Friday, January 18, 2002
1. FREEDOM CAR: HAS SPENCER ABRAHAM DISCOVERED A HYDROGEN WELL?
Parking garages near the North American International Auto Show
in Detroit were crammed with monster SUVs last week. The owners
were there to hear the Secretary of Energy describe "the best way
to protect the environment and reduce the nation's reliance on
foreign oil." He announced the "freedom car" program, meant to
stimulate development of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. The big-
three auto makers were quick to pledge their support. After all,
a decade is needed to perfect the technology, during which time
they can forget about CAF standards
(WN 27 Jul 01),
even as SUVs grow to the size of cement trucks. Meanwhile, story after story
in the media gushed that hydrogen fuel cells are environmentally
benign, producing only water as a by-product. Almost none asked
where the hydrogen would come from. You may recall the Hydrogen
Future Act of 1995, introduced by Bob Walker (R-PA). It called
hydrogen "a new energy source." It's great fuel, but it's not a
source. The bill died after it was pointed out that the hydrogen
would come from electrolysis of water
(WN 31 Mar 95).
About 65% of U.S. electric power is generated by burning fossil fuels. The
cell will supply less energy than it took to make the hydrogen.
2. GOT CARBON? DOES "FREEDOM CAR" MARK A SHIFT IN ENERGY POLICY?
Last year the Western Fuels Association held a press conference
in Washington to explain the benefits of increasing levels of CO2
in the atmosphere. "It's food," the WFA Director crowed. Warm
food at that: 2001 was the second warmest year on record, just
behind 1998, according to the annual review issued by NOAAs
National Climatic Data Center this week. (At the same time,
another report notes that in Western Antartica the ice sheet is
actually growing thicker, slightly countering the overall trend.)
But perhaps the "freedom car" signals a program of increased
reliance on nuclear and renewable energy production. Yeah, sure.
3. ACUPUNCTURE: SURPRISE, IT DOESN'T HELP COCAINE ADDICTION.
I keep trying to imagine why anybody ever thought it could, but
treating dependency by inserting needles in the subject's ear is
a widely used treatment. ("I'll quit! Just don't stick more of
those damned needles in my ear.") But now, in perhaps the largest
study of any acupuncture therapy, researchers at Columbia found
it to be totally ineffective. Practitioners did not dispute the
findings, according to an article in the New York Times, but said
acupuncture is usually used in combination with other treatments.
("Dexaslim, when combined with a program of diet and exercise, is
guaranteed to take off the pounds.") It's a reminder that, before
scientists take far-out claims seriously, they should insist that
a plausible explanation based on known science be advanced.
Investigating the power of prayer.