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Daily Current Affairs – 2020

Topic: For Prelims and Mains

Hydrogen Energy

21st Sep 2020

Why in News?

The Government of India has planned to include hydrogen energy development under its renewable energy Future Plans.

Hydrogen is a clean fuel. It is an energy carrier that can be used for a broad range of applications. Also it could serve as a possible substitute to liquid and fossil fuels.

Its physical properties could be stated as following. At standard temperature and pressure, hydrogen is a nontoxic, nonmetallic, odorless, tasteless, colorless, and highly combustible diatomic gas with the molecular formula H2.

Occurrence and storage

Speaking of its natural occurrence, it is the most abundant element in the universe. The sun and other stars are composed largely of hydrogen. Astronomers estimate that 90% of the atoms in the universe are hydrogen atoms. Hydrogen is a component of more compounds than any other element. Water is the most abundant compound of hydrogen found on earth.

Molecular hydrogen is not available on Earth in convenient natural reservoirs. Most hydrogen on Earth is bonded to oxygen in water and to carbon in live or dead and/or fossilized biomass. It can be created by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. Water is again formed, when hydrogen is used.

On the other hand, its preparation could be done by breaking the chemical bonds from compounds.

A few common methods include electrolysis, from steam and hydro carbon or carbon, reaction of metals with acids, ionic metal hydrides with water, etc.

Currently, global hydrogen production is 48% from natural gas, 30% from oil, and 18% from coal; water electrolysis accounts for only 4%.

Its storage is important because it has wide range of applications. They range from stationary power, portable power to transportation, etc. Also it has the highest energy per mass of any fuel.

However, its low ambient temperature density results in a low energy per unit volume, therefore requiring the development of advanced storage methods that have potential for higher energy density.

Hydrogen can be stored physically as either a gas or a liquid. Storage of hydrogen as a gas typically requires high-pressure tanks (350–700 bar [5,000–10,000 psi] tank pressure).

Storage of hydrogen as a liquid requires cryogenic temperatures because the boiling point of hydrogen at one atmosphere pressure is −252.8°C. Hydrogen can also be stored on the surfaces of solids (by adsorption) or within solids (by absorption).

Hydrogen as a fuel:

Hydrogen is considered an alternative fuel. It is due to its ability to power fuel cells in zero-emission electric vehicles, its potential for domestic production, and the fuel cell’s  potential for high efficiency. In fact, a fuel cell coupled with an electric motor is two to three times more efficient than an internal combustion engine running on gasoline. Hydrogen can also serve as fuel for internal combustion engines. The energy in 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of hydrogen gas contains about the same as the energy in 1 gallon (6.2 pounds, 2.8 kilograms) of gasoline.

Potential Applications:

  • Production of electricity, heat and water for various end uses
  • Industrial applications
  • Vehicular transportation
  • Residential applications
  • Commercial applications, including in telecom towers for providing back-up power

Advantages and disadvantages of Hydrogen fuel cells:

Advantages

It is readily available. It is a basic earth element and is very abundant. However, it time consuming to separate hydrogen gas from its companion substances. While that may be the case, the results produce a powerful clean energy source.

It doesn’t produce harmful emissions. When it is burned, it doesn’t emit harmful substances. Basically, it reacts with oxygen without burning and the energy it releases can be used to generate electricity used to drive an electric motor. Also, it doesn’t generate carbon dioxide when burnt, not unlike other power sources.

It is environmentally friendly. It is a non-toxic substance which is rare for a fuel source. Others such as nuclear energy, coal and gasoline are either toxic or found in places that have hazardous environments. Because hydrogen is friendly towards the environment, it can be used in ways that other fuels can’t even possibly match.

It can be used as fuel in rockets. It is both powerful and efficient. It is enough to provide power for powerful machines such as spaceships. Also, given that it is environmentally friendly, it is a much safer choice compared to other fuel sources. A fun fact: hydrogen is three times as powerful as gasoline and other fossil fuels. This means that it can accomplish more with less.

It is fuel efficient. Compared to diesel or gas, it is much more fuel efficient as it can produce more energy per pound of fuel. This means that if a car is fueled by hydrogen, it can go farther than a vehicle loaded with the same amount of fuel but using a more traditional source of energy.

Hydrogen-powered fuel cells have two or three times the efficiency of traditional combustion technologies. For example, a conventional combustion-based power plant usually generates electricity between 33 to 35 percent efficiency. Hydrogen fuel cells are capable of generating electricity of up to 65 percent efficiency.

