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June 2006

June 30, 2006

Conference: Nanotechnology Holds Promise for Energy Breakthroughs

Nanotechnology holds promise for necessary breakthroughs in a number of critical energy sectors, including solar cells, thermoelectric conversion and transport, hydrogen storage, and electrochemical conversion and storage (i.e., batteries, capacitors and fuel cells), according to scientists participating in the first Energy Nanotechnology International Conference (ENIC2006) held June 26-28 at MIT.

The technical conference included invited and contributed presentations from academia and industry. Among the speakers were Michael Graetzel, professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, and MIT Institute Professor Mildred Dresselhaus.

Solar. Researchers described a number of approaches to developing solar photon conversion systems that have an appropriate combination of high efficiency and low capital cost.

MIT’s Vladimir Bulovic, for one, said that nanotechnologies such as nanodots and nanorods are potentially disruptive technologies in the solar field. Bulovic is fabricating quantum dot photovoltaics using a microcontact printing process.

I think we’ll see the peaking of oil and natural gas sooner than most of those in the fossil fuel industry think. By 2035 photovoltaics could produce about 10 percent of the world’s electricity and play a major role in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

—David Carlson, chief scientist at BP Solar

Thermoelectrics. Thermoelectric devices are able to increase the efficiency of current technology and processes by transforming typical waste heat in combustion processes into electrical energy without the production of any environmentally harmful by-products.

There is a strong incentive to develop novel thermoelectric materials for power generation with a vastly improved thermoelectric performance. Nanomaterials have a role to play in meeting this challenge because of expectations for enhanced power factor and greatly reduced thermal conductivity in suitably chosen systems. Therefore general, convenient synthetic routes to bulk nanostructured materials, designed to be thermodynamically stable and thus practically permanent, are needed.

—Mercouri G. Kanatzidis, Michigan State University

Hydrogen. Mildred Dresselhaus gave a plenary talk titled “Addressing Grand Energy Challenges Through Advanced Materials” in which she focused on the large gap between present science/technology knowhow and the requirements in efficiency/cost for a sustainable hydrogen economy.

The hydrogen initiative involves an effort to greatly increase our capability to produce hydrogen using renewable energy sources such as photons from the sun and water from the oceans, since hydrogen is an energy carrier and not a fuel found on our planet.

The hydrogen storage problem has been identified as the most challenging since neither liquid hydrogen nor solid hydrogen have enough energy density to meet the DOE requirements for hydrogen storage for automotive applications.

The third element of the hydrogen initiative involves the development of fuel cells with a much enhanced performance and lower cost, that would come about through the development of more effective catalysts in the anode and cathode of the fuel cell and more efficient membranes operating at elevated temperatures allowing proton flow but inhibiting hydrogen gas flow.

For each of the three components of the hydrogen initiative, hydrogen production, storage and utilization, it appears that the special properties of materials at the nanoscale can be utilized to enhance performance in a way that cannot be done with bulk materials.

—Mildred Dresselhaus, MIT

Energy storage. Speakers in this track focused on fuel cells, batteries and supercapacitors.

Many significant efforts are being made to identify and utilize new energy sources, to increase production of existing sources, to increase conversion and storage efficiency, and, equally important, to reduce pollution. However, incremental improvement will not be sufficient. What is needed are new approaches.

At the same time, we are entering an exciting era where we now have the technology to engineer materials on a nanometer scale, i.e. at dimensions comparable to the size of individual atoms and molecules. But what does nanotechnology have to do with the world’s massive energy needs? In my keynote address, I will explore nanotechnology as an “outside the box” technology that has the potential to “re-invent” (transform) some long-known but little-used technologies to the point that they may offer significant improvement over the accepted ways of converting and storing energy.

One such transformation would be to use capacitors rather than batteries for regenerative energy storage. Ridiculous? Perhaps not. In MIT’s Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems (LEES), we are exploring a nanostructured ultracapacitor electrode that has the potential to increase a capacitor’s energy storage density to equal that of a chemical battery.

