A Final Question

At last we have a new president—and one who obviously "gets it" about the need for America to change over to a Clean Energy system and renew our national ideals and sense of purpose in the process. With that in mind, I am now going to begin to revise and update Hot, Flat, and Crowded for a new edition and to write the new chapter, Chapter 18. Thanks to all for your contributions; I’ll take up a number of them in the new chapter.

A final question: What is President Obama leaving out? What should he do on the clean energy front that he isn’t already doing?


In "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" The potential of Fusion Reaction power plants "ITER: The Way to New Energy" was not mentioned. http://www.iter.org/. This project is being supported by China, European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the United States. Iter means "the way" in Latin.

The ITER machine is a TOKAMAK, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokamak. TOKAMAK is a transliteration of Russian phrases for "toroidal chamber with magnetic coils," or "toroidal chamber with axial magnetic field."

Roger Wehage (not verified)
September 13th 2010, 8:00 pm

Mr. Friedman,
As well as he is insightful, realistic, and objective; he is as well law maker of world's first encounter with global realm.. The problem here is that he is following and listening to his own side of story and not even considering other possibilities..

Kostic Luka (not verified)
May 7th 2010, 7:16 am

Everything sold must come completely assembled....that would equalize world commerce and off set shipping goods from far off third world countries as the cost to ship assembled goods will not be an economic advantage.

Currently, final assembly is usually by the customer and that is free labor to the third world....and they say wages are cheaper overseas...nobody pays me to assemble what i buy...my labor is free....MADE FOR AMERICA...WHERE FINAL ASSEMBLY IS FREE

Joe Snyder (not verified)
April 25th 2010, 11:15 am

I have an idea that might be a good bridge to the high tech super clean energy economy of the future. First of all I should say I believe the energy source of the future will use the internal combustion engine because it's so ubiquitous. Perhaps it will come from algae or some other microorganism but regardless I've had an idea for how we can plausibly use the hydrogen fuel cell.

Niger has a lot of problems, chief among them the growing Sahara desert, oodles of uranium within its borders and poor people who may eventually have to resort to selling that uranium to support themselves. I think what an international group of investors should do is invest in a massive multi-reactor nuclear power infrastructure in the deserts of Niger, using the uranium from within the country. This power could then be brought to the coast to split hydrogen atoms from water molecules, creating the fuel we all need to power the least environmentally damaging engine we've yet created that can actually work the way we want. Alternately you could have a pump system transporting sea water to the desert aquifers in Niger that are depleted, and use that. Either way, it would give an incentive to the people of Niger to keep their yellow cake and it would help the region economically. Most importantly, we'd need oil less.

Mark Lichtenstein (not verified)
January 31st 2010, 11:13 am

The need for establishing a better life is to pay attention to what we know, listening to scientists, and act on it in a sensible manner. Charles Darwin said, Quote” It is not those who not so much but rather those who know so little that so positively assert that this or that thing will not be solved by science.” Now with the internet, everyone is a rabble-rouser, inflicting senseless opinions based on nothing more than a single item of information set in their dense matter otherwise known as a brain, as fact. As I campaigned for Barrack Obama, and having never done anything like that before, I was shocked at how people are “one issue” voters. To make our country better, we need to establish a system, a new way of thinking. Not being so narrow minded.

We have been overcapitalizing for years and a church marquee I saw that said it all, “The root of all evils is our love for money.” As a country, we allowed many things to happen that have helped destroy the very fabric of our lives. Allowing the import of so many goods and the outsourcing of factories has globalized us to such an extent that we can no longer hold together the economy. We are all in it for a buck, the almighty dollar, and what we need now is a shift the other way.

Sustainability is the key; however, this has become a word used by companies, just as the word “green” is, used as a marketing tool. We cannot change without positive action; an absolute way of showing people that change is possible. I would like to see a model community developed, from scratch, utilizing not just sustainability form the standpoint of building, but rather a holistic approach. A community built around businesses and people that are willing to do whatever is necessary to set a guideline, a community set on principles that are set in law. The homes would produce the power for the community, not only solar or wind, but also by individual hydrogen units that would allow the community to be the power plant. Hydrogen used for heating, cooking, and cars, rather than nuclear plants that supply power to entire states. Recycling is something that is a staple too, but also that the community as a whole would be self sufficient, or at least as much as humanly possible. However, avoid having it grow too large, and having each modular community linked in commerce and art.

