Letters for the week of October 5-11, 2005 

Forget hydrogen; where are we gonna get all that platinum? Brugmann's rants have a purpose, and Kanye West fans strike back.

"Bug Juice," Feature, 9/7

Hydrogen from the sun
I think it's worth pointing out that the production of solar hydrogen is not dependent on photovoltaic units. The most efficient (and much, much cheaper) means of solar production is from tandem cells. These use nanocrystalline thin films and produce very pure hydrogen out one side and oxygen out of the other by splitting water molecules in one single unit. The process is carbon-free and does not require particularly sunny days, as the cells collect energy from all light wavelengths. There is also no need for an electrolyzer, so this further helps the sunlight-hydrogen production efficiency.
Rupert Leach, London, UK

Not enough platinum
You promote the benefits of a hydrogen-based fuel economy while neglecting to address some very basic factors that, with our present hydrogen fuel-cell technology, makes the whole proposal for a shift to hydrogen fuel an impossibility. I'll summarize the statements made by author Matthew Simmons and others:

• A single hydrogen fuel cell requires twenty grams of platinum. If the cells are mass-produced, it may be possible to get the platinum requirement down to ten grams per cell.

• The world has 7.7 billion grams of proven platinum reserves. There are approximately 700 million internal combustion engines on the road. Ten grams of platinum per fuel cell x 700 million fuel cells = 7 billion grams of platinum, or practically every gram of platinum in the Earth.

• Unfortunately, the average fuel cell lasts only two hundred hours. That translates into just 12,000 miles, or about one year's worth of driving at sixty mph. This means all those fuel cells would have to be replaced every single year.

Thus, replacing the vehicles on the road with fuel-cell powered vehicles for only one year would require us to mine every ounce of platinum in the Earth for fuel-cell construction. Doing so is absolutely impossible as platinum is astonishingly energy-intensive (expensive) to mine, is already in short supply, and is indispensable to thousands of crucial industrial processes. Even if this weren't the case, the fuel-cell solution would last less than one year. As with oil, platinum production would peak long before the supply is exhausted. What will we do, when less than six months into the hydrogen economy, we hit Peak Platinum?

If the hydrogen economy were anything other than a total red herring, such issues would eventually arise, as 80 percent of the world's proven platinum reserves are located in that bastion of geopolitical stability, South Africa.

Until the basic nuts and bolts questions like this platinum conundrum are clearly hammered out by the scientific world, and the issues are understood by the public to the greatest extent that is possible, it does us very little good to propose the government dump billions into developing hydrogen infrastructure or to have Congress pass laws mandating that Big Auto start shifting production to hydrogen-powered cars, as we wait in anticipation of a miraculous hydrogen economy that is ultimately an illusion, a salvation that is never going to come.
Ned Kelly, Woodbury, Minnesota

Editor's note
Platoni's article never suggests that all cars would or should run on hydrogen, but that it be developed alongside other alt-fuels. What's more, the platinum can be recycled.

"Brugmann's Brain Vomit," EastBayExpress.com, 9/7

Cats love the Guardian
After perusing "Brugmann's Brain Vomit," I wholeheartedly agree, having had to sift through almost two decades of B3PO-Redmond drivel on a weekly basis for the occasional calendar listing that might not appear in the SF Weekly or East Bay Express. However, they've got one advantage over you guys: The slightly smaller dimensions of their rag make for an excellent and recyclable cat box liner.
Dr. Gus JaFolla, San Francisco

"Why coddle Mr. Zheng?" Letters, 9/14

Ex-cons can pay taxes
Trinidad B. Warren, condemning the idea of providing college classes in prison, is living in a dream world. People we don't execute or lock up for life are coming back outside, and we need to decide beforehand whether we want them worse off or better off when that happens. Prisons are places where folks get told what they'll eat, read, see, participate in; get told when they can awake, when they can sleep; and see all around them that whoever has the most force wins.

Out here, cooperation, negotiation, choice among options, and individual responsibility are the crucial tools for managing life. We spent half a million dollars turning Robert Alton Harris from a misfit into a killer. Unless Warren has family sucking at the trough of the prison-guard lobby that Gray Davis and most of his predecessors sold us out to, I can't see any reason for promoting production of the same product. Recidivists should be considered system failures. I'd rather see ex-cons as taxpayers than fatten the wallets of the guards while making our streets less safe.
David Altschul, Berkeley

"Documents for the Undocumented," Cityside, 9/7

Now for the real scandal
So some employees and friends at the Claremont DMV have been making big bucks selling drivers' licenses to illegal aliens. This is deemed a criminal activity and warrants an investigation by the FBI. What, then, should we call the votes of Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and Wilma Chan (D-Oakland) in the Assembly and Don Perata (D-Oakland) and Tom Torlakson (D-Concord) in the Senate who just voted for SB 60 to give drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants?
Tim Aaronson, El Cerrito

"Justifiable Arrogance," Music, 9/7

Time is on my side
I picked up the Express for the first time today and was surprised to see the article on Kanye West. Unfortunately, I didn't agree with the opinion of Dan Leroy. The article was cleverly written, however confusingly wrong. I found myself siding with Dan and then disagreeing with Dan. It seemed that even he didn't know what message he was trying to convey.

It is a good thing for Kanye West that Time labeled him as hip-hop's most important artist and not the Express. Fortunately, Time magazine is a bit more prestigious than the Express. I am hoping that the next time someone writes an article on an artist, they first understand the concepts behind the artist. Perhaps the messages were just too deep for Dan Leroy. Enlightenment is painful and America isn't very good at listening to uncomfortable/truthful messages.

P.S. The advertisements in this publication cheapen the articles.
Denise DeCota, Walnut Creek

If you can't relate then don't comment
Your critique of Kanye West's newest release is biased. I haven't read any of your other articles, but find your comments lopsided as you begin your piece criticizing Kanye for his comments about the Katrina tragedy on national TV. You have your opinions as all Americans do -- show some respect, especially since you get "paid" to make a living via rap music and artists.

In my opinion, Kanye spoke words the minority population in this nation [were] speaking among ourselves. If you can't relate, then don't comment. If you haven't experienced the experience of being minority in America, don't comment about things you know nothing about. Peace through thought and consideration.
Sharon Smith, Oakland

What's with letting artists use the N-word?
I am writing in response to two reviews. The first was September 7, on Kanye West. The second was September 14, with lyrics from rapper Young Jeezy. Both reviews featured the N word. As an African-American woman, I am appalled and offended that the N word would be used so freely in your publication. It's sad that in this day and age things like this are still happening.

I understand that some artists use this word, but that doesn't give you the permission to print it for the general public to read. I would appreciate a formal apology to be printed in your paper. In the future, my hope is that the entire staff at the Express be more selective in their use of words. And also to be mindful of how those words could affect not only the African-American community but people in general.
Nicole Bentley, Oakland

We misidentified the band Readyville among the groups that played at the final Ace of Spades party at Mama Buzz Cafe ("The Knitting Factory," Down in Front, 9/28). Also, Sekouba "Bambino" Diabate and Sekou "Bembeya" Diabate are not brothers, as indicated in one of last week's Critic's Choice items; Bambino, furthermore, was born in 1964 and did not join the group Bembeya Jazz until 1979.

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