Modi and Rahul, Rahul and Modi
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and India's Congress Party president Rahul Gandhi. Image Credit: AFP

Indian Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday took a jibe at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his suggestion to use wind turbines to generate water and extract oxygen from the air.

Sharing a clip of a video interaction between Modi and Henrik Anderson, president of a Danish wind energy company, Gandhi tweeted: “The real danger to India isn’t that our PM doesn’t understand. It’s the fact that nobody around him has the guts to tell him.”

In the clip shared by Rahul Gandhi, Modi suggested research into the possibility of making three-in-one wind turbine systems. He said: "... in places where there is a higher level of moisture, installing wind turbines can help extract water from the atmosphere and produce clean drinking water. Thus, wind turbines can produce power on one side and the other, suck moisture from the air and extract water."

He then referred to the possibility of using wind turbines to extract oxygen from the atmosphere and called for research into this. Modi said it would be challenging to develop such a system, and added: "But if a wind turbine extracts oxygen from the atmosphere... it will be possible to capture the oxygen market."

Modi said a wind turbine could thus be a "three-in-one" system.

The clip went viral, with many reacting to Modi’s comments and understanding of science. First, he said he instructed Indian jets to attack Pakistan under cloud cover so they would not be detected by radar, and now this noted Indian tweeps.

Like many others, Twitter user @DrJwalaG listed Modi’s earlier similar suggestions. He wrote: “PM Modi is MA in entire Political Science. Wind turbine energy, cloud radar theory, no change in climate… any more jokes on science?”

@rohitnig tweeted: “Two suggestions by Modi: Separate water from air using wind turbines. Separate oxygen from the air using wind turbines. Excellent. No wonder the Indian economy is growing at minus 23.9 per cent!”

Gandhi’s tweet evoked sharp reactions from BJP leaders who said these technologies have been explored before.

They were referring to 2012 news reports about a French company, Eole Water, which made headlines when it tested a modified wind turbine to extract water from humid air and was able to produce 62 litres of water in an hour. However, the project did not take off, and one reason appeared to be the cost.

"It costs between €500,000 (Dh2,166,734) and €600,000 (Dh2,600,081) depending on the location and surrounding conditions to install just one water turbine.” CNN had reported in 2012.

However, it was the comment about extracting oxygen from the air to tap into the “oxygen market”, which drew criticism.

Tweep @shuvankr posted: “Modi told Danish wind turbine maker… ‘Now your wind turbines make only wind energy. They should also take "water vapour" out to make drinking water. And, also take #Oxygen out from air and capture #OxygenMarket…”

The comments started a debate when Modi supporters tried to justify Modi’s comment citing processes such as electrolysis to extract hydrogen and oxygen from water. Meanwhile, others attempted to clarify why this was an outlandish idea.

Exasperated tweep @SanketJiwane2 wrote: “It's baseless! Modi is talking about extracting oxygen from the air, not from water! And extracting water, oxygen, and energy at the same time! Electrolysis is the use of electricity to split water into oxygen and hydrogen.

"So, we're just talking about using a wind turbine to generate electricity that will be used for electrolysis! The wind turbine in itself can't be used to extract atmospheric oxygen as Modi is claiming. Anyhow, he is not that well informed! And what you shared does not support what he is saying,” the tweep added.

And, Twitter user @Leaf_lover26 explained: “Just as a compressor and condenser can be used inbuilt with a turbine to extract water, the same isn't applicable for oxygen extraction. Extra equipment will be necessary which means it doesn't matter if it's a wind turbine or not.”