Rather that always thinking on such a grand scale, we need to think smaller. The Native Americans realized that communities could not keep growing exponentially, and after a point, the tribe would separate or break up into smaller tribes. Cities as we know it have to change, as we can no longer have such massive metropolises, linked by equally huge suburbs. We do not currently live with our environment, but rather dominate it. The whole world cannot have a western way of living, as it just does not have the resources, and it is up to us to show the world that we too do not have to live outside ours means. A five thousand square foot home, with two people living in it, is status, not sensible. A person living in a small flat in England, or a family living in an 800 square foot home in Japan, sees America as a country of greed and wealth. It is that greed and love for money that has set the world economy, not just ours, into the present state of being. Why ship a shirt from China, or Japan, when we can drive to a small factory within, our just outside our community.

Mr. Freidman, I saw you on Larry King, and thought you had the right ideas. I look forward to reading your books.

Daryl (not verified)
November 24th 2009, 3:18 am

I am in absolute agreement with the comments of Jeff Thompson and Marianne about the absence of discussion concerning human population growth and the current dialogue both environmental and economical. It was certainly absent from Al Gore's, "Inconvenient Truth."
I've been puzzled by this for years; it seems to be the most critical element and the fundamental basis for many, I would say, all, of our problems, yet we can not talk about controlling human population.
I am not so naive to not understand why, nor am I at all hopeful that such discussion will ever take place.
This debate can not be broached without massive out-cry from all sorts of religious sects and screams of imposing on civil liberties, etc, etc.
This discussion requires an evolution of a our species beyond religious, egocentric views.
I'm 46; don't see it happening in my lifetime.
Thank you.
Susan J.T.

Susan J. Thompson (not verified)
November 22nd 2009, 2:36 pm

Mr. Friedman - I agree with the writer who wrote that your book does not emphasize the control of human population growth enough. Most of the environmental problems you cite in your book stem directly or indirectly from human population growth. The fastest and cheapest way of improving the environment would be to stem the exploding birthrate. Read Paul Ehrlich, he says it all and has been saying it for 30 years.

Nonetheless, your book is fantastic. I wish it could be required reading for every Anmerican.

Jeff Thompson

Jeff Thompson (not verified)
October 26th 2009, 10:36 am

Thomas -

I heard you speak this week at DeAnza College. Fantastic lecture -- thank you! I believe you are missing a potential, at least partial, cure to our climate and biodiversity problem: human population growth must be slowed. You cite population explosion as a reason we need a green revolution. True enough. But, I'm puzzled why you do not advocate dramatic slowing of population growth as one tactic. We wouldn't need to create as many power plants if there weren't such a growth in population. We wouldn't be crowding out as many natural habits and as many species if human population weren't sprawling all over the globe.

I'm sure you see the point, but am puzzled why you haven't flagged population control as one of the solutions we must pursue. Population control does not have be done through draconian means. We could use education and tax incentives, for example. What if we gave tax breaks to families without children, instead of the other way around? What if we had a UN committee on low global population growth?

Slowing population growth would seem like such an obvious course of action to pursue that I am puzzled by your not mentioning it. Is it because of the moral and ethical considerations we would have to grapple with? Is it because you think we are not up to the task? Is it because you do not trust humanity to pursue lowering population growth in a humane fashion?

I know you are insanely busy, but would love to have a dialogue with you on this one. I think it is an important topic that we cannot shy away from.


Marianne (not verified)
September 13th 2009, 10:11 am

Could you include in your final chapter re-write a comment upon Robert Reich's supercapitalism and the need to move the debate to industry wide regulations to prevent the misdirection of public focus.

He argues forcefully that the spheres of business and politics must be kept distinct. He calls for an end to the legal fiction that corporations are citizens, as well as the illusion that corporations can be "socially responsible" until laws define social needs. Reich explains why we must stop treating companies as if they were people—and must therefore abolish the corporate income tax and levy it on shareholders instead, hold individuals rather than corporations guilty of criminal environmental conduct, and not expect companies to be "green." For, as Reich says, only people can be citizens, and only citizens should be allowed to participate in democratic decision making.

