Friday, January 30, 2004

Not good enough?

Improvements may not help Japan meet Kyoto targets
Japan predicts automobiles will emit about 296 million tons of CO2 in 2010 and wants the auto industry to reduce emissions by 20.6 million tons. To reach that goal, government officials are encouraging the development of more hybrid gasoline-electric cars and fuel cell-powered vehicles. In total, Japan wants to see 10 million "environmentally friendly vehicles," or EFVs, on the road by 2010, Nakayama said.

Stronger fuel economy regulations will require a 3.4 percent improvement in fuel economy by 2010 for gasoline powered vehicles and a 10.5 percent improvement by 2005 for diesel-powered vehicles. Meanwhile, the government is also setting stringent emissions standards for some heavy-duty vehicles, drastically reducing emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM). To help sell cleaner vehicles, the government is subsidizing programs for municipalities and private companies, Nakayama said, along with providing tax incentives and low-interest financing to consumers.

That just shows the magnitude of the effort that needs to be put in order to reduce fuel consumption of automobiles. The problem in the U.S. is much more daunting.

Ethanol mandate in Connecticut

Following up on Connecticut's drive to pull-out MBTE from gasoline.
Ethanol was added to gasoline as part of a state-mandated ban of MTBE, effective Jan. 1. MTBE was found to contaminate groundwater, but ethanol has faced a number of criticisms as well.

Illinois and Wisconsin have successfully transitioned to ethanol, but a report by the Energy Information Administration last fall said the additive could send the price of gasoline in Connecticut up 40 cents. Other industry experts were skeptical whether cars would get the same mileage with the corn-based ethanol.

Bob Reynolds, president of South Bend, Ind.-based Downstream Alternatives and author of "Changes in Gasoline III: Automotive Fuel Quality Guide," said these accusations are based on myths

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

What color is your Hydrogen ?

Hydrogen's Dirty Details by Mark Baard
The so-called hydrogen economy will be a boon for the mining industry. The clean-energy future that many environmentalists have dreamed of has been turned over to the coal industry and a notoriously dirty Siberian mining company run by Russian oligarch Vladimir Potanin. A deal personally smoothed over by Bush has given Norilsk Nickel, one of the world's worst polluters, a toehold on American soil—and a major stake in the hydrogen economy.

The new mining frenzy is emerging as yet another piece of Bush's "black hydrogen agenda," according to the Green Hydrogen Coalition, whose members include the Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and Jeremy Rifkin, a leading proponent of hydrogen fuel cells.

The coalition favors the use of wind and solar energy to power the reactions that extract hydrogen from substances like water. But to build the hydrogen economy over the next 30 years, Republicans are instead planning to burn more fossil fuels and dig for coal and gas on public and private lands. The Green Hydrogen Coalition noted that the GOP-written Senate energy bill called for subsidizing the nuke and fossil fuel industries to the tune of $8 billion, twice the amount set aside for renewable energy sources.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Why Drive Lite is needed -- I

I promised to elaborate on Drive Lite. I will start here.

"For our customers, it's not just about being green or the fuel economy. It's about a better total package," said Denny Clements, general manager of Toyota's Lexus luxury division. "Fuel economy is not one of the 10 things they're most concerned about."

More to come later.
Meanwhile, efforts are on in California to stall any action on AB2076.

Suger Economy instead of Hydrogen Economy?

More on "Not all Hydrogen is created Equal". David Morris suggests that perhaps promoting hybrids and ethanol fuel is a better way to go than putting all eggs in the basket of hydrogen. Complete report here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

The reason enviro-friendly cars are virtually invisible at the auto show according to Brock Yates:

Toyota trumpets its Prius hybrid, the winner of multiple awards, thanks to its space-age styling, its fiendishly complex computer-controlled drive train and its EPA-claimed 50-plus miles per gallon--all for under 25 grand. (A loss-leader price, many believe.) This is the current king of the hybrids, although its feeble performance limits its appeal to card-carrying enviros.

The Prius is selling well and no doubt is the harbinger of better hybrids to come. But with gasoline prices steady at about $1.60 a gallon, an economy beginning to seriously percolate and more Americans eschewing the delays, shakedowns and interrogations involved with air travel, the lure of the open road increases by the day. With it comes the romance--perceived or otherwise--of a freedom ride at the wheel of an automobile. This is a hateful thought for greenies, social engineers, media elites and intellectuals everywhere, but the lunatic love affair with the car remains in a state of steamy passion.

There is no debating that hybrids and fuel cells make sense in terms of the environment and reducing fossil-fuel dependence. But until these new powerplants can equal current conventional gasoline engines in terms of performance, cost and durability, auto makers will respond to the harsh realities of the marketplace. No amount of government mandates, media pressure or high-minded pontifications can replace the simple laws of supply and demand.

Friday, January 09, 2004

'Drive Lite' ??

Drive lite is a concept that will need some explanation. I will do that shortly. However, knowing what the important issues are in framing the debate is very helpful. That particular article appeared in the November issue of Environment.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Proposed Changes in Light-Trucks CAFE Standards

Happy New Year! We will see *some* changes in the light trucks CAFE standards in this coming year. Of course, they will be effective only year 2009 onwards. The changes are likely to come in either of these three formats or a combination of them:
1) Revision of light trucks standards by creating different vehicle classes based on some attribute such as vehicle weight, interior volume or something similar.
2) Better definition of what is a light truck and what is not: Aimed at PT cruiser type vehicles whoch should really be classified as a car, but gets counted as a truck because of its flat floor provision (foldable back seats)
3) Increasing the gross vehicle weight for trucks covered by CAFE standards from 8500 to 10000 pounds: Aimed at vehicles such as Hummer which weigh more than 8500 lbs. and thus avoid coming under the CAFE standards.

Here is my take:
NHTSA seems unduely worried about the effect of vehicle weight on safety. Of course, that is the duty of NHTSA. However, the debate about effect of weight on safety is still unresolved, so NHTSA has decided to err on the side of caution. It is generally agreed that if the heavier vehicles (weighing more than 5000 pounds) were to shed some weight, then it will help both, fuel economy and overall safety. NHTSA's aim in this ANPRM is to look at ways by which this can be achieved. However, given the constraints under which new rules will have to be formulated, NHTSA is likely to hit the wall on how much to raise the standards by pretty quick. This will be without considering the overall impact on the jobs and economy, but only on the basis of a normal cost-benefit analysis. So, I would not have high hopes from this new rule. Tom thinks that this is just a chatter. Well, it sort of is. However, there is really not much that NHTSA can do in the current statutory authority given to it by the Energy Policy Conservation Act. Unless, there is a significant change in the CAFE act, and this is the job of the Congress, there can not be much that can be expected from the current standards. Meanwhile, we keep avoiding discussion of any other means by which we could reduce fuel consumption of light duty vehicles, and things keep getting worse. Don't take my word for it. Click on the TEDB data book link to your right and look up the current data on vehicle fuel consumption. You will be surprised. For the data challenged, I will post links to the graphs indicating where the fuel consumption in the US is headed in the next 30 years based on some of the analysis I am doing. However, that will happen after I return from India on the 19th of January.

Disclaimer: All opinions are personal and in no way affiliated to any other person, group or an institution.

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