Wood gas: A few apologia

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By The Staff

Dear Editor,

Recently, I suggested to the readers of the Monitor and to the Los Alamos scientific community that we explore the virtues of wood gas as fuel for our automobiles. Here I would like to add a short apologia for the proposition.

Those with environmental concerns may view the products of combustion associated with wood gas as harmful. We usually celebrate the forests for recycling airborne carbon molecules into our oxygen. While the tree is alive, it indeed provides a bit more oxygen than it consumes. Alas, all trees die, and then termites, mushrooms and other decomposers mimic the exhaust of a Holtzgas (wood gas) powered engine.

In the vicinity of Los Alamos, we have many trees killed by the Cerro Grande fire and other forest fires. These are waiting to be fuel for future wild fires. Would it not be better to fuel cars than to fuel wild fires?

We have much scientific acumen in Los Alamos that should be harnessed for perfecting the gasification of dead wood and gas purification, compression/liquification, distribution, marketing, safety and environmental concerns. It could be a significant source of employment in Los Alamos. It could contribute to a Los Alamos Renaissance of “CanHappen Project” as the “Manhattan Project” contributed to its birth.

Not only could this industry employ people with high degree of scientific expertise, but it could employ millions of people around the world who lack occupational skills. Gathering of dead and decomposing wood is an entry-level job. Using a wood chipper also requires very little training. Thus the industry could employ the uneducated, the impaired, the incarcerated and other marginalized citizens.

Civic organizations could raise funds for noble causes by cleaning up the forest floor.

Dead trees are a “renewable resource” available in every state, and nearly every country on the planet. The technology has been around for more than 65 years (mostly employed by the petroleum deficient Third Reich). It needs to be modernized, but the principles are as self-evident as solar heat.

My own children had done a wood gas science fair project in Los Alamos Schools a quarter of a century ago. It is a science project that even an art teacher can help with. =-)

Millions of people in Europe were capable of retrofitting their cars to use wood gas when I was a child there.

Could not the Los Alamos scientific community improve on this “shade tree mechanic” technology?

Petr Jandacek

Los Alamos