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Opinions: Fighting global warming ... one old man at a time

So, Ted Turner is officially crazy.

The founder of CNN, back on April 1 (which I seriously hope is not a coincidence), said that global warming and overpopulation will lead to an 8-degree increase in average global temperatures, which will mean that crops won't grow, and ocean life and cattle will die. Consequently, Turner says that most people will die, and those of us that survive will have to resort to cannibalism. Now, I'm no expert on global warming, but predictions like this seem just a tad extreme.

With the recent passing of a Hollywood great, Charlton Heston, I realized Turner was almost recounting the story of one of Heston's films, Soylent Green — overpopulation, constant heat wave, crops and meat being luxury items, ocean life drying up, us eating people — the whole nine yards. Turner stopped just short of warning that we'll start buying "furniture" at the local IKEA.

Turner's suggested solution to our environmental problem was to mobilize the populace like we mobilized for World War II. Obviously, I think Turner might be exaggerating the situation just a little bit, but this Hollywood logic got me thinking: Just what can be done about global warming?

See, I'm one of those people who thinks that global warming is real and requires some action, even if the situation's not as dire as Turner would have us believe. You know, I think it might be good to keep the planet from heating up if the only cost is not being able to go everywhere I would like to go and do everything I would like to do.

Anyway, while I was pondering the global-warming question, I saw a commercial. Honda is officially releasing the FCX, a hydrogen-powered car, to the general public. Well, at least to the general public in California, as Southern California is apparently the only place with enough hydrogen fueling stations to support the car.

Still, this is a pretty big step. As hydrogen is not a greenhouse gas, this shows we can mass-produce clean-burning cars that people might actually buy. Hydrogen cars are basically as powerful as equivalent gas-fueled cars right now; in terms of power, the only real difference is what's in the tank, not what's under the hood.

The problem with hydrogen as a fuel source, though, is that hydrogen has to be produced using other sources of energy, which can include fossil fuels. You see, hydrogen doesn't occur on its own that much in nature and it has to be separated from oxygen in water. This can be done using geo-thermal, wind, solar or nuclear power, but fossil fuels, as always, are the most popular form of energy used in this process. So, the FCX, for example, will be a clean-burning vehicle, but the process used to get that vehicle to go will still contribute to the problem.

Still, it is possible to get a hydrogen-powered car on the road that won't contribute to the environmental problem we face. We could force ourselves to produce hydrogen through other methods than the use of fossil fuels. But with all things, this will take a great deal of time.

I think guys like Ted Turner, other than being crazy, want to force radical change to stop the environmental degradation of our planet. But, in so doing, he and others like him don't get that changing our ways is a process that starts with things like hydrogen-powered cars and builds into higher and higher achievements. And in any case, I'm not getting drafted into an environmental army until I see some pretty dire oceanographic reports or hitch a ride on a dump truck and see people being made into food.

Brett can be reached by e-mail at:

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