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A journalist's guide to HHO (run your car on water)

July 2008

As a freelance writer and journalist whose career has spanned several decades, it has astonished me how standards have fallen within the profession. This decline in standards has never been more evident than when reading the raft of stories presently appearing on the subject of these "run your car on water" schemes.

Everywhere I look I see journalists taking the claims of those pushing these scams at face value.

During my time as a news editor, I would have thrown these stories back at any journalist who dared to submit them, on the basis that there was no research done to validate (or invalidate) the claims being made by those who were being written about.

Indeed, far too many of the articles I read on this subject today have an advertorial flavor rather than an objective tone that comes from a healthy level of journalistic skepticism.

Clearly a lot of journalists are having difficulty sorting the truth from the hype when it comes to these "run your car on water" schemes, which is the raison d'etre for this page.

Here I hope to provide some useful perspectives and pointers that I hope will assist anyone contemplating or already engaged in the writing of a story that relates to these systems.

Firstly, believe nothing without proof.

Secondly, check the bonafides of any proof proffered by those making extraordinary claims for their products or experiments. Remember the words of Carl Sagan: "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"

Many of those pitching these HHO schemes will cite their own experiences (hardly objective) or cherry-pick a few scientific papers for tiny germs of truth that, in isolation, might seem to support their claims. If such "science" is offered, ask for a copy of the entire paper, not just the bits that support the claims being made. Without fail, the balance of the papers from which they've excerpted will destroy the claims they're making.

This "evidence", often cited by those pushing these schemes, is a good example of what I mean.

Despite the letterhead, this is a document actually published by the Huffman Foundation (who are the people promoting one of these HHO scams and worthwhile doing some research on). Although it claims to contain a report from the SRI, you'll see that only part of this paper is from SRI and within that, only tiny excerpts have been plucked from very old reports that, when read in their entirety, paint a completely different picture to that being promoted by this document.

This paper does *not* constitute scientifically credible proof of the claims being made for this technology. Statements such as "what happens inside the combustion chamber is still only a guess" clearly indicates that the research being quoted was very preliminary in nature. In fact all of the science quoted dates back to the 1970s and 1980s. Why was this seemingly promising area of research dropped? Perhaps because subsequent research showed that the apparent gains promised by that very early research were not actually forthcoming when scrutinized more closely.

You'll notice also, that on page seven, the actual SRI content ends and we have instead, a lot of unverified information from Roy E. McAlister of the American Hydrogen Association.

The AHA's website is worth a visit, since it features active promotion of several of these "run your car on water" scams and is filled with clearly questionable "science". It would be hard to believe that much in the way of credible or objective proof could come from an organization that so actively promotes these scams.

But as I said at the start of this page, believe nothing without proof (not even what you read here) so pick up the phone and contact the physics department of your nearest university. Talk to a PhD with qualifications in the area of thermodynamics. Ask them whether these systems have any credibility within the constructs of accepted science.

Also be sure and ask the professor whether you really can have a substance with the chemical formula of HHO as is claimed by those pushing these schemes. If a physics professor doesn't know, ask to talk to someone from the Chemistry department. If this page has done it's job, I'm sure you won't be surprised by the answer.

Ask all parties why, if this technology is so very effective and has been known of since the 1800s, hasn't it been adopted by all (or even any of) the major auto-makers.

When the issue of "oil company conspiracy" is raised (which it will be), ask what the auto-makers have to gain from such a conspiracy. Also ask why, if it really does work to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, haven't the Chinese equipped all of their vehicles with such systems?

The communist Chinese are unlikely to enter into a conspiracy with the capitalist western oil companies and given that they're one of the world's largest oil consumers, surely they would have leapt at the chance to slash their fuel bills by 40 percent or more.

Instead of approaching your story from a "human interest" perspective, take a grittier approach and ask why there are people out there who are making claims that would appear to fly in the face of accepted science. Ask if it's really possible that a group of people with jam-jars and baking soda are able to achieve what the combined might of all the world's scientific community and auto-makers have failed to do.

So why aren't the cars we buy today already equipped with these hydrogen systems as a factory-fitting? Well Occam's Razor has the answer to that one. The simplest answer is usually the right one -- and the answer is that this HHO stuff just doesn't work.

As a journalist, isn't it better that you're known as someone who was prepared to do the extra work and saved readers/viewers from a scam, rather than just a lazy hack-writer who also got sucked in by a pie-in-the-sky fuel-saver system that simply doesn't work?

And remember that, if it sounds too good to be true...

If you would like to discuss this page or the nature of this scam, please use the contact page to email me. I'll try to respond within 12 hours.


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