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Energy Pros & Cons


Clean and efficient hydrogen is a much-vaunted alternative power source. Iceland has already embarked on its journey to become the first hydrogen economy.

Hydrogen occurs naturally in water, so resources are vast
Hydrogen fuel cells are silent
The only by-product is water vapour, in contrast to the burning of fossil fuels, which emits greenhouse gases and other pollutants

The biggest problem is getting at the hydrogen. This is done either by electrolysis - using electricity to split water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen - or by reforming fossil fuels
Electrolysis creates no harmful by-products directly, but is only as clean as the process used to generate the electricity in the first place
It is also expensive – costing about $2.40 for a kilogram of hydrogen
The more widely used method is to split the hydrocarbons in fossil fuels into hydrogen and carbon. This is much cheaper – about $0.65 a kilogram. But it defeats the point somewhat as it still uses fossil fuels and creates carbon dioxide as a by-product. Even using hydrocarbons, however, hydrogen fuel cells would still reduce air pollution
Hydrogen is a flammable gas, so there are safety concerns
Hydrogen is bulky to transport


1 Hydrogen: Pumped to positively-charged anode
2 Oxygen: Pumped to negatively-charged cathode
3 Catalyst: Helps electrons break free from hydrogen atoms
4 Membrane: Prevents electrons getting to cathode
5 Circuit: Blocked electrons flow to cathode as electrical current
6 Electrons and hydrogen ions combine with oxygen, forming water


© Alternative Use Group plc, 2013