MICHAEL FARADAY'S PROPOSAL FOR AVOIDING THE 'OIL WARS'
by Harvey R. Hallenberg
Perhaps I am too bold with this proposal. If you think so, attribute it to my age. I was born in 1791.
In my time, the demand for petroleum was not great. We were only just beginning to find uses for what you call fossil fuels. In my time, street lighting with gas lamps was a new technology. I remember finding a residue in the canisters of a lamp gas, and I determined to analyze it. When I did so, I named it bicarburit of hydrogen. It is now known as benzene. Benzene is the least complex of an entire class of hydrocarbonsnow known as the aromatic hydrocarbons.
I understand that your country and mine are about to go to war with the nation of Iraq. Many prominent individuals, living and dead, believe that this war is actually about the control of petroleum reserves which are abundant in this region that I knew as Persia and the Arabian Peninsula. Your dependence on petroleum as a source of carbon fuels is perhaps the underlying cause of 'unrest' in this area of the world.
I believe that you do not need to be so dependent on petroleum as a source of carbon for fuels. Carbon fuels all produce carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide when they are burned. (Even diamonds produce carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide when they are burned as Sir Humphry Davy and I proved in Tuscany in 1814.)
Carbon dioxide, while not poisonous, contributes to a warming of earth's atmosphere by a process that you call the 'greenhouse effect.' Why not burn a fuel that is readily available and that produces no carbon dioxide?! Such a fuel is pure hydrogen gas.
I was able to separate hydrogen gas and oxygen gas from liquid water in my laboratory by electrolytic decomposition, what I called electrolysis. (I used electrolytic decomposition in many of my experiments.)
Here is my proposal to reduce or eliminate your dependence on petroleum as a source of carbon fuels. Build a series of electrolytic decomposition ?stations? on floating platforms in the southern oceans at 30 degrees south latitude. I recommend this latitude because the wind cells in the southern atmosphere converge at 30 degrees south latitude and produce nearly cloudless skies.
Sunlight can be used to generate electricity. I believe that I was the first to describe the photoelectric effect, but your albert Einstein further elaborated on my discovery and added the mathematical description which I was totally unprepared to do. (My own education involved no mathematical training.)
Once these electrolytic decomposition stations are built and operational, they would use sunlight passing through nearly cloudless skies to decompose sea water into oxygen gas and hydrogen gas. The captured salts can be returned to the sea or processed to obtain minerals that are found, along with sodium chloride, in all sea water.
The oxygen gas, so obtained, can be released into the atmosphere with no negative effect. In fact, they might contribute to the repair of the ?hole? in the ozone layer over the south polar region. Rising in the atmosphere, some of the oxygen gs would be converted to ozone quite naturally by solar radiation. The remaining hydrogen gas would be compressed and distributed to all of the countries of the world in proportion to their populations. As the seas do not belong to any one nation or group of nations, the hydrogen fuel should be distributed equally to all the peoples of this planet.
Each nation could use their portion of the hydrogen gas to produce energy AND pure water for drinking. The only byproduct of the combustion of hydrogen is pure water.
My proposal, if implemented, would reduce or eliminate the need to war over the limited petroleum reserves on this beautiful planet. Carbon for the synthesis of complex organic compounds would still be needed, but this carbon could be found in coal reserves and limestone, as well as petroleum. Carbon is the third most abundant element found in the universe, after hydrogen and helium (which constitute 99% of the matter in the universe). You will not run out of carbon.
Humbly submitted this 15th day of February, 2003, with the assistance of Harvey R. Hallenberg.
Michael Faraday Former chemist-in-residence at the Royal Institution of Great Britain