And to further his thought, if the sphere of US laws is the US, and the sphere of companies are global, how much longer until we take a serious look at extending US Federalism to the Globe to confront global issues?

Lex (not verified)
August 24th 2009, 2:14 pm

While it would be great if America underwent a paradigm shift from being a country of consumers to a country of conservationist, but we have to take practical steps to bring about change. We speak so much about energy conservation, but we also have to be aware of the landfill impact that we've created. I believe one simple and practical step is to use alternatives than plastics and styrofoam products that clutter our oceans and lands. I've found products like biodegradable cups and food containers eliminate waste substantially. Real products that work check out www.green-tooth.com and their biodegradable cups have worked really well for me. http://www.green-tooth.com/biodegradable-cups....

Additional alternatives is to use recycled products. Simple ideas like flags from recycled plastic is such a novel concept and one that can go a long ways. Look at these http://www.republic-flag.com/green-flag.html from http://www.republic-flag.com/. Anyhow just some practical steps that I've included in my life and think we all can learn

Bruce Anderson (not verified)
August 18th 2009, 2:52 pm

I recently read a book called The 12 Caesars (great book) and it quoted either Cicero or Cato (I always get them mixed up) in ancient Rome. He said something like: Every politician is compromised, every contract is for sale, every day the citizens of Rome get shortchanged.

2000 years ago, and it was like it was written yesterday. I know it's a sweeping statement to say End Corruption and clean out the cesspool that is Washington, but can a clean energy program really work when there are those who make billions of dollars (a quarter) who are not behind it?

Matthew Hallock (not verified)
July 14th 2009, 2:02 pm

There is only one thing that will save us...and that is a fundamental change in our thinking. A true paradigm shift. Albert Einstein said it best, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." With all due respect, the ideas offered so far are just more of the same...build more power plants, dig more uranium, deface more desert. More, more, more.

Earth is over-populated with humans and will just continue to get worse because, unlike rabbits or rats, we have no natural predators to manage our population. We need to stop mindlessly procreating ...we have the free will to do so and can make the choice. Education is key.

One of the most impressive minds of our time, Dr. Stephen Hawking, has said, "I think the human race has no future if it doesn't go into space." And maybe that is one way to look at it...we should just abandon Earth and go mess up some other unsuspecting planet. But I truly believe that the human race has the capacity to stop squabbling about the small stuff and embrace the larger collective good right here on this planet. It will take a monumental shift...almost like a new religion. The mind set must be broadened from "me" to "we"...and that "we" includes the entire Earth, without political boundaries. Our thinking cannot be about the next 25 years or the next 100...we must look at the next 1000 years and design a global society built on sustainability of existing resources and the development of new, as yet undiscovered, technologies and sciences (I don't know the right words for this). We need the dreamers and the visionaries...the ones who say, "what if...?" I don't believe that this fundamental shift in thinking will happen in my lifetime...our political and business leaders are still wrapped up in the "us versus them" syndrome, which will take another generation or two to change. I wish it was otherwise. But, I believe we can start, and that the answers are available to us, if only we have the eyes to see and the courage to act now.

Diane Wiley (not verified)
May 27th 2009, 9:58 pm

We have all been hearing about the mass closing of Chrysler and GM dealers; Ford likely to follow Suit. How about moving Tesla, Better Place, Zap, Mini E, Aptera, Fisker, and the host of up-and-comers into these vacant lots? The supporting infrastructure is sure to follow.

David Alan Foster (not verified)
May 27th 2009, 2:59 am

Thank you for a fantastic book. I feel like biodiesel is hugely overlooked. Beyond the greenhouse gas advantages there are huge efficiencies in distribution and supply-control.

Obama should elucidate for americans that their current child behavior impacts the entire world's future.

Eric Davis (not verified)
May 22nd 2009, 4:28 pm

Mr. Friedman,

I have enjoyed your books and really appreciate the insights that you provide.

As an American with degrees in Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering, International Management, and Nuclear Engineering, I am extremely disappointed that the comments listed here from your readers have largely ignored the absolute best alternative for clean energy that we have--nuclear powr.

