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Opinion

Association For International Students in Los Angeles

Hydrogen— the alternative future

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Oil is now facing a serious shortage, and its application also produces environmental problems. As one of the nonrenewable fossil fuels, oil has a high demand ever since 1857. Its production has been a controversial topic whenever discussed by people.

Do The Benefits Outweigh Drawbacks?

The benefits of oil are certainly appealing. Before, people often describe finding oil on their land as “striking it rich”. However, it is also a nightmare for many others and certain oil-rich sites. The damages bring along with the oil exploration —cause deforestation, acid rain, air pollution, and most importantly, a high CO2 emission in the air — that triggers the greenhouse effect. The oil thus plays a major episode in today’s global warming.

The skyrocketing expansion of automobile industries prompted excessive oil explorations around the world. As the single largest source of commercial energy in the world, the heavy reliance of oil greatly speeds up its exhaustion. According to calculations by Stanford Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, current oil supplies in all nations combined would last the world for only about 41 years.

Shifting Focus in an Uncertain Economy

The peak oil inevitably concerns people. In an oil-deplete future, an alternative energy seems to be a key. Without one valid alternative energy supply, the oil companies will mostly shift their focus to the unconventional-heavy-oil that furthers environmental destructions. Apparently, the rash of developing such alternative is high.

Oil is popular: it creates jobs for national economy; it can be converted into electricity, plastics, wax, sulfur, asphalt, at a very low-cost. And most essentially, it meets the unique requirements of transportation: the portability, energy density, safety and ease of handling, whereas most of other sources do not. So, in order to replace oil, the chosen alternatives must either possess such qualities or outweigh them.

New Viable Source for Energy Market Domination

Based on current research, solar energy, hydropower, geothermal energy, hydrogen fuel, biomass are all potential candidates for oil replacement. Among them all, hydrogen is the most ideal one. First, considered as a clean energy, hydrogen fuels automobiles with zero carbon emissions. Second, people can produce hydrogen from renewable resources such as water and solar power. Plus, hydrogen-fuel-cells are capable of powering vehicles without any combustion. As indicated above, hydrogen should be the fittest candidate to replace most of the fossil fuels and especially oil.

People may ask then, with such a variety of advantages, why haven’t hydrogen dominated the market filed yet? The reason is that it does not exist naturally. As the lightest and most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen must be either separated or produced from other other energy resources.

Hydrogen’s Long History

Long back when its energy potential was first discovered, people started making hydrogen through steam reforming, electrolysis, and thermolysis. New scientific development of the hydrogen fuel allows hydrogen production through biomass-derived liquid reforming, biomass gasification, photo-biological processes and microbial biomass conversion.

Steam reforming separates hydrogen atoms from fossil fuels such as natural gas. It is so far the most adopted way of producing hydrogen. Through the process, the reformer reacts steam with

the fossil fuels at a high temperature. However, the hydrogen yields from steam reforming results in greenhouse gas emission.

“Most of other hydrogen stations, the majority of them are actually making their hydrogen from natural gas. And that’s not green either: that’s called ‘Brown hydrogen.’ Because they are still using hydrogen carbons to produce the hydrogen,” technical operation manager at California State University Hydrogen Station, Michael Dray, said.

Electrolysis, on the other hand, is proved to be the cleanest way of hydrogen production. It electrically splits water into hydrogen and oxygen in an electrolyzer. The hydrogen is then compressed up to 6,200 psi and placed in high-pressure storage tanks. Compression will increase the density of hydrogen in the same volume and allows more energy to be delivered. Depending on the source of the electricity used, hydrogen produced from electrolysis can result in zero greenhouse gas emissions ultimately, if technology allows, to reduce the cost of electrolysis is only a matter of time. Since hydrogen via electrolysis pursues path of renewable energy, producing hydrogen from water can virtually buttress the goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions.

hydrogen gas stationThe Automotive Industry

Most cars on the road today use an internal-combustion engine to burn petroleum-based fuel. The engine then generates heat and emits CO2 into the atmosphere. Hydrogen-fuel-cell cars are somehow in between the internal-combustion engine and battery-power. Those cars use hydrogen-gas to power electric motors and emit water vapor as the waste. For hydrogen-fuel- cell cars, every fuel cell has an electrolyzer that carries electrically charged particles from one electrode to the other.

