Carbon vs. Hydrogen

What will be the dominant energy source in the 21st century? Nuclear? Nope. Solar? Wind? No, and no.

It’s natural gas.

Robert Bryce looks at the numbers, and sees a growing reliance on natural gas as a primary energy source in coming decades. The world has huge reserves of the stuff, and the technology already exists to harness it.

What’s more, the molecular composition of natural gas means the world will be continuing its march away from carbon-based energy toward hydrogen-based energy.

From prehistory through the 1700s and early 1800s, wood was the world’s most common fuel. Wood has a carbon-to-hydrogen ratio (C:H) of 10 to 1. That is, it has about 10 carbon atoms for every hydrogen atom. But as the Western world industrialized, wood lost its dominance to coal. Coal was a dramatic improvement over wood with a C:H ratio of about 2 to 1. But coal was destined to lose out to oil, particularly for transportation, thanks to oil’s greater energy density and a C:H ratio of 1 to 2. Over the coming decades, natural gas will be the big winner, a result of its 1 to 4 C:H ratio. Thus, when compared to wood, natural gas has 40 times as many hydrogen atoms as carbon atoms.

In effect, this means the world’s economies will be reducing carbon emissions simply by following market forces, even without onerous government incentives.

Coal and oil will stay around for years, but the future belongs to natural gas.

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2 responses to “Carbon vs. Hydrogen

  1. Coal will be the choice fossil fuel as natural gas and oil production declines. As for decarbonization, lol, unless we get enough wind and solar power up and running within 20 years, there will be more CO2 put into the air in the next 10 years, than was in the past 40 years. After 20 years, China will have exhausted its most easily minable coal AND oil. That is virtually guaranteed as China’s use of energy, courtesy of its being the production centre of the planet, is so enormous that wind and solar won’t be able to provide more than 25% of its energy needs within 20 years (without a huge crash program in renewable energy development).

  2. Moreover , technology for using natural gas as a fuel has been around for over 100 years.

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