Whenever we hear talk about hydrogen fuel, we think of The Jetsons – that quirky futuristic cartoon from the 1980s.
Whenever we hear talk about coal-fired power, we think of The Flintstones – that quirky prehistoric cartoon from the 1980s.
Coal keeps the lights on and provides loads of jobs, but we're not going to lie – the way it's converted into energy in our creaky old power stations seems prehistoric.
Anyhow, Shortland MP Pat Conroy has been talking up the role hydrogen will play in our energy future.
The word itself brings a couple of things to mind, namely hydrogen peroxide and the hydrogen bomb. But believe us, hydrogen fuel has nothing to do with blonde hair or nuclear bombs.
Hydrogen is, in fact, considered an ideal zero-emission fuel. It emits water vapour, just like George Jetson's flying car.
In coming years, we could be hearing a lot more about the so-called "hydrogen economy" as we head towards a low-carbon future. We'll also be hearing a lot more about fuel cells that produce electricity by converting hydrogen and oxygen into water.
Hydrogen can also be used for long-term energy storage and long-distance transport. Governments are increasingly considering it as a replacement for natural gas.
Pat Conroy says clean hydrogen could "replace natural gas in industrial processes, replace coal in steelmaking, successfully store renewable energy, help protect Australia from fuel shocks and power trains and trucks".
Pat says Labor's $1.14 billion National Hydrogen Plan is part of a bid to make Australia "a renewable energy exports superpower".
"As the world decarbonises, if we plan well, Australia can continue to be an energy-exporting superpower. We should also enjoy a manufacturing boom," he said.
"Australia can be the land of cheap and endless energy, which could power generations of metal manufacturing and other energy-intensive manufacturing industries."
He said the development of clean hydrogen was necessary "if the world is going to decarbonise".
"Decarbonise we must if we are to reduce global warming to well below two degrees, as the Paris agreement sets out," he said.
"European nations have begun introducing hydrogen-powered trains and trucks. Electric vehicles that use batteries do not offer the range and power of hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles," he said.
"The global market for hydrogen is expected to reach $215 billion by 2022," he said, adding it could employ 16,000 Australians by 2040 and contribute $10 billion in exports.
Let's hope some of those jobs come to the Hunter. We don't want to be stuck in the Stone Age.
A truckie in a hurry
Now it's time to go from the transport future, way back to the transport past.
Waratah West's Fred Saunders sent us a "few traffic facts that you're maybe too young to know about".
"In February 1952, I was hitchhiking from Melbourne to Sydney. I got a lift with a truckie who was in a hurry to get out of Victoria before midnight on a Saturday. Heavy vehicles were not allowed on Victorian roads on Sundays," he said.
"In 1999, we were in Frankfurt in Germany. Our friends were showing us around on the Saturday and I noticed all these heavy transports parked off the autobahn," he said.
Fred was told the trucks were "not allowed on the autobahns" at the weekend. They were allowed back on at 6am on Mondays.
"Our friends said no one uses the autobahns at that time of a Monday unless they really have to because all the heavy vehicles take off. Wonder if it makes any difference to the accident rate?"
Fred then took us back to the 1950s again.
In the early 1950s, transportation from Sydney to Melbourne was mainly by train, plane or ship, he said.
"Coaches were not allowed to compete with the railways. Then the coach companies took the states to court and won under a section of the constitution that said trade was to be free between the states.
"Pioneer Coaches were among the first to run. My wife and I went to Melbourne by Pioneer overnight just before the Maitland floods of 1955. We saw the floods at the newsreel cinema that was around in those days. People were finding it hard to believe the damage the floods had done."
Having read our piece last Friday about kookaburras stealing sausages and steaks from campers, Croudace Bay's Eric Roach recalled an incident a long time ago.
"I was a teacher. My first appointment was to a small town in the central west called Cumnock," he said.
He was staying at a hotel.
"One summer’s evening in the early hours of the morning, I was fast asleep in my room. Suddenly, there was a crashing of glass, which woke me up," he said.
The kookaburra had flown through a glass door.
"It had partially knocked itself out and was lying on the floor next to my bed. It fluttered up to the top of the mirror," he said.
"Here am I half asleep with this kookaburra sitting up there looking at me."
The bird was well and truly stunned. Fred used a blanket to try to coax it out.
"I waved it around and it finally got its senses back and flew out the door," he said.