Unit 3 Final

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Writer’s memo: Final Draft
I believe I have added an additional 10-12 hours towards completing this paper. I did not
use the peer feedback provided in class for this assignment, I did have friends and family look
over it, as well as ask the TA’s questions whenever they arose. I found it was mostly helpful with
grammatical/”local” aspects rather than “global” aspects. I personally did not find the model
essay in the FI Reader to be very helpful, as it seemed to follow a different format than I was
going for. I used a thesaurus when needed, did a significant amount of extra research, and
frequently revisited my work to ensure I was always improving the essay. I feel very confident
about my CASM’s and overall analysis of my three sources. I am a bit concerned that my
consensus on the opposing source was not opposing enough, although I did concede to my
opposing source. I feel quite confident about the organization, flow, spelling, and grammar of my
essay. However, I am worried about my word count being too high. With more time, I would
shorten my essay. I also believe I would’ve used a different first source, as I later found much
stronger sources, yet felt it was too late to apply them since I had already submitted my CASM
for source one weeks ago. I believe this would add at least four to five hours to the task. More
than anything, I am worried about not having provided enough of my own analysis, and having
done the works cited correctly, so feedback on that would be great. Overall, I am really hoping
for an A or B for this piece!
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Abby Lahey
Professor Lam
UNIV 111
3 December 2014
Biomass to Hydrogen: Fueling the Future
As Americans continue to cringe at ever-increasing gas prices, wars in the Middle East
wage on, and discussion of global warming grows louder and louder, it is no surprise that the
desire for renewable energy is mounting. Research suggests that of the numerous renewable
energy resource options, hydrogen produced via biomass may be the best option. In regards to
producing hydrogen, biomass is the quickest and most economically feasible choice. Scientists
widely agree that, because of its potential, biomass produced hydrogen will become a leading
fuel source as soon as the technology to efficiently store hydrogen is established. In the next two
decades, the application and production of converting biomass into hydrogen fuel will take the
first concrete steps towards replacing fossil fuel energy in the United States.
To better analyze the benefits and potential of hydrogen fuel via biomass, it is important
to understand what biomass is, how it can be converted to hydrogen, and the pros and cons of
hydrogen as a fuel source. According to the UK Forestry Commission (UKFC), biomass is
biological material derived from living organisms. The organic material is established into an
energy source, resulting in biomass fuel. This fuel is considered clean and renewable because
organic waste residue will always exist, and it is carbon neutral—meaning it maintains a closed
carbon cycle with no net increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels (UKFC). Biomass can be
converted into hydrogen either biologically or thermo chemically via gasification, pyrolysis,
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biophotolysis, and/or fermentation, among others (Balat and Kirtay 7418). Economically, the
production of hydrogen from biomass is already competitive today as it provides the advantages
of gaining independence from oil imports, keeping net product within the country, stabilizing
pricing levels, peace keeping, and improving the atmospheric carbon dioxide balance by
approximately 30% (Balat and Kirtay 7418). This energy is also environmentally friendly, as
much of the biomass materials used for hydrogen production would normally be stored in a
landfill as waste. These materials include, but are not limited to: olive husk, tea waste, crop
straw, black liquor, municipal solid waste, crop grain residue, pulp/paper waste, petroleum basis
plastic waste, and manure slurry (Balat and Kirtay7418). The cons of hydrogen production via
biomass are not a result of negative impact, but of the required yet currently unattained
technology to create, maintain, and store the produced hydrogen. Alongside this, there is also
adverse prospects that this new fuel source would not transition well into public use, would
require new policies from the government (with respect to regulations, taxes, etc.), and from an
economic standpoint, would require significant market adaptations (Ball and Wietschel 625626). However, research suggests a hydrogen based fuel economy does not appear to be a matter
of “how” so much as “when”.
According to Aleksander Zidanšek et al. in the article, “Climate Changes, Biofuels and
the Sustainable Future”, stimulated research and production of renewable energy sources are
now being implemented as a result of climate change, increasing oil prices, impending oil peak,
creeping energy security measures, foreign exchange matters, and general environmental, social
and economic issues (6980-6981). Creating a hydrogen-based economy using energy from
biomass, solar, wind and other renewable sources and/or nuclear energy has become a goal for
the future (Zidanšek et al. 6981). The most successful chance for biofuel to compete with fossil
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fuels would be to produce hydrogen from waste biomass. However, due to the current inability to
store hydrogen in large amounts, the prices of these biofuels cannot yet compete with oil and
gasoline (Zidanšek et al. 6982). When it becomes possible to store large amounts of hydrogen,
the production prices of for biofuel will quickly fall below the prices of the fossil fuel competitor
(Zidanšek et al. 6982). Zidanšek et al. conclude that in order to increase the chances of these
discoveries taking place, solutions should be made on a medium-term basis frequently, until it is
possible to move to a more permanent position in the economy (6983). Expanding from this
research, it is suggestive that in the next twenty years, with the development of improved
hydrogen storage systems, we will definitely see a great spike in the manufacturing and
utilization of biomass produced hydrogen fuel in the United States.
Researchers Havva Balat and Elif Kirtay also conclude the positive impacts of Hydrogen
fuel created via biomass will immerge as a significant competitor to fossil fuels in the near
future. Biomass can be used to produce hydrogen sustainably. Hydrogen is a secondary energy
source, meaning it has to be manufactured similarly to electricity (Balat and Kirtay 7416).
Recent research on environmentally friendly energy have centered concentration on the
replacement of common fossil fuels with biomass energy. Biomass meets energy requirements
and has the greatest potential for the future. Biomass gasification also maintains the fastest and
most fiscally responsible path to the production of renewable hydrogen (Balat and Kirtay 7418).
