The Hydrogen Economy
In The Hydrogen Economy, best-selling author Jeremy Rifkin takes us on an eye-opening journey into the next great commercial era in history. He envisions the dawn of a new economy powered by hydrogen that will fundamentally change the nature of our market, political and social institutions, just as coal and steam power did at the beginning of the industrial age.
Rifkin observes that we are fast approaching a critical watershed for the fossil-fuel era, with potentially dire consequences for industrial civilization. While experts had been saying that we had another forty or so years of cheap available crude oil left, some of the world’s leading petroleum geologists are now suggesting that global oil production could peak and begin a steep decline much sooner, as early as the end of this decade. Non-OPEC oil producing countries are already nearing their peak production, leaving most of the remaining reserves in the politically unstable Middle East. Increasing tensions between Islam and the West are likely to further threaten our access to affordable oil. In desperation, the U.S. and other nations could turn to dirtier fossil-fuels – coal, tar sand, and heavy oil – which will only worsen global warming and imperil the earth’s already beleaguered ecosystems. Looming oil shortages make industrial life vulnerable to massive disruptions and possibly even collapse.
While the fossil-fuel era is entering its sunset years, a new energy regime is being born that has the potential to remake civilization along radical new lines, according to Rifkin. Hydrogen is the most basic and ubiquitous element in the universe. It is the stuff of the stars and of our sun and, when properly harnessed, it is the “forever fuel.” It never runs out and produces no harmful CO2 emissions.
Commercial fuel-cells powered by hydrogen are just now being introduced into the market for home, office and industrial use. The major automakers have spent more than two billion dollars developing hydrogen cars, buses, and trucks, and the first mass-produced vehicles are expected to be on the road in just a few years.
The hydrogen economy makes possible a vast redistribution of power, with far-reaching consequences for society. Today’s centralized, top-down flow of energy, controlled by global oil companies and utilities, becomes obsolete. In the new era, says Rifkin, every human being could become the producer as well as the consumer of his or her own energy – so called “distributed generation.” When millions of end-users connect their fuel-cells into local, regional, and national hydrogen energy webs (HEWs), using the same design principles and smart technologies that made possible the World Wide Web, they can begin to share energy – peer-to-peer – creating a new decentralized form of energy use.
Hydrogen has the potential to end the world’s reliance on imported oil and help diffuse the dangerous geopolitical game being played out between Muslim militants and Western nations. It will dramatically cut down on carbon dioxide emissions and mitigate the effects of global warming. And because hydrogen is so plentiful and exists everywhere on earth, every human being could be “empowered,” making it the first truly democratic energy regime in history.
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“Rifkin is arguing that the hydrogen economy revolution will produce something far larger than the sum of its parts. By making the scarce resource of fuel . . . suddenly plentiful, cheap, and democratic, we will upend the presently uneven pattern of globalization.”
— Chris Lehmann, The Washington Post
“A splendid contribution to the [energy] debate . . . It deserves to be studied in governments, in the boardrooms of business and, more important, by the citizens of the world. . . [I]t speaks of nothing less than the survival of the species.”
— Colin Campbell, The Times (London)
“One of the leading big-picture thinkers of our day, [Rifkin] offers hope that we might end up in a better, more democratic world where energy is cheap and clean.”
— Jeremiah Creedon, Utne Reader
“Rifkin’s book is really a call to political arms. And not a moment too soon.”
— Bill McKibben, Mother Jones
“Mr. Rifkin, starting from the historical, geopolitical, and economical perspective, makes a compelling case for the Hydrogen Economy. It should be read by everyone concerned with the future of our civilization.”
— Dr. T. Nejat Veziroglu, President, International Hydrogen Society
“Now the hydrogen movement has a marquee spokesman.”
— Peter Coy, Business Week
The Hydrogen Economy
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