Nuclear power has been given a bad rap in this country. If you ask the person on the street about nuclear power, they will quickly respond with "it is not a good idea" and cite Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

The two events could not be more different. The former was indeed a disaster, brought about by poor reactor design and (literally) untrained operators. It cost lives and forced generations of people to move from the only home they had ever known. Three Mile Island, on the other hand, was really just an industrial incident. No one died. No one got cancer. In fact, the single greatest risk to the people in the surrounding community was the evacuation brought on by incompetent government decision makers.

Here are some other points of clarification that need to be shared with the people:

A reactor CANNOT explode like a nuclear weapon. It is physically impossible.

Someone cannot pull a truck up to a reactor, steal the fuel rods from the core, and make a nuclear weapon.

The burning of coal in a power plant releases more radioactivity into the environment than a nuclear power plant of the same size.

The fission of a single uranium atom releases over 1,000,000 times the energy released from the burning of a molecule of coal.

Reactors can be designed to shut down automatically, without operator intervention, when they approach the limits of design parameters.

Building reactors will make the country safer by limiting our dependence on foreign oil. (It is important to note that over 40% of the world's uranium reserves are in Austrailia, Canada, and the US.)

Uranium reserves could last several hundred years without fuel reprocessing. With fuel reprocessing, since reactors can create more fuel than they burn, reserves could easily last hundreds of thousands of years.

Radiation is present everywhere, emanating from the banana you eat, the brick walls of your house, and the campfire you use to cook marshmellows. If you live in a brick house in the mountains in Colorado, you will get more radiation than the person who lives downwind from a nuclear reactor in south Texas. But, not to worry, the small amount of radiation we receive from our environments actually helps our body by stimulating the system that allows our cells to isolate the abnormal cells that we all have so they cannot reproduce.

Not reprocessing fuel is a bad idea. Unreprocessed fuel will remain radioactive indefinitely because of the uranium and plutonium present (after all, uranium has been around for billions of years). However, if the uranium and plutonium are extracted from the spent fuel, it can be burned in the reactor as fuel. The rest of the radioactive material can be stored and will be relatively harmless in a few hundred years.

Nuclear power costs are comparable to coal. And if people want even cheaper power all they have to do is stop groups from intoducing litigation when faced with the prospect of a nuclear power plant being built in their neighborhood. This is the "Not in my backyard" mentality.

The government and nuclear scientists need to make a concerted effort to educate the public about the facts of nuclear power.

As someone who wants to leave a better world for my children and grandchildren when my time is done, I wish that you would research nuclear power. You would readily discern that America's (and the world's) best fuel alternative is nuclear power.

MAJ Buckley O'Day, student, Command and General Staff College, Fort Belvoir, Virginia

The views expressed in this blog response are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

MAJ Buckley O'Day (not verified)
May 17th 2009, 12:22 pm

Saving energy is the most cost effective way to reduce greenhouse gases - and one particular concept has a huge impact because it is aimed at where we consume most: building efficiency. The Pasive House concept developped by Dr. Wolfgang Feist and Bo Adamson is simple, feasible with todays technology and works in nearly all climatic conditions. The proof: 24% of all new flats in Vienna are built by this standard in 2009, Frankfurt am Main is investing in public buildings only if they meet pasive house criteria. Why? Because the average extra investment cost of 4-8% (depending on building type) pays itself from day 1.
As architects we now only build such buildings - not to do so would be irresponsible towards investors and ourselves.
Bjorn Kierulf, Slovakia

Bjorn Kierulf (not verified)
May 3rd 2009, 5:54 pm

When do you expect to complete Chapter 18? Will it be at the book store or on the internet?

Ken Willoughby (not verified)
April 20th 2009, 5:01 pm

... let me add to my last entry regarding Clean Tech/Energy initiatives... we must now make a long term commitment (15 years of the proper price signals [investment/subsidies])... so that American companies especially would grow/scale their new Clean Tech businesses without fear of things changing with every Presidential/Congressional election cycle. Thomas your excellent example (Hot,Flat, and Crowded) of the American company, First Solar Inc (Thin Film Solar manufacturer), really shows what happens when the American government does not support these new industries... this company needed to scale their markets to survive/thrive... they had to turn to the German government (long-term 20 yr solar industry investment commitment) for help. Maybe we should just let more unsustainable companies fail (instead of the recent U.S. auto organization bail-outs)... they could re-tool with new viable business plans, and begin manufacturing solar panels, wind turbines, geo-thermal pumps, etc.?