Another technology that we are exploring is the use of nanostructured emissive coatings and filters to significantly increase the efficiency of direct thermophotovoltaic (TPV) generation of electricity from heat.

—Joel Schindall, MIT

There is widespread effort and excitement in new materials for storing and releasing lithium or hydrogen. New materials are needed if rechargeable batteries and fuel cell systems are to be more competitive in the transportation sector, for example.

—Brent Fultz, California Institute of Technology

The conference was organized by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Nanotechnology Institute. Manuscripts submitted to the conference will be published in a future issue of the ASME Journal of Heat Transfer.


June 30, 2006 in Batteries, Conferences and other events, Hydrogen, Nanotech, Power Generation, Solar, Thermoelectrics | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

ORNL: Single Wide-Base Truck Tires Improve Fuel Economy


Replacing the standard two thinner tires per wheel with a single wide-base tire improves the fuel efficiency of heavy-duty tractor-trailer trucks and allows them to be made to run with more stability, according to studies by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

Interstate tests by ORNL’s National Transportation Research Center show gas mileage increased nearly 3% with use of wider single tires on tractor-trailers. Bill Knee, who headed the study, said the change also allows widening of the trailer frame by six inches, providing a much more stable configuration.

We noticed that there was about a 2.9% fuel saving in using the new generation single wide tires over the standard dual tires. These trucks do 125,000 miles per year on the average. They currently get five miles per gallon. You can see there is a considerable amount of savings dollar-wise that can be realized through tires like this.

—Bill Knee

With those figures, a 3% improvement in fuel economy would reduce fuel consumption by about 728 gallons per year per truck.

The wide base tires improve fuel efficiency by decreasing weight and rolling resistance. Knee said tire formulation and the design of the tire are likely contributors to the fuel savings.

The fuel economy tests were conducted along a route from Western Michigan to Portland, Ore., that involved many types of terrain, varying weather conditions and different levels of congestion.

A 2005 study by the EPA on single wide truck tires and aerodynamic devices singly and in combination on Class 8 vehicles using a test track found improvements in fuel economy ranging from 3 to 18%—and, surprisingly, NOx reductions ranging from 9 to 45%.

ORNL will conduct additional testing of five instrumented trucks over a 12-month period beginning this fall. Lessons learned from these types of studies are preliminary to further efforts to develop a heavy truck of the future that will be more energy-efficient and stable than conventional trucks. The research is funded by DOE’s Office of FreedomCar and Vehicle Technologies.


June 30, 2006 in Fuel Efficiency, Tires | Permalink | Comments (26) | TrackBack

Forecast: German Gasoline and Diesel Consumption to Drop Combined 25% by 2025

Forecast German domestic consumption of petroleum fuels. Click to enlarge.

In its just-released annual forecast to the German petroleum industry, the MWV (the Association of the German Petroleum Industry: Mineralölwirtschaftsverband), estimates that domestic consumption of gasoline and diesel will drop a combined 25.4% from 54.9 million tonnes of fuel consumed in 2004 to 39.6 million tonnes in 2025.

The drop for gasoline is more precipitous, as diesel is steadily gaining marketshare in Germany. From 25 million tonnes in 2004, MWV projects that gasoline consumption will drop 41.9% to 13.6 million tonnes by 2025. Diesel consumption increases from 2004’s 29.9 million tonnes until tipping over after 2010 to drop down to 26 million tonnes by 2025 (-12.5% from 2004).

Driving the forecast decrease in consumption are projected increases in new car fuel efficiency combined with an ongoing shift to diesel, increased usage of biofuels, a shrinking population, and reduced use compelled by high prices. MWV develops its forecast as part of the results of a survey of its membership, which includes German refineries and fueling station operators.

With the decrease in consumption, carbon dioxide emissions from road traffic would fall by 30% to 113 million tonnes a year, according to the MWV.