It is renewable. It can be produced again and again, unlike other non-renewable sources of energy. This means that with hydrogen, you get a fuel source that is limited. Basically, hydrogen energy can be produced on demand.

Labour Reforms

Topic: For Prelims and Mains

Why in News?

Recently, the recent versions of three labour codes namely Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2020, Code on Social Security Bill, 2020 and Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code Bill, 2020 have been introduced in Lok Sabha.

Key Points

Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2020:

It has raised the threshold for the requirement of a standing order to over 300 workers which implies that industrial establishments with up to 300 workers will not be required to furnish a standing order.

  • Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946makes it obligatory for employers of an industrial establishment where 100 or more workers are employed to clearly define the conditions of employment and rules of conduct for workmen, by way of standing orders/services rules and to make them known to the workmen employed.
  • The new provision for standing order will be applicable for every industrial establishment wherein 300 or more than 300 workers areemployed or were employed on any day of the preceding twelve months.
  • It was earlier suggested by the Standing Committee on Labourwhich also suggested that the threshold be increased accordingly in the Code itself and the words ‘as may be notified by the Appropriate Government’ be removed because reform of labour laws through the executive route is undesirable and should be avoided to the extent possible.
  • After becoming a law, orders will not be dependent on whims and fancies of executives of state governments.
  • Without the need of a standing order in increased industrial establishments due to the raised threshold, the process ofhiring and firing workers will be more flexible and faster for employers which would result in increased employment.
  • It also introduces new conditions for carrying out a legal strike.The time period for arbitration proceedings has been included in the conditions for workers before going on a legal strike as against only the time for conciliation at present.
  • No person employed in any industrial establishment shall go on strikewithout a 60-day notice and during the pendency of proceedings before a Tribunal or a National Industrial Tribunal and sixty days after the conclusion of such proceedings.
  • At present,a person employed in a public utility service cannot go on strike unless they give notice for a strike within six weeks before going on strike or within fourteen days of giving such notice, which the IR Code now proposes to apply for all the industrial establishments.
  • It has also proposed to set up are-skilling fund for training of retrenched workers with contribution from the employer, of an amount equal to 15 days last drawn by the worker.

Concerns:

  • It willwater down the labour rights for workers in small establishments having less than 300 workers and would enable companies to introduce arbitrary service conditions for workers.
  • It will give tremendous amounts of flexibility to the employersin terms of hiring and firing, dismissal for alleged misconduct and retrenchment for economic reasons will be completely possible for all the industrial establishments employing less than 300 workers which is complete demolition of employment security.
  • The new conditions for carrying out a legal strikeelongate the legally permissible time frame before the workers can go on a legal strike, making a legal strike near impossible.
  • It has expanded to cover all industrial establishmentsfor the required notice period and other conditions for a legal strike even though the Standing Committee on Labour had recommended against it beyond the public utility services like water, electricity, natural gas, telephone and other essential services, as is the case at present.
  • The mention of ‘other sources’ for funding the re-skilling fund is vague.The reskilling fund is arbitrarily framed as the Code has no idea from where the funds for the same will come apart from employers’ contributions.
  • Theseambiguities are left to the rule-making processes and the bureaucrats and, further, there are unclarities over who will reskill the workers and how adequate the funding will be.

Social Security Code Bill, 2020:

It proposes a National Social Security Board which shall recommend to the central government for formulating suitable schemes for different sections of unorganised workers, gig workers and platform workers.

Also, aggregators employing gig workers will have to contribute 1-2% of their annual turnover for social security, with the total contribution not exceeding 5% of the amount payable by the aggregator to gig and platform workers.

Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code Bill, 2020:

It has defined inter-state migrant workers as the worker who has come on their own from one state and obtained employment in another state, earning up to Rs. 18,000 a month.

The proposed definition makes a distinction from the

Facts for Prelims:

1776 COMMISSION”

US President Donald Trump signed an executive order to set up a “national commission to promote patriotic education” in the US.

About:

  • The 1776 Commission is an education commission proposed by U.S. President Donald Trump to support “patriotic education”.
  • The initiative is an apparent counter to The 1619 Project, a Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of essays on African American history of the past four centuries, which explores the Black community’s contribution in nation-building since the era of slavery to modern times.
  • Trump announced the move at a history conference celebrating the 233rd anniversary of the signing of the US Constitution (on September 17, 1787); the document being written in the decade after the original 13 colonies declared independence from the British Empire in 1776.
  • Trump said students in US universities are ‘inundated with critical race theory, a Marxist doctrine holding that America is a wicked and racist nation’, and the new project would teach the youth to ‘love America.’

 

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