May 06 2011
I was recently pointed to this news report from a local Fox affiliate – about an inventor who has developed an engine that can burn water. This is a topic well-covered in skeptical and scientific circles. The inventor, Denny Klein, makes all the typical claims that are made for such systems.
Briefly – you cannot use water as a fuel source. What Klein is doing is using electricity to electrolyze water into hydrogen and oxygen. Then he burns the hydrogen gas back with oxygen, creating a flame and water. The news report begins with his demonstration of his “oxyhydrogen” torch. But then it goes on to claim that Klein can also use his technique to fuel a car. The problem with this approach is that it takes more energy to split the water into hydrogen and oxygen then is recouped by burning the hydrogen back with oxygen. Water is therefore not a source of energy. At best it is a source of hydrogen which can be used to store energy – but you have to put the energy into it in the first place. All Klein’s process adds is an unnecessary step that decreases engine efficiency.
Klein’s device is nothing new, and his crank claims for it only demonstrate his lack of Google skilz. In fact, the oxyhydrogen torch was the first type of welding torch developed. This technology is 200 years old – it was first developed by chemist, Robert Hare.
The real story here is the horrible quality of the reporting. The reporter, Craig Patrick, and the Fox news outlet needs to be called on their absolutely brain-dead reporting. Clearly they did not actual research, no journalism, and they reported the story without a hint of skepticism. It’s as if they let Klein write the story himself, and all they did was add in obligatory cheesy comments.
The electrolysis of water into hydrogen and oxygen is nothing new, and using hydrogen gas as a fuel for a blowtorch is nothing new (by two centuries). Using water to fuel an engine, such as a car engine, is the equivalent to claiming to have developed a perpetual motion machine. The reporter lets Klein get away with the bait and switch that has occurred so often it is a cliche – demonstrating a “hybrid” car that runs on gasoline and water, but claiming that a water-only model is possible. The vehicles that run on gasoline and water are running on – gasoline. That is the only fuel source. The water is an entirely unnecessary step. All Klein’s engine is doing is wasting energy converting water into hydrogen and oxygen and then back into water again. He chasing his chemical tail. And he marvels that he can travel 100 miles on only four ounces of water (oh yeah, and all that gasoline he burned).
All this, of course, does not mean he can run a car on water alone. If he thinks he can do that – then demonstrate an actual water-only car. That’s the thing we never see – because it’s impossible.
Reporter Craig Patrick follows with a gushing report of how Klein is developing a Hummer for the military and was invited by Congress to demonstrate his technology. This is followed, of course, by breathless reports of how this can change the world, and make us independent of fossil fuels. The anchors then gush about how this technology is passing all safety inspections and looks good to go. Now all we have to worry about is the price of water going up (don’t you just love local news humor).
The one thing I am never sure of when watching these ridiculous news stories is whether or not the inventor is a crank or a scam-artist. (Okay – with Dennis Lee we can be pretty sure, given his convictions for fraud.) The news report is basically a commercial for his company. Can this guy really be so clueless that he is unaware that he just reinvented the same electrolysis device that has been reinvented 1000 times before? Is he blinded by hubris and ambition, or does this guy know exactly what he’s doing?
A real journalist would have done a story exploring free energy scams, and exposing this nonsense for what it is, so that their viewers don’t get taken in by scams or pseudoscience. Instead, Fox News misinformed their viewers and did everything they could to make them more susceptible to free energy scams. That’s some fine reportifying.
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