The decrease in domestic consumption will lead to increased net exports of car fuels from Germany, according to the MWV.


June 30, 2006 in Climate Change, Europe, Fuel Efficiency, Fuels | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Ford to Establish Hybrid Development Center in Sweden; Volvo Cars to Invest $1.4 Billion in Environmental R&D

Ford Motor, through its subsidiary Volvo Cars, announced it will establish a development center for hybrid systems in Gothenburg, Sweden, to serve Ford’s Premier Automotive Group and Ford of Europe business units.

In a related announcement, Volvo said that it will invest SEK 10 billion (US$1.4 billion) in environmental R&D to improve fuel economy and tailpipe emissions of its global fleet.

Hybrid development center. The hybrid development center will have overall responsibility for the application of hybrid systems into Volvo Cars vehicles globally as well as for ensuring Ford of Europe and brands from Ford’s Premier Automotive Group are able to apply core hybrid systems into their own product plans.

The center will be staffed initially by a mix of 20 leading engineers from both Volvo Cars and other brands from the Ford Motor Company group.

Part of a global initiative by Ford Motor Company to speed the introduction of more fuel-efficient vehicles, the new hybrid development center will build on the experience and expertise that Volvo Cars has built up over many years in developing advanced environmental technology systems, including some of the early hybrid systems, that eventually made their way into the world’s first hybrid SUV, the Ford Escape.

We are very pleased that Ford Motor Company has decided to establish a development-center for hybrid technology in Gothenburg. This shows a strong belief in Volvo Cars and our ability to deliver results in future advanced technologies and underline the fact that Sweden has all the pre-requisites for research and development excellence.

“The hybrid cars of tomorrow will be more sophisticated and much further developed compared with what we see on the road today. And it is likely that we will find high-performance hybrids running on diesels and renewable fuels.

—Fredrik Arp, President and CEO of Volvo Car Corporation

The center’s location will ensure that hybrid technology development at Ford Motor Company takes into account different market trends and customer preferences in regions around the world. While the new center will be located in Gothenburg, each brand within Ford European operations will be responsible for applying new technologies to their own product portfolios.

The team at the new hybrid center will also work closely with Ford’s hybrid development team in Detroit, Michigan, to ensure optimum global alignment and economies of scale.

Environmental R&D. In a linked announcement, Volvo Cars announced the investment of SEK 10 billion (US$1.4 billion) in environmental research and development. The aim is to reduce the total fuel economy and tailpipe emissions of the global Volvo Cars fleet.

The investment initiative will focus primarily on:

  1. The development and deployment of cleaner, more efficient diesel engines, hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles;

  2. The use of light, strong materials like magnesium, aluminium and lighter high-strength steel; and

  3. The introduction of smaller vehicles, while continuing to meet customer expectations for safety in Volvo Cars.

At the Challenge Bibendum 2004, Volvo introduced the 3CC electric concept car, a 3-seater prototype electric vehicle powered by a lithium-ion battery. (Earlier post). At the Challenge Bibendum 2006, Volvo introduced the Multi-Fuel, an extremely clean engine offering high performance, which can run on five fuels (bio-methane; bio-ethanol; natural gas; gasoline and hythane, a mixture consisting of 10 percent hydrogen gas and 90 percent methane gas). (Earlier post.)

Previously, we were able to solve several major environmental problems ourselves with the help of skilled engineers and advanced technology. Today however, our biggest environmental problems—increased carbon dioxide emissions and climate change—require much more than just technical solutions from individual car manufacturers.

All of society has to be involved: decision-makers the world over must pursue sustainable policies, the production and distribution of renewable energy must be improved and last but not least, consumers must to an ever-increasing extent dare—and want—to invest in environmental technology.

Volvo Cars will be an active partner in the highly complex challenge facing society. Our role is to be a premium supplier of sustainable mobility solutions.

