014 11:33 am

Energy density is an issue even if you go through the expense of liquefying the hydrogen, which has significant refrigeration costs (I haven’t seen those mentioned). There is more hydrogen in a gallon of gasoline than there is in a gallon of liquid hydrogen.

J Martin
July 15, 2014 1:04 pm

If every gallon of fossil fuel we burn produces a gallon of water, worldwwide over the course of a year is that enough to be a part of sea level rise ?
From Wikepedia It is estimated that between 100 and 135 billion tonnes of oil has been consumed between 1850 and the present. Taking a tonne to be a cubic metre then 120 billion cubic metres of exta water divided across the surface of the ocean (335 million sq km) gives an increase in sea level of a third of a millimeter over the last 165 years.
OK, unless I botched the calculation, then the contribution of fossil fuel use to sea level rise is effectively nothing. Probably to be expected, otherwise Greepeace would have made sure we all knew about it.

Ian L. McQueen
July 15, 2014 1:28 pm

The original article says: “10,000 times thinner than a human hair”. Sorry, but this is impossible. If anything becomes ONE time thinner it disappears. One just can’t compare diminutives of 1 or more. (Yes, I know that one see this all the time, but that does not make it any more correct than the supposed “consensus” about CO2 affecting climate.)
The only correct way to express the idea is “one ten-thousandth the thickness of a human hair”
Pedantically yours.
Ian M

July 15, 2014 2:00 pm

While many people here seem to be saying it can’t be done but the Japanese are just getting on with it. If the US auto industry continues to stick its collective head in the sand then they will continue to be paying to use Japanese patents just as they are now doing for hybrid drive technology.
This car comes complete with a home refuelling station that can be powered from solar power and has a driving range of 240 miles on a tank. In densely populated areas in Japan it easy to set up an entire refuelling network and takes just a little bit longer than a normal car to top up with high pressure H2 gas.
All of the technical challenges outlined above have been solved and the development of new non-noble catalysts removes the only real objection to this technology coming to the forefront – the relative scarcity of platinum.
Hydrogen is far less explosive than gasoline and rapidly disperses when released from storage meaning that any danger also rapidly disperses – unlike petrol that flows down to the lowest point and remains dangerous until physically removed etc.

July 15, 2014 3:27 pm

agfosterjr says:
I believe most power plants use steam turbines, most of which vent much more H20 to the air than that produced by fuel combustion
The steam used to drive the turbines is typically in a closed loop, you really wouldn’t want it otherwise in a BWR 🙂
The steam released would come from cooling towers. Though if there is a large lake, river or sea nearby you can use that for condensers without needing the cooling water to phase change.

Larry Butler
July 15, 2014 9:28 pm

On the Savannah River, here:
The Southern Company and Georgia Power are building two NEW nuclear waste generating MONSTERS right next to the two nuclear waste generators that are already there at Plant Vogtle. The Savannah River, what’s left of it after it helps bleed off the nuclear waste from the Savannah River Plant Bomb Factory, cannot supply enough water to cool the two reactors there, now, much less the two new monsters, the largest nuclear reactors in America, the AP1000, so they are forced to erect cooling towers like at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, which also is a low-flow river. Of course, the difference is Vogtle is in the heart of hurricane country on the SC border 100 miles upwind from Charleston, my home.
One of the interesting statistics bragged about in the new reactor’s propaganda is the fact that the water LOST by evaporation in the FOUR cooling towers, once Vogtle’s 4 reactors are online EXCEEDS all the fresh water used by all the residential customers of Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah, GA, COMBINED!
What effect does tons of water vapor pouring out of nuclear cooling towers have on climate? Sometimes you can see the nuclear-created thunderstorms trailing off in the prevailing winds when conditions are ripe….

Larry Butler
July 15, 2014 9:39 pm

In case you haven’t had a ride in the water-powered pickup truck these boys created with their homebrew hydrogen generator that requires NO FUEL COMPANY, have a look and a ride to see how well it works:

It works!