During the process, hydrogen gas from the tank feeds down to the positive terminal of the pipe. When atoms of hydrogen gas reach the catalyst (such as aluminum), it splits up into hydrogen ions and electrons. As the particles travel, they will power the electric motor and drive the wheels. Eventually, when both of the particles reach the negative terminal and recombine with each other, they produce pure water: as the only waste product and making hydrogen-fuel-cell- cars the ultimate goal of environmental protection.

HGS2A Long and Painful Race

Though the race of replacing petroleum-based automobiles has been long and painful, and it has always been a challenge for governments, automobile manufactures, researchers and investors to believe that hydrogen is “legitimate”. Whereas, we should never ease ourselves in this battle of energy.

In 2016, the development of technologies proved a hydrogen-fuel economy could finally become a reality. Though doubts were rising in the community about the actual environmental benefits from FCVs (fuel cell vehicles), researchers have now found cheaper ways to produce hydrogen from water through electrolysis. The more reasonable expenses of hydrogen production lead governments and investors to invest in hydrogen utility.

According to KTH Professor, Leeching Sun, they have found nickel-vanadium monolayer as an alternative catalyst for aluminum. This low-cost material greatly lowers the cost of electrolysis.

New Problems Arise

Another impediments of the breakthrough of a hydrogen economy is ultimately a chicken and egg problem: hydrogen stations need hydrogen cars first in order to earn profits and stay open, yet hydrogen cars need enough hydrogen fuel stations to leave the showroom. In order to solve this problem, automotive manufactures are building more of these cars.

As of 2016, there will be three hydrogen cars available in the market: the Toyota Mirai, Hyundai ix35, FCEV, and the Honda Clarity. In addition, conceptive cars are on their way to become publicly available.

Looking to the Future

Aside from that, numbers of advantages would win over nodding from the majority. As of now, school programs, career pathway, parents are working to connect teens with those cutting-edge technologies and bring awareness of the necessity to protect our environment.

“My experience (working at the Cal State Hydrogen Station) has actually been great. Just me going into this internship was very exciting because I know I will be working with hydrogen,” said high school intern Xavier Cruz at Cal. State LA Hydrogen station. “It was scary on the first day because I knew a little bit about it. And they were saying [the machines] does this and this and that. And they were just speaking a foreign language to me. It’s hard to realize what they were talking about. And as the days went by, I got used to it. It took me about a good two days to adapt to this working environment. Overall, I really appreciate this internship that I got from the pathway coordinator in my school, it really is great!”

As we have known, the use of hydrogen reduces pollution efficiently, and using electrolysis to produce hydrogen ends us up with a sustainable production system. Compared to normal motor vehicles, hydrogen-cars can drive for longer hours and contribute zero carbon emissions to the atmosphere; they convert the fuel into electricity without combustion involved, and they only take about eight to ten minutes to refill to drive up to 500 miles. With all that being said, what is the point of us not devoting to this alternative future of hydrogen?

Looking beyond our society, say decades later, when the hydrogen is strongly rooted in our national economy and have made its “blue-shift” in the community, we then essentially fulfill our promise of an environmentally sustainable society. Legitimizing this desirable leap with millions of hydrogen cars strut on the road will allow a kinder human interaction with our environment. Until then, we can actually prove our care of nature has never stopped. And the historic turnover from the petroleum-based cars to the environment-friendly hydrogen-fuel-cell cars will indeed underline developments in other alternative industries.

 

Original Posting: http://highschool.latimes.com/sierra-canyon-high-school/hydrogen-the-alternative-future/ XIAORUI JING(JANE) on AUGUST 24, 2016

Drive

Uber’s age limit should be enforced

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If you are an underage customer of Uber, have you ever been told that there is a minimum age requirement of 18 as part of Uber’s terms and conditions? The answer from the majority is “no”.

The age limit has always been an artificial aspect of Uber. It seems to be a trick for the company to avoid taking liability for minors, while still making money by not enforcing the rule. Though Uber makes the lives of adults and teenagers easier, the age limit damages the service’s usefulness, since minors are less likely to have their personal transportation and Uber can solve many of their difficulties.