The positive, lasting impact of bioenergy includes but is not limited to: contribution to reducing
poverty in developing countries, meeting energy requirements in all needed forms at all times
minus expensive conversion devices, remaining CO2-neutral and even acting as a carbon sink,
and helping to restore unproductive and degraded lands (Balat and Kirtay 7418). As CO2 levels
rise and the climate continues to change, and as our fossil fuel supplies continue to dwindle, the
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need for renewable energy increases. Although there are major challenges in transforming
biomass into hydrogen, the necessity of new energies predicts a spike in biomass development in
the next decade, becoming a dominant technology by the end of the 21rst century.
Although the future of converting biomass into Hydrogen as a means of renewable
energy would be extremely beneficial, the challenges facing these new technologies suggest the
timeline for these developments could be extending. Michael Ball and Martin Wietschel, in
continuation of their previous article, further explored the challenges of biomass produced
hydrogen fuel in, “The Future of Hydrogen—Opportunities and Challenges”. While there is
much research and statistics that suggest we will see this energy source emerging as a dominant
fuel source in the future, it is debatable whether we will see this be accomplished in just two
decades. These skepticisms especially maintain strength with regards to hydrogen fuel’s role in
the transportation industry. Looking to the past as a great indicator of the future, we recognize
that energy systems and technologies are slow to evolve (Ball and Wietschel 625). Despite the
increasing demand for hydrogen fuels, it could still take decades to develop and instill these
technologies. Seeing that hydrogen is most widely being introduced as a vehicle fuel poses three
main challenges: developing cost-competitive and efficient fuel cells for vehicles, designing safe
tanks to store hydrogen onboard with an acceptable driving range and developing an
infrastructure for hydrogen production, distribution and refueling Ball and Wietschel 625). This
forces both the technologies which produce hydrogen, as well as the technologies which convert
hydrogen to undergo severe fundamental transformations. Furthermore, significant structural
economic changes would also have to take place as a means to adapt to the manufacturing,
distributing and trade involved in the production of hydrogen energy (Ball and Wietschel 626).
As a result, hydrogen is unlikely to emerge as a frequent fuel source without notable policy
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change through the government alongside decisive and favorable support and incentive from the
public (Ball and Wietschel 626). While it is likely and hopeful we will see a “hydrogen
economy” in the future, it is unlikely these changes will take place entirely within the next two
decades, particularly with respect to the transportation industry. That being said, research
disputing biomass produced hydrogen as an energy source for other means appears extremely
minimal, further encouraging the projected increase in production over the next 20 years.
Despite the potential setbacks with respect to the transportation industry, hydrogen fuel
created via biomass still appears to yield great potential as an energy source of the future. It is
completely acceptable that the cost, safety, political, and industrial issues, as presented by Ball
and Wietschel, of firmly establishing hydrogen-fueled transportation devices could significantly
extend the timeline of these developments. However, considering the exponentially growing
need for renewable energy sources in the United States, the indisputable efficiency, and the
projected positive impacts of converting biomass into fuel, it is more likely than not that we will
see the first concrete steps towards replacing fossil fuel energy. Weighing the opposing articles
of Ball and Wietschel against the work by Zidanšek et al., as well as the article by Balat and
Kirtay, the progression of hydrogen via biomass energy will absolutely experience a rise. As
stated by Zidanšek et al., climate change, increasing oil prices, impending oil peak, creeping
energy security measures, foreign exchange matters, and general environmental, social and
economic issues have set us in a race to develop renewable energy sources (6980-6981). Of the
numerous renewable energy sources we see today, hydrogen is by far the most efficient and, as
concurred by Zidanšek et al., is competitive to fossil fuels when converted from biomass (6983).
Balat and Kirtay furthered this when noting biomass gasification upholds the quickest and most
fiscally accountable route to the production of renewable hydrogen while also meeting energy
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requirements, giving it the greatest potential for the future (7421). Should that not be reason
enough, the lasting, positive impacts of this new energy, concluded by Balat and Kirtay, are
beyond numerous and beneficial to all. Ball and Wietschel may be correct about a slower path to
hydrogen-fueled transportation, but that will not stop the huge advancement we can expect to see
for the conversion of biomass to hydrogen as the leading renewable fuel source in the next two
With increasing statistics all pointing to hydrogen produced via biomass as the most
sustainable choice for new, clean, renewable energy in the future, the hopes of implementing a
hydrogen-based economy look bright. Hydrogen produced biomass has concretely been proven
to be the swiftest and most economically responsible move. Once the technology to efficiently
store hydrogen is established, the United States will be able to smoothly transition to a society
run on hydrogen and other renewable energies. These advancements and projections are proof
that the first legitimate steps of replacing dominant fossil fuel energy in the United States with
biomass and hydrogen fuels will be achieved in the next two decades.
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Works Cited
Balat, Havva, and Elif Kirtay. “Hydrogen from Biomass— Present Scenario and
Future Prospects.” International Journal of Hydrogen Energy 35.14 (2010): 7416-7426.
Web. 3 Dec. 2014
Ball, Michael, and Mark Wietschel. “The Future of Hydrogen—Opportunities and Challenges.”
International Journal of Hydrogen Energy 34.2 (2009): 615-627. Web. 3 Dec. 2014.
BIOMASS Energy Centre. UK Forestry Commission, 2011. Web. 3 Dec. 2014.
Zidanšek, Aleksander, Robert Blinca, Anton Jeglič, Skender Kabashid, Sadik Bekteshid, and Ivo
Šlause. “Climate Changes, Biofuels and the Sustainable Future.” International Journal of
Hydrogen Energy 34.16 (2009): 6980-6983. Web. 3 Dec. 2014.