Adittional Excerpt from “The Eureka Project,” a Novella
Kendrick had yet to understand the politics in opposition to his vision. There was a sizeable faction within the oil industry who would never see themselves as merchants of hydrogen. Texas wildcat oilmen, driven, independent men, saw any research and development toward the enhancement of the hydrogen industry as a direct attack on their business and livelihood. They were not interested in grand cooperative ventures for the sake of humanity, and from the outset of the scientific and engineering development in this area, they had lobbied hard in Washington, in the halls of Congress, to squelch any such research.
He dimly sensed that this present era of titanic struggle would hurtle humanity toward its future trajectory, into that trajectory with world politics in the midst of economic warfare.
He was acutely aware, however, that an ever-mounting majority in the United States had been terrified of another four years of Trump. During his time in office, Trump’s cabinet of plutocrats chipped away at important government agencies with cynical re-interpretations of existing environmental laws signed by Nixon in the 70s of the previous century; or, particularly, any executive directive signed by Obama had become a target for reversal under the Trump Administration. Four more years of Trump had terrified Kendrick as well. But then Biden was elected by sixty-one percent landside of the popular vote.
Once the passenger jet landed, Kendrick merely sat in his seat reading from his laptop. When the aisle was nearly empty he rose and walked toward the front of the plane along with the others, a mask affixed to his face. Most people he saw as he walked to the baggage claim area wore a mask though a few did not.
The luggage finally emerged out from behind a curtain of canvass strips. He waited and presently his suitcase rode the sloping conveyance of the carousel within reach and he grabbed it up and hurried toward the exit and a waiting taxi.
The cab driver was a Black fellow who wore an out-sized snap-brim cap and had been chewing on a tooth pick until Kendrick rapped on the window and got into the back seat. “Where to, mister?” the fellow said from behind his mask, now in place.
Kendrick gave the man the name of the hotel where he would be staying.
“Right on. I hear that’s one of the classier hotels in town,” the driver said.
“I’ll be here for four days,” Kendrick said absently, thinking.
“Then what you need is my expert guidance,” the cabbie proposed. “Here, I’ll give you one of my business cards.” And while keeping his eyes on the road, he reached into his shirt pocket and withdrew a card and reached his hand back between the two front seats toward Kendrick.
Kendrick took the card and glanced at it: Shamir Crowningshield, his mobile phone number, Chauffer and Limousine Service. “I’ll give you a call tomorrow, Mr. Crowningshield, you’ll need to take me to the Dirksen Senate Building,” he said with a note of pride. “My name’s Joe Kendrick.”
“The Senate Building, you say? A matter of some importance, sounds like.”
“Yes, it is. I’m going to speak in front of the Energy subcommittee about the only good solution to the energy and climate crises.”
“Say now, it’s not every day I have a fare who turns out to be more than a tourist or another lobbyist. I’m glad to meet you, Mr. Kendrick. I’d be interested to hear what you plan on telling them.”
“I’m going to give my stump speech for a hydrogen economy, then I’ll be subjected to their questions.”
“I’ve never heard of such a thing. Don’t they use hydrogen in rocket fuel?”
“That’s right,” Kendrick said. “Most hydrogen today is processed from natural gas, but there’s another way to obtain it.”
“And I know what that is,” Crowningshield said, “electrolysis. Back when I was in school in the eighth grade we did that experiment with a dry-cell battery and a pair of test-tubes. That shit burns quick!”
“Yes, and the only by-products of that burning are heat and pure water.”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s what’s cool about hydrogen, that shit don’t leave no CO2 or soot when it burns.”
“The fuel of the future,” Kendrick said, smiling.
Once at the hotel Crowningshield slipped out of his seat and strode to the rear of the car and opened the trunk and tugged out Kendrick’s suitcase. “There you are, Mr. Kendrick. Now, you said that meeting begins at 10:00 AM, but since you don’t know your way around the building you best latch onto one of them guides and they’ll escort you to the room you need. It takes about seven minutes from your hotel to the Senate building.”
