SPAULDING COLUMN: Experts seek hydrogen fuel supplies, ways to pay for roads and bridges
Just received! A factual — and much appreciated letter — from Dallas, Texas.
It was signed by Donald E. (Gene) Brown, a retired General Motors Corp. executive.
“Yesterday I read a column you wrote on Feb. 25, 2012, in The (Charleston) Post and Courier concerning hydrogen as a transportation fuel now and a decade ago. You noted very little positive gains.
“Dr. Larry Burns, also retired from GM, and his group long ago solved the major problems associated with a fuel cell/hybrid automobile, as did Honda and Toyota. What they all haven’t solved is the hydrogen fuel supply for their innovative cars. They were able to think ‘out of the box’ on the engineering required for the cars, but couldn’t think that way on the fuel because the hydrogen fuel was way out of their areas of collective expertise.
“Almost six decades ago, I was a member of the elite team at Wright Air Development center that researched and solved hydrogen fuel for ultra high altitude military aircraft …”
Thank you, Mr. Brown for the information, your insight and contributions to fuel cell progress. Now it is up to the current generation of automotive scientists to solve fuel-cell safety and distribution concerns.
There is more positive fuel cell progress being made right here in South Carolina. In an article in Automotive News, it was reported the BMW auto plant in Spartanburg now has 100 forklifts and other material-handling vehicles powered by rechargeable hydrogen-reaction batteries.
It started as a fuel-cell experiment and turned out to have big advantages over conventional battery-operated versions. The fuel-cell batteries convert hydrogen into electricity through two internal electromechanical reactions, with heat and water as their only byproduct. The batteries perform at 100 percent strength for eight to 10 hours until depleted. It then takes an operator just three minutes to recharge them completely with more hydrogen.
Gas tax hike or broad-based cut?
It was a surprise reading a recent Op-Ed piece in this newspaper by Mr. Jack Bass, identified as a historian and writer.
Bass proposed a gasoline tax INCREASE to pay for roads and bridges. Think about the timing ... In the midst of gas prices climbing to $4 locally and a proposal placing more tax burden on South Carolina wage-earners: “If there’s a fairer tax than the gasoline tax, I’ve not heard of it. If you don’t drive, you don’t pay.”
True, but most of those drivers are commuting to work. It should be recognized piling up mileage is not joy riding — thousands of South Carolina motorists drive to work or for job-related activities.
Check out I-26 and other major highways during rush hours; Should we be considering taxing them further at this time?
Answers to that question appeared in the Wall Street Journal the same day as the Op-Ed from Bass. Part of the headline read, “Price of Gas Hits Wallets.”
“It’s killing me,” Larry James, a 47-year old Chicago taxi driver said as he filled up at a pump that read $4.499 a gallon, making it among the highest in the country. The increase has cut his average daily earnings up to $50 a day from about $85 at the start of the year.
Robin Whitehead, another cabby, said he works at least four more hours a day to make up the difference. “I have to take care of my family,” he said.
These examples are being repeated in South Carolina. Many of our citizens are reeling from ballooning gas prices.
Even the President is aware of the effects of high gas prices, according to the WSJ: “White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a news conference that the President was aware of the impact gas prices had on consumers.”
There is an alternative for raising money for necessary bridge and road repairs: CUT TAXES! Citizens would be able to save and spend, according to their desire, with added sales and income contributing handsomely to the state coffers. As proved over time, cutting taxes would result in greater business profits, higher employment — and more revenue to the state. This would change the entire economic climate in South Carolina.
Obviously, this is NOT the time to raise taxes on gasoline by penalizing our hard working fellow Americans. What do YOU think?
Dr. George G. Spaulding is a retired General Motors executive and distinguished executive-in-residence emeritus at the School of Business at the College of Charleston. He can be reached at 2 Wharfside St. 2A Charleston SC 29401.