—Fredrik Arp

The Volvo Car Corporation, with its head office in Gothenburg, Sweden, has been a subsidiary of Ford Motor Company since 1999. Volvo has approximately 27,000 employees around the world.

June 30, 2006 in Hybrids, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (27) | TrackBack

GM India to Introduce Minicar in 2007; CNG and Diesel Variants of Optra

Coming to India? The Chevrolet Matiz/Spark minicar.

The Hindu. GM will launch a minicar in India during the first half of 2007, according to GM India President and Managing Director Rajeev Chaba.

The minicar—rumored to be the Chevrolet Spark (earlier post)—will be produced at the Halol facility, and benefit from the excise tax cut announced for small cars in India.

“By the end of this year, we will touch an overall production capacity of 85,000 units per annum [at Halol]. Our current sales target for the year being 45,000-50,000 units, we will utilize the additional capacity for the small car,” he added. Asked how the company plans to meet the additional capacity requirement once the mini car rolls out, he said, “We are looking for, and still deciding on the alternative capacity. But at the moment we cannot give a definite answer.”

GM introduced the third-generation Chevrolet Matiz/Spark minicar, manufactured by GM Daewoo in Korea, in 2005.

The new Matiz/Spark features a new 796-cc, three-cylinder gasoline engine that delivers 38 kW (52 hp) of power and a maximum 71.5 Nm (52.7 lb-ft) of torque. Top-speed of the five door model is 135 km/h (84 mph) with 0–100 km/h acceleration of 21.9 seconds.

The European version (Matiz) consumes 5.2 liters/100km combined cycle (45 mpg US) and emits 127 g CO2/km.

According to Chaba, GM will also launch a CNG variant of its premium sedan, Optra, next month and plans to introduce a diesel variant by the first quarter of next year.

The 1.6- and 1.8-liter Optra is based on a platform from GM Daewoo and is manufactured domestically by GM India at the Halol, Gujarat facility.

June 30, 2006 in Fuel Efficiency, India | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Research Suggests Food-Crop Yields Under Future Greenhouse-Gas Conditions Will Be 50% Lower than Expected

Five major food crops—maize, rice, sorghum, soybeans and wheat—grown in open-air trials under carbon-dioxide levels projected for the future are producing significantly less than those raised in earlier greenhouse and other enclosed test conditions. As a result, scientists are warning that global food supplies could be at risk without changes in production strategies.

The new findings are based on on-going open-air research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and results gleaned from five other temperate-climate locations around the world.

According to the analysis, published in the 30 June issue of the journal Science, crop yields are running at about 50% below conclusions drawn previously from enclosed test conditions.

This casts serious doubt on projections that rising CO2 will fully offset losses due to climate change.

Results from the open-field experiments, using Free-Air Concentration Enrichment (FACE) technology “indicate a much smaller CO2 fertilization effect on yield than currently assumed for C3 crops, such as rice, wheat and soybeans, and possibly little or no stimulation for C4 crops that include maize and sorghum,”according to Stephen P. Long, U. of I. plant biologist and crop scientist.

FACE technology, such as the SoyFACE project at Illinois, allows researchers to grow crops in open-air fields, with elevated levels of carbon dioxide simulating the composition of the atmosphere projected for the year 2050. SoyFACE has added a unique element by introducing surface-level ozone, which also is rising. Ozone is toxic to plants. SoyFACE is the first facility in the world to test both the effects of future ozone and CO2 levels on crops in the open air. (Earlier post.)

Older, closed-condition studies occurred in greenhouses, controlled environmental chambers and transparent field chambers, in which carbon dioxide or ozone were easily retained and controlled.

By 2050 carbon dioxide levels may be about 1.5 times greater than the current 380 parts per million, while daytime ozone levels during the growing season could peak on average at 80 parts per billion (now 60 parts per billion).

