The United States has long been a leader in new technologies, but recently other countries such as Germany have taken the lead in developing hydrogen as its primary source of fuel. In order to transport that fuel, it is building a special pipeline for nationwide distribution of hydrogen with refueling stations for its cars and trucks. Because hydrogen is the smallest molecule, it can penetrate the walls of steel pipelines and leak the hydrogen through the walls. High grade stainless steel with a special coating on the inside of the pipeline is necessary to prevent such leakage. The cost of building such pipelines is expensive, but the benefits of completely of burning hydrogen without polluting the atmosphere is worth the added expense. A simple means of producing hydrogen is through hydrolysis by passing an electric current through water with a positive and negative electrodes which produces hydrogen and oxygen. In reading the literature on the production of hydrogen by this method uses more energy than it produces. However, there are some ways to use wind energy, energy from the ocean and energy from hydroelectric dams to mitigate some of the costs. For example, during the night time periods more electricity is produced than is used at hydroelectric dams. The same is true with windmill farms and certainly the energy produced by wave action is wasted when unused. Presently it is possible to store electrical energy as mechanical energy in off peak hours. Fiber flywheels which rotate up to 60,000 rpm can store the electrical energy as mechanical energy during the nighttime and can then be used to produce electrical energy as needed. The flywheels rotate in an evacuated chamber with magnetic bearings so that their expected lifetime with minimal maintenance is greatly reduced. The flywheels are slowly being produced and used for many other applications such as storing energy used in braking on diesel locomotives and greatly decreasing the amount of energy used by the locomotives. Fiber flywheels are also used in race cars and can also be used in ordinary cars to store energy for use when needed.
Training and education are also needed to help the United States to become a world leader in the use and production of new technologies. In the October 2012 issue of Scientific American is an article on the complementary nature of corporations, technical schools and universities used by Germany to produce outstanding workers who are the highest paid employees in the world. This defies the logic of the US corporations who set up factories in other countries in order to produce products which cost very little because the workers are paid sweat shop wages and forced to work long hours without health care benefits or retirement benefits. Our US corporations and billionaires do everything to denigrate labor unions which were once responsible for great worker benefits and longevity of the workforce in our US based industries.
There is now a move toward INSOURCING, where our companies are returned to the United States. There are several reasons for this reversal, such as increases in the wages paid to foreign workers, quality control of parts and design, costs of shipping the materials to a foreign country and then shipping the finished products back to the U.S., language barriers, and many other problems in manufacturing at a distance. Boeing is a prime example of a company that finally had to bring all of the manufacturing back to Seattle, Washington when they were building the newest passenger jet, the Dreamliner. This jet is built of carbon fibers which are much stronger that steel or aluminum. It was necessary to build a special loom for weaving the fabric into the desired shape because of the extremely small diameter of the carbon fiber strands. Before the manufacture of the Dreamliner was moved back to Seattle, Boeing was plagued by cost overruns due to shoddy parts manufactured in many parts of the world. The American workers are well trained and very capable of overcoming design problems. I used to work as a consultant to a German engineer who worked on the German Rocket program in World War II. He was impressed with the ability of American workers to repair their own cars, homes, and almost anything that either needed repair or a new design for a product. In Germany in the 1980’s one had to hire a professional to do any kind or repair. Because our high schools no longer have shop classes, we have lost part of that level of skill. If a person wants to work as a skilled worker in a specialized trade, it is necessary to pay either to attend a Community College or a specialized school to repair automobiles, dishwashers, and all other kinds of equipment. These schools cost far more than the shop classes in our High Schools. For further insight into the high level skills now required in Germany for their industries, read the October 2012 issue of Scientific American. Germany has the highest paid workers in the world due to their educational system, and yet is able to compete with other nations throughout the world in selling their products.