Instead of Natural Gas Fracking, We Should Use Solar Power

Natural gas fracking is a bad idea which should never be considered. As found by the EPA, it pollutes ground water and has also been blamed for earthquakes. In reality, there is no valid reason to even approach this kind of drilling because it’s less expensive to produce green energy and stay away from fossil fuels.

The cost of a producing a natural gas well is $3.9 million as of 2007. Rest assured that those costs went up in the last four years. The payback averages $22 million but it can take up to 50 years to collect. In addition, there are land leases and royalties that must be paid which are a minimum of 12.5% of the production. This leaves only $19.25 million per well for an average annual ROI of $385,000 or 9.8%. Just a bit over 10 years to break even assuming $5 per 1000 cubic feet of gas.

In February 2009, Popular Mechanics reported that solar power dropped to $1 per watt. With fossil fuel power plant construction costs at $1300.00 per kilowatt, this makes green electricity less expensive than fossil fuels in construction alone, but even better, there is no fuel cost for green production.

There is another way we could get the same amount of fuel using solar options. If we compare a renewable option to natural gas fracking, what we would do is build a 3.9MW solar installation near a body of water. This water source could be polluted, saltwater, freshwater, or any other water source. All we are going to do is use the power generated by the solar array to “crack” the hydrogen out of the water. Commercially available generators crack 10 cubic meters per hour using 58KW to do so. Since a cubic foot of hydrogen yields 70% of the energy yielded by a cubic foot of natural gas, we will charge 70% of the price for it. Whereas natural gas lasts 20 years, hydrogen production will continue to pay off indefinitely with no overhead; there are no “dry holes,” no environmental damage in the production, and hydrogen is unquestionably a much cleaner fuel.

Anything that uses natural gas as an energy source can use hydrogen. The current natural gas infrastructure will accept hydrogen without alteration. Hydrogen, with 70% of the energy release as compared to natural gas, is less dangerous to store and transport. It also disperses more rapidly into the ambient air than natural gas which makes a leak far less dangerous.

However, there are drawbacks to hydrogen. It’s a renewable resource, so there is no impetus to charge more over time. In fact, the impetus is to increase the supply to the point that there is a glut, since the only production cost is the initial investment and production never needs to end. In addition, a huge installation is not needed to efficiently produce hydrogen. The same energy is used per cubic yard whether you produce a cubic yard per day or 100 cubic yards per hour. There is no economy of scale that applies, which means anyone can become a hydrogen producer. Further, it’s not limited to major corporations. In fact, there are plans available on the internet to build effective hydrogen generators for under $20.00.

Fracking is a dangerous activity which helps only oil industry executives. It isn’t necessary, it isn’t economically or environmentally-sound, we don’t need it now, we won’t need it in the future, and there is no point in using it ever. The same money can be used to create a hydrogen-based energy economy that is renewable, ongoing, and scalable. It would be inexpensive and easy to alter our current infrastructure to accommodate. Is there really a reason not to make this move?

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Darwin Long

I'm interested in economics and social policy with particular emphasis on alternative energy. I'm opinionated and passionate, but I endeavor to keep an open mind. I am a self employed and self taught computer engineer. I have worked as a day trader, a smuggler, a handyman, a motorcycle mechanic and an aircraft manufacturer as well as lots of other activities too short or unsuccessful (or both) to mention individually. My formal education culminated in an associate degree in electronics technology. The self education is my excuse for why many of my opinions come from far afield and I hold positions on the left, the right and some places that have yet to be defined. I have positive opinions about policies that come from the progressive, the conservative, the libertarian and the socialist camps. NOBODY has all the right answers. I have been in 49 of the 50 states on a motorcycle (tough to ride it to Hawaii) and now I intend to do the same thing in a small airplane that I will build.

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