Older studies, as reviewed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, suggest that increased soil temperature and decreased soil moisture, which would reduce crop yields, likely will be offset in C3 crops by the fertilization effect of rising CO2, primarily because CO2 increases photosynthesis and decreases crop water use.

Although more than 340 independent chamber studies have been analyzed to project yields under rising CO2 levels, most plants grown in enclosures can differ greatly from those grown in farm fields, Long said. FACE has been the only technology that has tested effects in real-world situations, and, to date, for each crop tested yields have been “well below (about half) the value predicted from chambers,” the authors reported. The results encompassed grain yield, total biomass and effects on photosynthesis.

The FACE data came from experimental wheat and sorghum fields at Maricopa, Ariz.; grasslands at Eschikon, Switzerland; managed pasture at Bulls, New Zealand; rice at Shizukuishi, Japan; and soybean and corn crops at Illinois. In three key production measures, involving four crops, the authors wrote, just one of 12 factors scrutinized is not lower than chamber equivalents, Long said.

The FACE experiments clearly show that much lower CO2 fertilization factors should be used in model projections of future yields,” the researchers said. They also called for research to examine simultaneous changes in CO2, O3, temperature and soil moisture.

While projections to 2050 may be too far out for commercial considerations, they added, “it must not be seen as too far in the future for public sector research and development, given the long lead times that may be needed to avoid global food shortage.

Long and four colleagues were co-authors: Elizabeth A. Ainsworth, professor of plant biology; Andrew D.B. Leakey, research fellow in the Institute of Genomic Biology at Illinois; Donald R. Ort, professor of plant biology and crops sciences; and Josef Nösberger, professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Science and Technology in Zurich. Long, Ainsworth and Ort also are affiliated with the Institute for Genomic Biology, and Ainsworth and Ort also are scientists in the USDA-ARS Photosynthesis Research Unit on the Illinois campus.

The Illinois Council for Food and Agricultural Research, Archer Daniels Midland Co., the USDA and U. of I. Experiment Station funded the research.


June 30, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

2006 Solar Drag Race Results

Brooks cools off his solar panels. Click to enlarge.

Sunlight-propelled dragsters competed down a quarter-kilometer raceway in the second annual Solar Drag Race held in Wenatchee, Washington on June 24th.

Unlike other solar race events, solar drag racers do not use batteries or other pre-energized devices. The racers’ only fuel source is sunshine captured by the vehicle over the quarter-kilometer distance.

The CHS dragster.

Removing batteries from the vehicle and limiting the race to a short distance creates unique engineering challenges. While solar dragsters and cross-country solar racers both benefit from lightweight construction and high efficiency solar cells, solar drag racers do not use motor controllers, battery management systems, or expensive batteries.

Three racers participated this year; one in each of three categories: unlimited, college, and high school divisions. Randy Brooks with Brooks Solar won the unlimited division with a time of 57 seconds.

Central Washington University’s entry.

Chehalis High School in Western Washington came in second and Central Washington University came in third. Since Chehalis and Central Washington University were the only ones competing in their divisions (college and high school), they each won a $1,000 scholarship.

The college scholarships were provided by Renewable Energy Corporation (REC), the world’s largest dedicated producer of solar grade polysilicon for the photovoltaic industry.

Theoretically, a solar drag racer should be able to exceed 50 mph, according to Jim White, one of the two entrants in 2005. In order to achieve that kind of speed, the dragster will need a variable speed transmission, lightweight/high efficient solar cells, and sleek aerodynamics.

Randy Brooks used a variable speed transmission suggested by White.

I called it a cassette drive. The motor spins a small diameter shaft that unwinds a strap wrapped around the drive wheel. As the dragster progresses down the track the motor shaft diameter increases while the drive wheel shaft diameter decreases. At the end of the race the strap fully unwinds from the motor wheel, but by that time the race is over.

—Jim White

Although there were relatively few participants, the 2006 event grew by 50% from the 2005 event, in which there were but two. The organizers anticipate that the event will grow each year as awareness grows.