Paul V. Ihlenfe... (not verified)
April 19th 2009, 8:15 pm

What is President Obama leaving out regarding Clean Tech/Energy for the USA? Clean Tech/Energy initiatives and implementations starting at the U.S. federal level... we now need National leadership guiding all the states & counties to set these standards/mandates (dramatically increase renewable energy sources & reduce the dirty fuels, nationally integrated grid, green building codes on all buildings, 35+ auto MPG, energy efficiencies & conservation, Cap & Trade [Carbon tax], set price signals for dirty/clean energies [will finally set our unique innovation, investment, employment, and markets in forward motion], etc.) The USA National leadership must be BOLD, DECISIVE, and QUICK (less debate & deliberation) to act, or other countries (Germany, Japan, China, etc.) will develop the upcoming Clean Tech/Energy before us! What can we all do now in the interim? "51% of USA Clean Energy is CONSERVATION and Energy Efficiency... greater than all the solar, wind, biomass, bio-fuel, and geothermal combined!" HowDoUconserve... learn & share how you can economize your conservation @Home to maximize your savings and reduce environmental impacts...

Paul V. Ihlenfe... (not verified)
April 11th 2009, 10:24 pm

Obama's plan to double renewable energy is a step in the right direction. Although the goal of doubling renewable energy to 0.8% is only a drop in the bucket, I'm happy to see someone at the top make this a high priority. Now let's see if the trickle down effect works.

Anonymous (not verified)
April 10th 2009, 3:38 pm

What Obama really needs to do is something that will work by the end of the next decade. His plan to "double" renewable energy won't make a difference, since wind & solar are so small. Doubling 0.4% of our energy to 0.8% is too little, too late.

And if his definition of renewable energy includes hydroelectric dams (over 90% of our renewable electricity) then he's really out of touch. We need more nuclear power in this country. Steven Chu has said that nuclear power is our only source of emissions-free, base-load power generation.

zack (not verified)
April 7th 2009, 4:06 pm

Dear Tom,
What I think Obama left out in the energy plan is that the 75% of the cars in the us should be a hybrid or hydrogen, or biofuel, or electric over the next five years. The environment is on the point of tipping, and yet just 50% of all the government cars purchased by 2012 is going to be plug in hybrids or all electric. I think that should be 75% by 2011 and have electric, hydrogen, hybrids, biofuels, or have a city mpg of at least 40. As for America, he should make sure that all cars in the united states have at least a city mpg of 35 by 2012, and by 2015 all cars in America should get at least 35. there should by engines available with tax cuts that have at least 35 mpg and there should be at least 1 billion put for financial help to get a new engine. I also think that Obama should give money to the states to put solar panels on government buildings, and have a fund where people can get money to get renewable energy or to get solar panels or a wind turbine.
also no one can get sued for putting up any wind turbine or any other object that collects renewable energy. Finally I think he should regulate the amount of natural gas, coal, and oil that comes into our country.
If you would like a bit more detail, you know how to contact me.

Joshua Martin Adamson
New York, NY
5th Grade
Columbia Grammar

Joshua Adamson (not verified)
March 31st 2009, 7:19 pm

President Obama is leaving out algae. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus package) never mentions the word algae. Tom Freidman's only doing a little better. I'm about 2/3 through Hot, Flat and Crowded, and have seen algae once. It's not in the index.

Algae could be a game changing disruptive technology by converting CO2 to oil. Algae would reduce climate change and the influence of petrodictators.

Think if we had 2 million barrels per day of oil production from algae. If OPEC threatened to raise oil prices or reduce production, we would tell them to go ahead. We'll just increase algae produciton.

Algae is not going to happen without more government support. It needs to be jump started. As the stimulus package shows, that is not happening yet.

Chris Neil (not verified)
March 23rd 2009, 5:08 pm


Here is an idea for building the hydrogen fueling infrastructure without the oil companies or the federal government:

Hydrogen fueling station cooperatives

With hydrogen cars making tremendous advancements, the focus has now turned to getting the hydrogen fueling infrastructure built. The truth is that the car companies are very frustrated that neither the oil companies nor the federal government has stepped up to build the hydrogen fueling infrastructure.

