By Leigh Howe
Fuel cells are not a new idea. They were first invented in 1839 by Welsh chemist William Grove. The process, simply stated, is converting hydrogen and water into electricity. The discovery languished for more than 100 years before the U.S. space program needed a renewable power source for its Gemini spacecraft.
Why the buzz about fuel cells today? Last month the Energy Department announced that it would boost research in automotive fuel cells. The initiative is called FreedomCAR and it will support projects at government labs and the Big Three automakers. Proponents of the fuel cells envision them powering everything from laptops, cell phones and automobiles to large office buildings. Right now, fuel cells are commercial available as power sources for buildings and machinery. A recent announcement also touts a fuel cell powered vacuum cleaner!
The Challenges. The automotive industry, by most accounts, is the major focus for fuel cell commercialization. However, many challenges stand in the way including increasing cell durability, reducing cost, and improving fuel storage not to mention the major challenge of creating an infrastructure to extract and deliver the hydrogen fuel. Critics has also have poked holes in the recent Energy Department plan claiming that the program lacks clear goals and a way to measure progress. The bottom line is mass market fuel-cell use is likely still ten years away.
By Pete Julius
The events of September 11th produced a dense black cloud over the economy. No one had any idea what the economy was going to do. Only the days ahead would tell. As the days passed by, consumer spending began to rise steadily and there was a developing trend of returning to normalcy. That was until Enron caused a huge ruckus in the stock market and sent shock waves through the business environment with their despicable actions. Despite the events of September 11th and the Enron debacle the economy is showing signs of improvements.
For being in a recession, there have been a number of events that indicate that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that the recession will be short lived. The Federal Reserve Board reached a dramatic decision to cease their interest rates reductions campaign. Consumer spending has been at an unbelievable level during this economic downturn. Catching many people by surprise, jobless claims are beginning to climb. There is also a growth in worker productivity and low inventories that will need rebuilding. All of these events point to a healing economy.
The emerging sectors within the economy include: defense related industries-which is pretty much a no brainer, pharmaceuticals-especially if they start to gobble up biotech firms, food related businesses-which is a necessity, convenience related goods and specialized hi-tech industries that focus on security related products. A very important trend to watch is decentralization. If businesses such as financial, insurance and other back office operations begin to sprawl, there will be potential for growth in smaller metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas. These growing areas will add to the brightness of the light at the end of the tunnel.
By Jeff Vedders
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By Jeff Vedders
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