Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pee Power

Calvin Pees on bin LadenImage by dannyman via Flickr

We all know that we should get off of our addiction to foreign oil. The question is what will be the form of energy to get us there, particularly when it comes to our transportation needs. There are a lot of alternative energy vehicles in development, but the infrastructure and cost structure just isn't there yet.

Ethanol made from plant sources has been touted as an alternative to gasoline. Most of the ethanol in the US is derived from corn. It is currently being blended with gasoline and the push is on to increase the amount of ethanol in the blend. However, ethanol is not as efficient a fuel as pure gasoline, and increased ethanol content could damage vehicles. Plus, taking so much food out of the food chain will lead to higher food prices.

T. Boone Pickens is a big proponent of "peak oil." He believes that the world as a whole will be entering a period of declining oil production. He is heavily invested in energy companies, traditional and alternative, and is a big proponent of natural gas to power vehicles. The technology is there, but widespread infrastructure is not. According to Pickens, natural gas vehicles are 25% cleaner than traditional gasoline and will be a good bridge until electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are viable.

Electric cars seem to be where the biggest push is currently. The problem with electric cars is that they just don't have the range yet. Plus you have to use traditional electrical power to charge them. Since most electricity is still derived from fossil fuels, you have the trade off of lower car emissions but increased emissions from electrical plants.

Hydrogen fuel cells were getting a lot of attention just a few years ago. Hydrogen powered vehicles would emit water vapor as it's only emission. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has cut off funding for the development of hydrogen fuel cell technology. One of the drawbacks to hydrogen is that it is usually attached to other molecules and is fairly expensive to isolate.

Now word has come out of the University of Ohio that a catalyst has been developed that will break hydrogen molecules out of urine rather easily and cheaply. Professor Geraldine Botte say that in theory, a pee powered car could get 90 mpg. Some speculate that this breakthrough could bring the potential of the hydrogen fuel cell back into the realm of possibility.

One thing for sure, urine is definitely a renewable resource. Since the average human produces about 1.5 liters of urine a day, that would be a little less than half a gallon. Since I have a 60 mile round trip commute each way, I would not be able to produce enough urine each day to make the round trip. We would obviously need to have refueling stations. Though, I imagine that if I was running a little short of fuel that I could add enough to the tank to get me where I needed. Which also begs the question, would guys have an unfair advantage over women in topping off the tank?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


  1. Actually urea is the main ingredient in the new clean diesels so maybe you're not too far off!

  2. Dickster,

    Would you call urine the "number one" solution?

  3. it is rather interesting the things science is working on to create new energy sources

  4. I couldn't agree more. Getting us off foreign oil has long term financial, political, and environmental benefits. To help prepare our students to be the leaders we need tomorrow, I have been working with my local school district to promote a renewable energy curriculum.

    We've applied for a grant for a working solar system and related curriculum. My blog, is where I am compiling resources to assist them when school starts in the fall.

    Best regards,




Related Posts with Thumbnails