July 15, 2014 9:51 pm

Water will rain out and take CO2 with it particularly at lower temperatures. Everyone forgets how much CO2 loves to swim. Everyone thinks of clouds as water vapor. Actually they are WATER (except the higher ones which are ice) so CO2 will dive into clouds with all the zeal it dives into cold surface water. A very small percentage will form carbonic acid and acid rain but most of it will be molecular CO2 just swimming as best it can in the tiny bathtubs and waxing ecstatic when the clouds congeal into drops of rain.

July 16, 2014 12:54 am

At July 15, 2014 at 2:00 pm you begin your post saying

While many people here seem to be saying it can’t be done but the Japanese are just getting on with it.

No. Nobody is saying “it can’t be done” but many are saying it is a stupid thing to do.
It is expensive, wasteful, dangerous, and its purpose is to avoid climate damage but it has potential to cause more damage to climate than it is intended to avoid.
When somebody warns you against jumping off a cliff they are not saying it is not possible to jump off a cliff.

Joe G
July 16, 2014 7:14 am

Water vapour is a pollutant! And if you want real sea level rise this fuel (H) is the way to go!

Gail Combs
July 16, 2014 10:52 am

Larry Butler says: @ July 15, 2014 at 9:28 pm
….What effect does tons of water vapor pouring out of nuclear cooling towers have on climate? Sometimes you can see the nuclear-created thunderstorms trailing off in the prevailing winds when conditions are ripe….
I can see a nuclear power plant out my window and we have been praying for rain for the last week. If anything we seem to have LESS rain compared to the surrounding area.
BTW You have no idea how happy I am to see that S.C. is building nuclear power plants and Natural Gas plants instead of the bird frying solar farms and bat-chomping, bird-slicing eco crucifixes (wind farms) that the econuts running NC are intent on building.
(We really should have picked S.C. instead of N.C. when we decided to move 20 years ago.)

Reply to  Gail Combs
July 16, 2014 12:01 pm

Just one week? We finally got some yesterday – first measurable rain in the past month. And we are down wind of North Anna. 😉

July 16, 2014 1:43 pm

People are talking about storing hydrogen as as gas or as a liquid and pointing out the problems with both of those methods. In all the serious talk / articles about using hydrogen as a fuel, people have always used metal hydrides as the storage mechanism.

July 18, 2014 9:36 am

“The panic over temperature from water vapor emissions, which can be double to triple the heat trapping capacity of Carbon Dioxide, would be quite something to watch.”
This ‘panic’ or ‘unintended consequence’ is based on a faulty premise that water vapor and carbon dioxide have the same physical properties except for relative magnitude of their greenhouse gas potential. The GHG impact of Carbon dioxide, a gas at all temperatures associated with Earth’s climate, is related to its absorbance in the IR and its concentration in the atmosphere. The mechanisms that modify its concentration are slow and related to input flux sources (respiration, human industry) and removal flux sinks (dissolution into oceans, carbon fixation, photosynthesis). In contrast, the concentration of water vapor in the atmosphere is governed by temperature which modifies its concentration by fast processes such as evaporation and precipitation (as rain or snow). In other words, one can continually pump CO2 into the atmosphere increasing its concentration and GHG effect. But the most water vapor you can get into the atmosphere at any particular temperature is governed by the specific humidity. Water vapor is always feedback. CO2 can be feedback and forcing.

July 19, 2014 3:31 pm

When you burn Gasoline you produce CO2 and H2O and a few other things in minute quantities.
Did you ever wonder why some peoples mufflers rust out often and others don’t?
The exhaust system of a gasoline/diesel/CNG/etc powered automobile acts as a huge still. When you first start up your car the H2O vapor hits the cold sheet metal and condenses into water. If you only drive a mile or two the water collects in your muffler and rusts it out from the inside. If you drive 10 or more miles the entire exhaust system gets hot enough to remove the moisture by boiling it off.
That is also why catalytic converters usually last 10 times longer than mufflers. Cats produce 1000 degree heat in their processes which insures they never get cool enough to collect liquid water.
Anyway, hydrogen as a fuel may leave off the CO2 part but both hydrogen and HYDROCARBONS produce water vapor.