“I’ll give you a call tomorrow, don’t worry,” said Kendrick, and handed Crowningshield three twenties and said, “See you tomorrow.”
The temperature plunged as he went in through a revolving door. The opulent trappings of the lobby and adjacent lounging space for guests caught his eye. Marble tiling, a grand staircase to the second floor, large chandeliers, brass fixtures. Once in his room he removed his shoes and stretched out on one of the beds and clasped his hands behind his neck. Tomorrow would be the big day, he thought, tomorrow will be my zero hour, my moment of confrontation with the supporters and spokesmen for an antiquated energy source. He would speak extemporaneously without notes, the stewardship toward the future begins now after all the smoke has been cleared which the oil companies have issued forth for decades, their in-house scientists having known full-well of the heat absorbing properties of carbon dioxide.
The following day, Crowningshield dropped Kendrick off at the Dirksen Senate Building. Kendrick’s anticipation of the next few hours drove and heaved his thoughts forward, similar to the tides being driven ever higher from an alignment of the sun and the moon.
He could see many of their faces already, particularly that of Joyce Lerner who would serve ex officio as a subcommittee member, she would introduce him to the eight Republican members and nine Democratic members, the latter none of whom he had to worry about like Ron Wyden from Oregon or Verna Palambathala from Washington state or especially Bernie Sanders from Vermont or Angus King from Main, the two Independents who caucus with the Democrats, like the Libertarian Rand Paul who caucuses with Republicans.
He was particularly worried about Republican senator Bill Cassidy from Louisiana, the sub-committee chairman. He was six years younger than Kendrick, his short-cropped hair now mostly white. He had a sharp nose and a wide grin in his official website photograph.
He had gone to medical school in Louisiana rather than law school. He got into state politics and won a seat in the state senate in 2006. In 2014 he was elected to the U.S. Senate. He was a man of varied experience and sheer talent who had political ambitions from an oil-rich state. How was Kendrick ever going to convince members like him or Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, where each of its citizens receives an annual stipend from the state, funded by the oil extraction underway there? How would he convince them? His presentation included a ten-minute film displaying computer-generated models of the twin facilities involved to wet their interest.
Kendrick had hired a young fellow in his late twenties who had studied OpenGL on his own, an engineering student, and who became exceedingly adept in its use on both a Linux and Mac platform. He and Kendrick worked many hours over the course of a few weeks to perfect the introductory film to the Electrolysis Project, it’s grand design.
He was proud to be the chief arbiter of this project, he found the idea compelling and he was devoted to see it come to fruition when this very body in Congress would draft the legislation which would fund its construction.
Mask in place, he stepped up the wide stairs to the entrance flanked by security guards. He wondered how many plainclothesmen were about? Belt removed, he placed it in a plastic bucket along with his wristwatch and his wallet; he handed an inspector his letter of invitation which the man stamped and set aside, he was then handed a visitor’s pass and Kendrick passed through a metal detector. A guide soon spotted him and rushed up to him and said, “Can I help you find an office or a meeting room, sir?”
“Oh, absolutely, miss,” Kendrick said. “I’m a fish out of water in this place. I need to find the Energy subcommittee meeting room. Those earnest people there are going to quiz me today, and for a moment it might even feel like I was back in my graduate school days when I had to defend my master’s thesis project. Tense moments for a young man, miss. Those were tense moments.”
“You just follow me, sir, I’ll see that you get there in a jiffy.”
As they walked briskly through the hallway, dodging one lobbyist, then another, now and again a photographer or a reporter, Kendrick chatted with the girl. She had a northeastern accent to his ears. Soon she brought him to a pair of open doors and said, “Here we are, sir.”
“I assume your services are on the government’s dime?”
“Of course, have a wonderful day.”
“You as well, miss. Bye now, and thanks again.”
The committee was slowly convening. Kendrick waited for Joyce Lerner to appear. He leaned unobtrusively against the wall. The great flux of activity in this building was uncanny. He felt the jump-drive in its small case at the bottom of his trouser pocket. In a briefcase he carried a laptop, Present-day man’s most vital invention, the machine which can do almost anything a human being can do, beat grand masters at chess, drive a car or a truck, write a sonnet.