(A hat-tip and kudos to Jim White!)


June 30, 2006 in Conferences and other events, Solar | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 29, 2006

New Process for the Efficient Production of a Chemical Intermediate (HMF) from Sugar; Building Blocks for Plastics and Fuels

Click to enlarge. Source: James Dumesic

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed an efficient process to make a chemical intermediate called HMF (hydroxymethylfurfural) from fructose from biomass. HMF can be converted into plastics, petroleum or diesel fuel extenders, or even into diesel fuel itself.

The two-phase process operates at high fructose concentrations (10 to 50 wt.%), achieves high yields (80% HMF selectivity at 90% fructose conversion), and delivers HMF in a separation-friendly solvent.

Prof. James Dumesic—a co-founder of Virent, a company which is commercializing the aqueous phase reforming technology he developed (earlier post)—and his research team reports on this work in the 30 June issue of the journal Science.

Trying to understand how to use catalytic processes to make chemicals and fuel from biomass is a growing area. Instead of using the ancient solar energy locked up in fossil fuels, we are trying to take advantage of the carbon dioxide and modern solar energy that crop plants pick up.

—James Dumesic

The basic approach to this type of biofuel technology is the controlled removal of oxygen from carbohydrates to obtain oxygenated hydrocarbons. The controlled elimination of water from sugars has been studied extensively, and can provide HMF, levulinic acid, and other organic acids.

Although other researchers have previously converted fructose into HMF, Dumesic’s research group made a series of improvements that raised the HMF output and also made the HMF easier to extract.

The new process first dehydrates the fructose in the aqueous phase with the use of an acid catalyst (hydrochloric acid or an acidic ion-exchange resin) with dimethylsulfoxide and/or poly(1-vinyl-2-pyrrolidinone) added to suppress undesired side reactions.

The HMF product then moves to a solvent that carries it to a separate location, where it is extracted. Once made, HMF can be converted into plastics or diesel fuel.

Dumesic is also exploring methods to convert other sugars and even more complex carbohydrates into HMF and other chemical intermediates. In earlier work, Dumesic and his team had demonstrated the dehydration and hydrogenation of an aqueous stream of sorbitol to hexane.

This field of study is ripe for further rapid advances as the revolution in catalysis, computational modeling, and combinatorial chemistry will lead to a suite of catalytic systems that will facilitate the conversion of biomass polysaccarides to liquid alkanes and oxyalkanes for fuel applications.

—Ragauskas, et. al.


June 29, 2006 in Bio-polymers, Biomass, Biotech, Fuels | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

California and Sweden to Cooperate on Biomethane and Renewable Fuels

California and the Kingdom of Sweden have finalized a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to cooperate with one another and the industry to develop bioenergy, particularly biomethane.

Representatives from both governments signed the MOU in Stockholm this month identifying how the two states can benefit from enhanced information-sharing and interaction to develop bioenergy for transportation fuels and other uses.

Through strong cooperation between its industry and government, Sweden is showing the world how bioenergy can be developed in a cost-effective manner that benefits its economy and environment. This MOU will provide a basis for intensified collaboration between our states to help California develop a thriving bioenergy industry.

—Joe Desmond, Resources Agency Undersecretary for Energy Affairs

Sweden is a global leader in converting biowaste derived from agricultural material and residues into usable biomethane. The gas is used to generate electricity, residential heating, or as a transportation fuel. Biomass sources make up 45% of Sweden’s methane, and the country’s biomethane industry has been growing at an annual rate of around 20% over the last five years.

Officials signed the MOU after a tour of Swedish biomethane facilities by a delegation of California business and government leaders. Led by Desmond and California Energy Commissioner Jim Boyd, the delegation included leaders from the state’s dairy and ranching industries, a gas utility, as well as other key regulatory officials. The tour was organized by CALSTART in partnership with the Business Region Gothenburg.