In order to break this logjam, I am proposing the following idea that would eliminate the need to depend on the oil companies or the federal government to get the hydrogen fueling infrastructure built.

The idea is to get 1000 people that live reasonably close to each other to agree to buy a hydrogen car and finance a hydrogen fueling station that will be built close to where they live. A figure that is often used for the cost of a hydrogen fueling station is $2 million. This would translate to $2000 per person.

Each person would pay the extra $2000 when they purchase a hydrogen car. And then they would own 1/1000th of the hydrogen fueling station which would be a cooperative.

The hydrogen fueling station could be run by members of the cooperative or the operation of the facility could be outsourced. Just like with gas stations today, this cost would be covered by money made from fuel and convenience store sales.

Once the hydrogen fueling station is up and running, the people who paid the $2000 and own part of it would get a “Member” fuel price. Any other people who buy hydrogen cars after them (and did not pay $2000 for the hydrogen fueling station) would have to pay a “Non-member” fuel price which might be something like $1 more per kilogram of hydrogen (e.g. $7 instead of $6).

Any profits from the hydrogen fueling station could be paid back to the 1000 owners every quarter or year in the form of dividend checks. And eventually the hydrogen fueling station could be sold and each person would receive 1/1000th of that amount. Therefore, each person would make back part or perhaps even all of the $2000 initial investment over time.

One of the amazing things is that this could pretty much be done anywhere there are 1000 people who live pretty close to each other who want to do this.

Furthermore, the idea is scalable. For example, it can work for one hydrogen fueling station in one part of Los Angeles. Or maybe 10,000 people would get together in a larger part of Los Angeles (e.g. the San Fernando Valley) and build ten hydrogen fueling stations and each person would get the “Member” fuel price at each location.

And down the road, maybe 100,000 people in Los Angeles or even a million in Southern California could get together and finance a solar-to-hydrogen production facility in the Mojave Desert and pipeline down to one or more locations in Southern California.

Hydrogen fueling station cooperatives could be done without any help from the oil companies or the federal government. They would be a true grassroots effort that could totally reshape the energy power structure.

Greg Blencoe
Chief Executive Officer
Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.

Greg Blencoe, C... (not verified)
March 16th 2009, 4:18 pm


I agree with Don (the last person to post an idea) about powering hydrogen fuel cell vehicles with hydrogen produced from wind power.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are actually only 3-6 years away and not 10-20 years away! This is a HUGE story that is being missed! But don't believe me, just look at all of the quotes from the car companies below!

Here is a article that I wrote earlier today that I HIGHLY recommend reading:


Top 10 things I wish Thomas Friedman knew about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (so he would realize they are 3-6 years away and not 10-20 years away)


Here is a quote from this weekend’s column “The Next Really Cool Thing” by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times:

“If you hang around the renewable-energy business for long, you’ll hear a lot of tall tales. You’ll hear about someone who’s invented a process to convert coal into vegetable oil in his garage and someone else who has a duck in his basement that paddles a wheel, blows up a balloon, turns a turbine and creates enough electricity to power his doghouse.

Hang around long enough and you’ll even hear that in another 10 or 20 years hydrogen-powered cars or fusion energy will be a commercial reality. If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard one of those stories, I could buy my own space shuttle. No wonder cynics often say that viable fusion energy or hydrogen-powered cars are ‘20 years away and always will be.’”

My response to this comment are the following ten pieces of information:

1. DW-World.de article, September 3, 2008

“Matthias Brock from Daimler in Stuttgart said he believes that the fuel cell is very promising when it comes to zero-emission driving in local areas. Mercedes has around 100 test vehicles underway - the world’s largest fleet of fuel cell vehicles. The company is currently working on a B-class with fuel cell power which could be produced in limited numbers from 2010.

‘We estimate that between 2012 and 2015 the car could be ready for series (mass) production,’ Brock said.”

2. Entry posted on January 28, 2009 on H2euro.org which is the European Hydrogen Association’s website:

“Daimler starts small series production of fuel cell vehicles in summer 2009

Published on 28-01-2009

In an interview with the German car magazine ‘Auto Motor und Sport’ on January 28, 2009 Daimler’s CEO, Dieter Zetsche announced the start of small series production of fuel cell cars from the middle of 2009. Daimler is looking to reach annual production numbers of 100,000 vehicles in four to five years at a cost comparable, to Bluetec hybride cars, that only recently seemed far fetched according to Mr. Zetsche.”