stas peterson
July 19, 2014 11:40 pm

Fusion is coming. It will come sooner than many realize.
Probably sooner than you can design and license Thorium liquid salt reactors. If 14 Mev Fusion neutrons are tough to handle, as some complain, then don’t produce neutrons in your next thermonuclear reactor.
The only reason Dueterium and Tritium were chosen to use in the first Fusion reactors, is it the easiest Fusion reaction conditions to create. But the conditions to burn other reactions, once you can create the conditions for Fusion, as we now know how to do, are not too difficult to extend to do.
We produce controlled Fusion power around the world in small reactors now. It just takes more input than you get output. Just like Windmills and Solar, that the Green Know-Nothings are so fond of touting.
The ITER reactor will make Fusion routine, and provide a gain of output over input of 10:1. That ITER reactor is building in France now, and more than half done. It is funded and developed by an international consortium of governments that took over a decade to organize. It had to be done that way to get the money to do it. Imagine government red tape. Then imagine six governments worth of bureaucratic red tape. That’s ITER, but even so, it is more than half finished and the Cadarache complex of some 50 buildings and facilities is rising in southern France.
The next one after ITER, will be adding power to the Grid. The Scientists and Engineers want to start detailed design for the next one, the DEMO power plant, in only 18 months. Because it will earn money with its generated power, it won’t have to go begging for funds, like the ITER, the last experiment on the way to commercial Grid power had to do.
There is plenty of fossil fuels for the World to use before we get there; and then clean electricity, in as large a quantity needed will be available essentially forever, including the power to make our own fossil fuels if desired. The World will change.

July 20, 2014 8:04 am

Well, Stas Peterson, while your opening line is undoubted true, since fusion will come, and some don’t believe it will come for many centuries, but your assertions regarding fusion are nonsense in all regards.
I suppose you realize ITER started in the mid-80s. I worked on ITER projects in the Pacific Northwest National Labs in the mid-90s. I assure you, ITER is a pipe dream. It will amount to very little. First, it was conceived as a 20-year project. 20 years was up almost a decade ago. Officially ITER is scheduled to begin D-T fusion in 2027. Given its track record so far, we better count on yet another decade before it reaches that milestone. Your assertion regarding 10:1. Absurd. Perhaps I misunderstand you. Please elaborate. Please provide references.
You suggest using fusion methods other than D-T and it’s resultant extreme-energy particles. Yet, ITER and DEMO and proposed follow-on are all D-T reactors. All will be structurally unsound within months of full-time operation, and the reactor structure in its entirety will be radioactive waste.
All you describe is mere sound and fury.
I appreciate the 18-month forecast. Let’s check back in early 2016 and see how that works out.
Evidence and documentation are readily available. I know whereof I speak. You can find it reported that the French Nobel laureate in physics Pierre-Gilles de Gennes said of nuclear fusion, “We say that we will put the sun into a box. The idea is pretty. The problem is, we don’t know how to make the box.”
I elaborated a bit back in 2012:
More recently, I commented regarding the time frame:
There is a search box at the bottom of pages at my blog. Feel free to take me to task there.

July 20, 2014 8:15 pm

Tabletop fusion is possible with a Farnsworth Fusor. The problem is it just produces fast neutrons which are not useful in our current level of technology. If we could figure out how to time fusion with neutron decay so our fast neutrons turned into fast protons and electrons we might be able to do something fantastic.
Then there are all those untold numbers of neutrino’s that are zipping right through us day in and day out. If you developed a substance that could block neutrinos or even partially block neutrinos you could have endless power just by turning a neutrino driven turbine.
Fantasizing or daydreaming or whatever you want to call it may spark a thought in someone much smarter than I who will then come up with an Eureka moment.

July 22, 2014 8:43 pm

Come on… the eco bullies would simply convince the UN and governments that water is a “pollutant” and a water tax is necessary to reduce water levels on earth. And, of course, the delusional masses would fall for that one too!!!!

Brian H
July 25, 2014 4:18 am

Fundamentally goofy. Every catalyzed reaction requires an energy input. Fool Cells use electricity, but even if it were just ambient heat it must be provided in quantities exceeding the output (see thermodynamics and entropy). Not even wrong, just nuts.

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