Biomethane powers more than 8,000 transit buses, garbage trucks, and 10 different models of passenger cars in Sweden. The country has more than 25 biomethane production facilities and 65 filling stations.

Since biomethane is developed from methane sources that would normally release into the atmosphere it is considered one of the most climate-friendly fuels. Biomethane is 98% methane and easily meets the Swedish and California pipeline standards.

Biomethane is developed by heating up and breaking down biomaterials in a digester. Among the raw materials the Swedes feed their digesters are slaughterhouse waste, swine manure, and even grassy crops. The materials break down over a 20-day period and impurities are removed to produce the gas. In some cases, renewable biomethane is injected into Sweden’s natural gas pipeline network to augment supplies. The program is similar to the green energy program operated by some electric utilities in California.

Going forward, we will be working closely with Swedish and California government and industry officials to take concrete steps that help our biomethane industry grow. California is leading the nation in terms of using natural gas as a transportation fuel. We now want to enter the next phase where we expand upon that program and start utilizing biomethane.

—John Boesel, CALSTART President and CEO

CALSTART is a non-profit organization that works with the public and private sectors to develop advanced transportation technologies.


June 29, 2006 in Biomethane | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

EIA: US Energy-Related CO2 Increases 0.1% in 2005; Transportation CO2 Increases 0.2%

Transportation is the leading source for energy-related CO2 emissions.

US energy-related emissions of CO2 rose 0.1% from 2004 to 2005, increasing from 5,903 million metric tons (MMTCO2) to 5,909 MMTCO2 in 2005, according to an early estimate from the US Energy Information Administration.

Emissions from petroleum accounted for 43.75% of total energy-related CO2 emissions in 2005. Although total emissions from petroleum fell 0.1%, (while emissions from coal increased by 1.4%) emissions from transportation edged up by 0.2% in 2005.

Average fleet fuel economy, passenger cars and light-duty trucks. Source: EIA

Declines in emissions from gasoline and jet fuel were offset by increases in distillate and residual fuel emissions.

In 1999, transportation-related CO2 emissions overtook industrial emissions and remain the largest source of energy-related CO2. Between 1990 and 2005, transportation CO2 emissions grew 23.4% (1.4% per year) and accounted for 32.8% of all energy-related CO2 emissions in 2005 (1,937 MMTCO2).

Separately, Environmental Defense released a new report—Global Warming on the Road—that concludes that US cars and light trucks are responsible for 45% of the CO2 emitted by automobiles around the world, even though America’s vehicles represent just 30% of the nearly 700 million cars in use worldwide.

The US share of CO2 emissions is disproportionately higher because American vehicles are driven more each year and on average burn more fuel than cars in other countries.

Automakers vs. power companies. Click to enlarge.

The cars and light trucks from each of the Big Three automakers—GM, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler—emit more carbon dioxide than the nation’s largest electric utility, American Electric Power (AEP), with its nearly 60 large coal-fired power plants and 36,000 megawatts of generating capacity, according to the report.

The report details, by automaker and vehicle type, the greenhouse gas contributions from the auto sector.

Surprisingly, given the popularity of SUVs, small cars (compacts and subcompacts) still accounted for the greatest portion of carbon emitted as of 2004 (25%)—a testament to how long today’s vehicles remain on the road. SUVs—with a 21% carbon share in the entire fleet and a 34% carbon share among new vehicles only—are close to moving into first place.

The report examines the three factors behind greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles: amount of driving, fuel economy, and the carbon content of motor fuel.

Reducing global warming on the road is a shared responsibility. By underscoring the magnitude of emissions from America’s automobiles, this report shows that all actors—automakers, fuel providers, consumers, and various levels of government—can help solve the problem by addressing those aspects of CO2 emissions they can control.

—John DeCicco, author of the report and senior fellow at Environmental Defense


June 29, 2006 in Climate Change, Emissions, Fuel Efficiency | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

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