3. Quote from Bill Reinert from Toyota in article published on January 23, 2009 on CarPoint.com.au:

“All the while, this feeds into our product development for the cars that actually will hit the streets - sometime in the middle of the next decade. Beyond 2010, before 2020.

“When we say ‘hit the streets’, I don’t mean limited partnerships or demonstration products. I mean go to a dealer, trade in your SUV and drive away in a fuel cell car.”

4. New York Times blog entry, January 12, 2009

“Masatami Takimoto, a Toyota executive vice president and board member, disclosed the company’s hydrogen plans in an interview at the show. ‘By 2015, we will have a full-fledged commercialization effort,’ Mr. Takimoto said.”

5. Gas 2.0 blog entry, June 10, 2008

“Later in 2008, Toyota will release their new FCHV-adv model (mid-size SUV), which reportedly has a maximum cruising range is 516 miles (compared with 205 miles for Toyota’s previous fuel cell vehicle). This improved model uses both the hydrogen-powered fuel cell and an electric motor, and has improved performance partially due to better braking efficiency.

Also, Toyota claims they’ve managed to outsmart one of the challenges of using a fuel-cell auto: low temperatures. The FCHV-adv model can start and run in temperatures as low as -22 degrees Fahrenheit.”

6. Energy Tribune interview of Bill Reinert from Toyota, February 2, 2009

“Having said all that, I’m still very bullish on the promise of fuel cells. There are several manufacturers that are turning out very promising cars, cars that couldn’t be realized without using fuel cells. Most of us have solved many of the initial problems including energy density and cold weather performance. We still have some cost problems, but at least we can see a clear pathway. Energy storage is still an issue, but we’re learning how to design around that.

I think the biggest issue facing the emergence of fuel cells has nothing to do with the products and everything to do with the infrastructure. Despite all the work the auto companies have done to develop the cars, there isn’t a corresponding effort on the infrastructure side. We can develop the best car in the world, but if the customer can’t find fuel for it, they’re unlikely to adopt it.”

7. KBBGreen article, early January 2009 (or late December 2008)

“Reinforcing its claim to having more real-world experience with fuel-cell powered vehicles than any other manufacturer, General Motors has announced that its fleet of 100-plus Chevrolet Equinox FCVs has now completed over a half a million in-service miles since the original Project Driveway program kicked off in October 2007. While most of those miles have been rolled up in the U.S., GM also has been evaluating these vehicles in both Asia and Europe…

“According to Marybeth Stanek, GM’s director of fuel cell commercialization, the knowledge being gained should help the automaker in achieving its goal to have some kind of production version hydrogen FCV in its showrooms by 2012. ‘The vehicles are performing very well and we are learning a great deal about fuel cell robustness and how to make this program work for real customers.’”

8. Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York) article, January 30, 2009

“But that fuel cell technology under those hoods, at three years old, already is passé. In a lab at GM’s Fuel Cell Activities facility in Honeoye Falls sits the next generation of those engines - about half the size, lighter and more durable. And researchers at the R&D facility are working on pushing fuel cells further in a race to make a viable alternative to the internal combustion engine in time for fuel cell vehicles to be on dealers’ lots in about six years.

‘We’ve made a lot of progress in the last three years,’ said Daniel B. O’Connell, the facility’s director of global field service, support and infrastructure.”

9. Edmunds.com article, September 15, 2008

“(Honda research chief Masaaki) Kato told Bloomberg that Honda engineers don’t believe lithium-ion batteries will satisfy most consumers because of their high cost and limited range compared to gasoline engines.

In Japan, he said, battery developers are still trying to meet a government goal of boosting energy storage capacity by seven times while slashing battery costs to just 2.5 percent of current costs.

‘That gives you a pretty clear example of what type of gap we’re facing relative to a gasoline vehicle,’ Kato said. ‘At this point, I’d say it’s impossible to imagine a date at which such a breakthrough could occur.’

He said Honda believes it will be easier, less costly and quicker to perfect the fuel-cell electric vehicle, such as the FCX Clarity that it is leasing in small numbers to select consumers in Southern California and Japan.”