Ah, there she is, he thought, as Joyce Lerner hastened toward him while extending her hand saying, “Mr. Kendrick, what a wonderful pleasure to finally meet you.”
Kendrick shook her hand with pleasure, looking into her eyes, as she gave him a woman’s glittering smile, “Yes, I’m delighted to meet you at last, Senator Lerner. Well, this is the day history will begin to bend in a new direction.”
“Let’s hope so, Mr. Kendrick. Let’s hope so. Come on, let’s go inside and get you squared away.”
Just prior to Kendrick launching his visual presentation, Senator Risch of Idaho said, “Mr. Kendrick, before you begin, I’d like to ask you, sir, what I believe to be a pertinent question. You alluded to the “difficulties involved” in the transition ahead. Would you care to elaborate on that, sir? And would that not entail wholesale participation of our federal government in the free market?”
“In my view, Senator, the American people can ill-afford the Republican lynch-pin philosophy of minimal government involvement. We need to move forward, now,” he said. “So if you’ll permit me, I’ll get on with my presentation.”
Both Risch and Cassidy were scowling. The room was darkened, and Kendrick used his laptop he had earlier configured to the Senate room’s projection device. Once the video was underway, he rose and glanced across the faces of the senators in attendance. He focused on the chairman, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, whom he presumed for the time being to be an ethical man.
“Ladies and gentlemen, members of the Energy subcommittee, this is an electrolysis module, similar to one manufactured in Germany. Europe and China have not been hobbled in the industrial-scale application of electrolysis upon sea water from a disinformation campaign funded by the oil companies purporting that climate change is a hoax; or, in more conspiratorial and sinister oriented-minds, a world-wide swindle on the part of socialists scientists out to destroy capitalism.
“I would like to remind everyone here of the opposition Roosevelt faced when he and his administration drew up the legislation which would fund projects like the Grand Coulee Dam.
“We begin with the sun, whose energy spills over the Earth and will do so long after human beings have disappeared from the surface of this planet. A solar energy “ranch” will provide a near steady flow of mega-watt power during daylight hours to operate the electrolysis facility. The key to the solar ranch as well as the hydrogen-producing electrolysis facility is that each of them must require a minimum amount of maintenance.
“Scientists and engineers have designed the best equipment we have at present. The hydrogen fuel-cell engines for cars and trucks will surely improve over the years ahead. All that you people have to do is subsidize both the auto industry and the oil industries to make this transition voluntary through reduced tax incentives; or, compel them to do so by law with a percentage of their own profits. Of course I understand your vehement knee-jerk opposition to all this.
“For those who remain unconvinced, look at it this way. Before the destructive polluting practice of fracking took place, most people were scared to death of diminishing supplies of oil and an ever-increasing demand for diesel and gasoline, driving prices through the roof.
“America fully transitioned to a hydrogen economy will have a completely stable energy source. Now think about that for a moment. The two natural resources we’re using in this future economy — which all other countries are aiming toward — are sunlight and seawater.
“This, ladies and gentlemen, is the future for humankind, and this future is already coming into being in many other countries around the world. Thank you.”
A loud murmuring arose among the journalists, photographers, aides, and committee members. Senator Bill Cassidy, sub-committee chair, rapped his gavel several times. “Order, order,” he said, a look of disdain and annoyance replacing his prior stone-faced appearance.
“Mr. Chairman, I request five minutes of floor time.”
“The senator from Vermont has the floor,” Cassidy said with distaste.
“I want to personally thank Joseph Kendrick, having flown out here to D.C. from Washington state to be with us today. Well, I have to say, it’s hardly a secret that from Texas through Louisiana to Florida along the Gulf Coast, and from Florida through the Carolinas up past the Jersey Shore, we’ve been struck with one hurricane right after another. Disaster relief has become big business. The more diesel and gasoline we burn, the more people are going to lose their homes to tornados, floods, hurricanes, you name it. We need a full stop, and what we’ve just seen today is the solution. Using this method, the United States can be carbon-free by 2050. I yield the floor.”