I have had a lot of personal experience with Uber. While trying to let my parents rest, and lacking the ability to drive myself, I have called upon Uber as my only solution to attend early dance practice at 5:30 a.m. Beginning last year, my experiences with Uber were fine, with nothing really bad happening to me, except for one driver who I met twice. It was he who first told me that it was illegal for me, a minor, to take Uber.

A $6-penalty would be implemented for canceling the ride after five minutes. But, that was not the issue. What really mattered was my concern about being able to take Uber in the future. No one around me has ever noticed this rule that the Uber company itself generally does not enforce. Bad things do not usually happen; most Uber drivers are generous and willing to transport minors.

“I started taking Uber a year ago — up until now. Overall, I had a pretty good experience with Uber. Nothing bad ever happened to me; I used it whenever my parents [couldn’t] drive me somewhere, since I don’t have my license yet. But, I [did] not know there is an age limit, and no drivers have ever mentioned that to me,” said Sierra Canyon junior Genevieve Hannelius.

In today’s society, more and more parents are considering Uber as a tool to reduce part of their daily duty so that they no longer have to spare work time or give up free time to drive kids to practices or to the movies. With Uber, everything works in a better and easier way. So, in terms of efficiency, Uber has definitely benefited our society on many different levels. However, for the credibility of Uber, it is essential to avoid ambiguity and make their stand of their appealing or enforcing the age limit.

“My kids [take] Uber occasionally, when they are going someplace that’s an hour away and I can’t drive them. And, I did not know about [the age limit]. If [the Uber company] is having it as a rule, then they should really enforce it. For a lot of people it would be a huge inconvenience, but if that’s their rule because they have to worry about the liability of the company, they should enforce [the age limit],” said Alison Terry, a homestay parent.

The Uber company’s tagline states that Uber is “everyone’s private driver”. However, according to the company’s legal terms and conditions: “You must be at least 18 years of age, or the age of legal majority in your jurisdiction (if different from 18), to obtain an account. Account registration requires you to submit to Uber certain personal information…The service is not available for use by persons under the age of 18.” The age requirement has made Uber deceitful. I have been taking Uber for two years as a minor, and I have never been told of this age limit until recently. I believe the majority of teenagers who are under 18 have no clue about this condition as well, but, they are able to have functioning accounts that allow them to call for rides.

“I am taking Uber, and I knew there is an age limit, but they don’t really enforce [it]; they just want the money. I ‘Ubered’ a lot the year before I had my license… I felt like it’s a great tool because it’s much cheaper than the taxi. So, I think they should take away the age limit, or make it an age [limit] [of] 13 or above, or something more lenient. Because I don’t think 15, 16, and 17-year-olds are going to have a problem taking Uber as long as they trust the company,” said junior Hunter Bleeden.

Besides that, something more intriguing is on the registration page of Uber’s official website. The only information that customers are required to provide is their email address, password, name, contact information, and payment method. Age is not even required on the registration page. The company must be aware that people don’t care about the tedious statement of their rules. So the actual intention of the company is somewhat distorted from its advertisement of “making life easier, and everyone’s private driver” to merely making money. By having an age limit in the rarely read agreement and not enforcing it, the company has found a way to get out of taking liability for teenage patrons, while still keeping minors as a “special” group of customers and making money.

The issue of minors taking Uber is still of paramount concern and a controversial topic in people’s daily discussions. Should minors take Uber? Is Uber a safe way of transportation? And why is there an age limit, if Uber doesn’t enforce it? Frustrated by Uber’s poor customer service, I have tried numerous ways to reach Uber to get a reasonable explanation about the age limit. Though, all in vain; I have found no email addresses, no contact numbers, and no responses through Twitter or blog. On that account, I tried to interview an Uber driver, who may have a more intrinsic understanding of the age limit. To my surprise, he spoke to me in Spanish that I barely understood let alone doing my interview, so that didn’t work as well. It is essential that Uber responds to these questions with thoughtful answers in order to calm the teenage customers, and either repeals the age requirement or enforces their rules.

 

Originally Posted: http://highschool.latimes.com/sierra-canyon-high-school/opinion-ubers-age-limit-should-be- enforced/ by XIAORUI JING(JANE)
 on APRIL 5, 2016