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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/10/09

Back on Track, Grid Powered, and Gas Free

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Message Jeff Ganaposki

"Way of Steel" is the future - we must get "back on track". As the "Age of Oil" passes, we must bid it adieu. But in the wings, a voice cries out : "Hydrogen!"

Again, it cries out: "Don't build suspended power grids (catenary lines). They are obsolete!"

But Hydrogen is not the way. Hydrolley promoters overstate the cost for catenaries, and ignore the glaring problems that face fuel cell vehicles - waste. Hydrail wastes fuel, time, and resources. Waste is something we can no longer accept.

My opinion is that catenary overhead power distribution has more benefits, over time, than creating a non-existant hydrail / hydrolley infrastructure.

1. Electrolysis of H2 requires electricity, hence it will always be less efficient to generate Hydrolley / Hydrail electrical power. If the source is petroleum or natural gas for the H2, it is doubly wasteful.

2. Every train with a hydrogen fuel cell system will have to carry the fuel cell AND the tank of H2 fuel. Catenary fed electric trains do not carry dead weight and are thus more efficient - and faster.

3. Every train will require periodic refueling - a time waster, as well as energy lost from diverting to a depot. 

4. H2 will require resources to transport it to refueling stations.

5. Catenary fed electric trains that use regenerative braking can feed the recovered power back into the catenary grid for use by other trains. H2 hydrail would either waste the power -or- have to carry batteries (more dead weight).

6. And lastly, the fastest, lightest trains, are all catenary powered - from Europe to Asia. (Shinkansen "Bullet Trains", TGV, ICE, etc.)

Additionally, the catenary (on mainline Railroads) could also become a valuable power transmission conduit for WINDFARMS (T Boone Pickens' problem child).

For urban areas, a suspended power grid may be the savior for hybrid/electric vehicles. Municipalities could not only use it to power their hybrid police vehicles, but could sell access to the public - extending the range of their vehicles' battery. If trolley buses can run via catenaries, why not cruisers, trucks, and automobiles?

The renaissance of rail is upon us. Let us not be distracted by sleight of hand and slick promotion to embrace hydrail, and ignore over 120 years of proven service, worldwide, of electric trains powered by catenary wires.  For once, let us be the leaders in efficiency and frugality, as we fulfill our transportation needs in the 21st century.

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Jet Graphics is what an IBM computer (1980 vintage) spell checker thought my name should be spelled. I am a student of the infinite, and enjoy science fiction, philosophy, history, and morality conundrums. I like music of all types, especially if it (more...)
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