A major assault on your wallet is often the best way to fully appreciate life's bumpy road. Take, for example, that $150 fuel charge at a filling station in Woodstock, England. It was one of those really big bumps, jolting me into a greater awareness of the world's reliance on an ever shrinking, ever more expensive energy source. Forking over a pound of British pounds to fill up just two cars-a Bentley Continental GT and Rolls-Royce Phantom-made the $2.40 we Americans spend for a gallon of gas pale in comparison to the $5.50 per it costs the Brits. And it sent a chill through my driving soul to realize it's just a matter time before the USA undergoes the burden of far higher fuel prices.
I almost laughed as the attendant said, "That'll be 83 pounds." Otherwise I might have cried; the day's drive was going to run up another couple hundred bucks on the plastic. So, I could only grin and bear it, trying to comfort myself with the notion that gas isn't much more expensive than it was 15 years ago-adjusted for inflation, of course. But that didn't help much when I was seeing precious pub funds being drained through two luxury cars.
Whether the cost of gasoline is the result of conspiracies among international cartels, dwindling reserves, or simply reaction to the world's finite amount of crude rapidly becoming more finite, will perhaps forever remain a mystery. I do know, however, that the internal combustion engine is going to have a tough time of it far before my not-yet-conceived grandchildren reach driving age.
The best minds are working on this problem, of course, for it goes far beyond our freedom to drive wherever we want, any time we want. Consider, too, how much of the world's economy is driven by fossil fuels, and you can imagine the economic repercussions if just a minor dip in today's oil flow were to be forever halted. Sounds pretty bad.
The cynics and skeptics have had a good time of it. They accuse car manufacturers of all kinds of nefarious deeds, among them repressing technologies to help their thuggish brethren in the oil business. Low fuel mileage; high fuel prices. Even I can do the economics on that scenario. Could it be true? Just the other day, some naive soul breathlessly assured me that the engineering papers describing the notorious "Fish carburetor" had been found, that the mythical carb which delivers 200 mpg actually existed and would soon be available! My skepticism was dismissed, of course-I was "too close" to the car industry and wouldn't admit to their evil-doing even if it were true.
What's the answer? Perhaps a group out of England will come up with the solution. Called Earth 2012, the non-profit outfit is determined to develop an engine that will run on...water. Yep, good old H2O.
Earth 2012's press release assures us that a prototype will be built by the end of 2005, and, in a demonstration of the best intentions, and to spread the technology far and wide, the water-driven engine will not be protected by patent.
Before you go out and invest in water futures or begin hoarding six-packs of Evian, you might wait to see how Earth 2012's technology works out. It has something to do with "resonant frequency," a way of getting molecules to shake apart. If, says the press release, you can get water molecules to vibrate just so, hydrogen and oxygen will be separated, but the real trick will be accomplishing this by using by very little energy, inexpensively freeing up the hydrogen so that it can used for combustion.
"Our only motive is to help the world," said a spokesperson. To me, that includes cheaper stops at the fuel station. And, maybe, in the future, a stop at the garden hose instead.