10. Hydrogen fueling station cooperatives solve the hydrogen infrastructure “chicken and egg” problem.

Here is how they would work:

One thousand people who live near each other would purchase a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and each pay $2000 extra to finance a $2 million hydrogen fueling station. A hydrogen fueling station cooperative would be formed and each person would own 1/1000th of the fueling station.

This solves the hydrogen infrastructure “chicken and egg” problem since the hydrogen vehicles and fueling stations would come at the same time. Furthermore, it would demonstrate a viable business model for building the hydrogen infrastructure that could be replicated across the U.S. and around the world.


Greg Blencoe
Chief Executive Officer
Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.

Greg Blencoe, C... (not verified)
March 16th 2009, 3:12 pm

I have not heard anyone considering using the electricity from wind energy to generate hydrogen. It would create a clean fuel which could be generated all over the country. The hydrogen could be stored so times when the wind did not blow wouldn't require burning fossil fuels to generate electricity. This would also eliminate the need to connect every wind generator to the grid and also eliminate the need for expensive batteries for our cars.

Don (not verified)
March 15th 2009, 9:12 pm

Mr. Friedman,
The World Affairs Council will hold its World Quest Competition on April 4th in DC. It will bring high school kids from all over the US and questions will come from many topics about which you write. This is the second year that my team is fortunate enough represent South Carolina and compete. If you can you should look in. You will see 100's of very intelligent young men and women with very bright futures that do have an idea about the world around them.

Jerry (not verified)
March 15th 2009, 1:15 pm

When the film An Inconvenient Truth came out many many people including corporate, government and local leaders watched the film and the understanding of climate change took a huge leap forward.There are now many great books in the market place that have some very fresh views on what might be some approaches to solving the problem. In this very busy world we live in there aren't many leaders with a lot of time on their hands to read them all. It would be terrific if Thomas Friedman (Hot Flat and Crowded) could use his very strong influence to bring about a 30 video that could be watched over lunch by business leaders,by families before supper, by students on break and get a snap shot of what might be done.

Ian Greasley (not verified)
March 15th 2009, 11:35 am

Sustainability, in the energy demand field, will require an additional player.

Hemp will need to be the basis for creating ALCOHOL in a new-tech method of deriving a gasoline alternative. Cars ran on alcohol before the oil mafia injected our sustaining ecomony with prohibition which made all industrial alcohol producers criminals. Alcohol will assist until the hydrogen, natural gas, electric car... or other is ready to wean us off of oil with personal/local/regional producers of fuel.

Plus hemp will also allow for manufacturing of light and heavy goods without destroying our forests with the resulting environmental cost nor importing scarce resources from other countries/continents. This will allow for real jobs in America that entrupenurs will creat... on a local/regional scale.

Obviously, education and treatment will be the solution to drug "abuse" and markteting instead of millions of Americans being locked in cages for using a medicinal herb.

These changes will accomodate the drop in "fluff" economies where millions are wasting thier lives hawking useless comsumerism bables and trinkets, decaying on the phone addressing complaints for the same and plundering great creativity as advertising armies make great pitches for people eating .... and liking it.

Brax (not verified)
March 14th 2009, 5:14 pm

Hey folks,

Good luck with trying to control the weather by eliminating methane from cow farts and limiting CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. By the way...how much CO2 is in the air? its about 200 parts per million...thats 0.02%, and we're hoping to limit it to about 0.05%, and thats going to have a huge impact on the weather. Stop screwing around by trying to scare people into believing that the sky is going to fall in and start talking about the real problem. We're eventually going to run out of oil and thats starting to cause economic problems and we need to work out a good replacement.

"Hot, flat, and crowded". The "hot" part is questionable and its not at all clear what the outcomes are, much less clear as to whether the outcomes are good or bad. "Flat" is intended to mean that economic disparity and social classes are disappearing because information and knowledge are more easily accessible. OK...so what...everyone knows this, lives with this, and generally benefits from this, so its a good thing and we should keep improving it. Crowded means that population is increasing so we should carefully plan and manage our food and water supply. Humans are very good at this which is a one big reason why our population is going up. So where is the fantastic insight in this work?

Anonymous (not verified)
March 11th 2009, 9:18 pm