Saturday, April 23, 2005

Water as fuel? War on poverty (PJI editorials 23-24 April 2005)

SOME years back a putative Pinoy inventor whose name has totally escaped us reportedly turned up an engine that runs on, believe it or go nuts, WATER!

He could have won a clutch of prizes—include the Nobel Prize and more-- for such a revolution that would render OPEC and China’s gargantuan hunger for oil and more oil as things that belong to the Jurassic era.

Go ahead, bleed your thoughts out. Investment bankers are now sounding alarm bells at prospects of a future crude awakening—something like the nightmare of crude oil hitting $400 a barrel. Such a bleak vision of the future ought to pry that flighty inventor out of whatever rat-hole he squeezed himself in. He ought to show up, save the world with his gizmo or whatever miracle machine he has pieced together.

He’d earn zillions of cash. He’d earn the reverence and accolade of the world. He’d be proclaimed king. Cybersex sirens would splay out their yummy wares for him. He’d have dozens of harem to repair to plus harem-scare ‘em in-laws to vent his pique on. He’d be a superstar. A blight of billboards would proclaim to all and sundry: Pinoy inventor conquers the world!

Let’s see sans naughty squint in our eyes. Good old-fashioned water or H2O breaks down into its component gases hydrogen and oxygen with a generous jolt of electricity.

It’s the hydrogen gas that could be fed as fuel into an internal combustion engine and chuck off an exhaust of water vapor. Hydrogen fuel is very, very earth-friendly—if all vehicles clogging EDSA any given day were running on hydrogen fuel, the water vapor exhaust would coax moss, grass, kamote and saluyot to grow smack on the pavement.

There’s a hitch to the fantastic scheme. Water is too stable a chemical compound and wouldn’t readily break down into hydrogen and oxygen. Maybe it takes 50,000 watts of electricity to pump up nuisance value of our favorite radio commentators. It likely takes tremendous jolts of electricity to generate huge volumes of hydrogen to keep a vehicle well-fed with such a fuel. Too, there’s the huge problem of storage for hydrogen gas that’s highly inflammable and goes bang during combustion.

That Filipino inventor did a fast fade-out, hurling out a gripe at government for not supporting his fantastic invention.

He was found out to be a fraud but he left a lot of people with gas pains resulting from too much laughter.

That may not be sound science and revolutionary technology.

That was entertainment!

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CRUDE OIL hovers between $55-60 a barrel these days. Crude-fed power rates were jacked up P1.04 a kilowatt-hour. Consumers and local transport sector leaders are already in an uproar over runaway fuel prices.

Eyes agape at the dismal shape of a near-future, investment bankers worldwide forecast that crude is likely to hit $400 a barrel by 2015, same deadline that United Nations set to reduce global poverty by as much as 50%. The UN try at licking poverty sure looks like a 1960s TV series, “Mission: Impossible.”

Before looking forward to a nightmare, we can look back at the fond, old days of the 1960s. Remember? There was Isaac Asimov’s “Fantastic Voyage” turned into a movie in 1966 and starred a well-stacked Raquel Welch who, along with a crew of surgeons were miniaturized—each turned up smaller than a bacterium. They were injected into a dying scientist’s bloodstream. Racing against antibodies, the crew voyaged to the scientist’s brain, cleaned up blood clots, then, raced towards the patient’s tear ducts where the crew came washed out in tears.

Too, there was “Darmo,” a graphic novel drawn by a Mar T. Santana in one of the weekly komiks we cut our mind’s teeth on. Here’s another nerd who stumbled on in the Amazon jungles a species of humans no taller than a stick of Philip Morris 100's. He befriended ‘em and brought back an entire barangay of wee humans in his suitcase, even introduced ‘em to certain people who betrayed him-- oh, the wee human species were more ravenous than a school of famished piranha and Darmo kept them well-fed.

Now we can turn a bit wishful. That scientist with blood clots in his brain in “Fantastic Voyage” had to be kept alive. He held the secret for shrinking people to microscopic size.

Such a technology ought to be useful these days.

Why, with such a technology we could reduce our population to a tenable size. With a population greatly reduced in size, the so-called urban land squeeze becomes a thing of the past—people may actually live in shoeboxes and sardine cans. There’ll be lots of open spaces more conducive to human health and well-being. There’ll be less population strain on both renewable and non-renewable resources.

Imagine: a 100-gram tilapia or galunggong would likely be enough to feed a family for a week. Just a kilo of corn grits or fragrant dinorado rice ought to sustain a family for a month or two. There’ll be abundance.

Think big?

No, nanotechnology may save our future.

Think small.

1 comment:

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