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February 2009

February 28, 2009

China’s 2005 Carbon Emissions Almost Twice As Much As 2002 Emissions

by Jack Rosebro

Carbon emissions associated with increased exports from China (left), as part of a more systematic view of increased national emissions (right), 2002 to 2005. Guan et al. (2009) Click to enlarge.

Energy efficiency gains in a rapidly modernizing China “cannot cope” with skyrocketing emissions caused by increased exports as well as domestic consumption, according to the paper “Journey to world’s top emitter,” published 27 February in Geophysical Research Letters. Researchers from Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States, estimated in the study that China’s 2005 carbon emissions were 80.59% or more higher than 2002 emissions.

It is easier to understand the growth in China’s carbon emissions,” note the authors of the paper, “by considering which consumption activities—households and government, capital investments, and international trade—drive Chinese production and hence emissions.”

Using data from national statistical offices, they found that China’s export-related industrial production rose by an average of 26% per year from 2002 to 2007. By 2005, exports—particularly metals, electronics, textiles, and chemicals—accounted for a third of China’s GDP, as compared to just 12% in 1987.

...Chinese export production is responsible for one-half of the emission increase. Capital formation contributes to one-third of the emission increase. A fast growing component is carbon emissions related to consumption of services by urban households and governmental institutions, which are responsible for most of the remaining emissions.

...While power plant efficiencies are increasing due to intense efforts to install and retrofit with best available coal technology in order to meet the 2010 energy efficiency goal, it is clear that these efforts are not keeping pace with growing electricity demand.

—Guan et al. (2009)

Coal remains the country’s dominant source of primary energy at 70%, and although China’s current Five-Year Plan calls for a 20% reduction in energy intensity by 2010 as compared to 2005, that goal is almost certain to remain elusive. Data from the China Electricity Council shows that annual electric power generating capacity rose from 350 GW in 2002 to more than 505 GW in 2007.

The scale of current expansion is significant: for example, China recently commenced construction of a new energy and chemical complex in Ningdong that will produce 130 million tons of coal and add another 16GW of generating capacity by 2020 (earlier post).

Emissions growth from 2002 to 2005 was largely driven by two factors: structural changes in production and increased consumption per capita. Manufacturing in particular rose from around 38% in 2002 to 46% by 2005, with almost two-thirds of electronics destined for the US, the European Union, or Japan. Some manufacturing sectors expanded faster than others; Chinese production of televisions in 2005, for example, was four times 2002 production.

Although household consumption has not kept pace with industrial expansion, it nevertheless rose 7% per year from 2002 to 2005, largely fueled by increased wealth in urban areas. Per capita gasoline consumption rose by almost a third in 2005 as compared to 2002, from 29 to 38 liters. US gasoline consumption per capita now stands at 1,783 liters, according to the authors of the paper.


  • Guan, D., G. P. Peters, C. L. Weber, and K. Hubacek (2009), Journey to world top emitter: An analysis of the driving forces of China's recent CO2 emissions surge, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L04709, doi: 10.1029/2008GL036540

February 28, 2009 in China, Climate Change, Emissions | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Solar Roadways Named a Finalist for 2009 EE Times ACE Awards

Solar Roadways, the developer of structurally engineered solar panels that are driven upon., has been nanmed one of five finalists for the Best Enabler Award for Green Engineering category in the 2009 EE Times Annual Creativity in Electronics (ACE) Awards.


Solar Roadway”s concept is to replace all current petroleum-based asphalt roads, parking lots, and driveways with Solar Road Panels that collect and store solar energy to be used by homes and businesses.

Each individual panel consists of three basic layers:

  • Road Surface Layer. Translucent and high-strength, it is rough enough to provide good traction, yet still passes sunlight through to the solar collector cells. It is capable of handling today’s heaviest loads under the worst of conditions. Weatherproof, it protects the electronics layer beneath it.

  • Electronics Layer. Contains a large array of cells, the bulk of which will contain solar collecting cells with LEDs for painting the road surface. These cells also contain ultracapacitors that store energy for later use. Each Solar Road Panel manages its own electricity generation, storage, and distribution, and they can heat themselves in northern climates to eliminate snow and ice accumulation. (No more snow/ice removal and no more school/business closings due to inclement weather.) On-board microprocessors control lighting, communications, monitoring, etc. With a communications device every 12 feet, the Solar Roadway is an intelligent highway system.

  • Base Plate Layer. While the electronics layer collects and stores the energy from the sun, it is the base plate layer that distributes power (collected from the electronics layer) and data signals (phone, TV, internet, etc.) downline to homes and businesses connected to the Solar Roadway. The power and data signals are passed through each of the four sides of the base plate layer. Weatherproof, it protects the electronics layer above it.

Based on 15% efficiency, each Solar Road Panel can produce an average of 7.6 kWh per day. A hypothetical 4-lane, one-mile stretch of road would require 1,760 Solar Road Panels, capable of producing 13,376 kWh of electricity per day, or some 4,882,240 kWh per year—enough to take 500 homes completely off-grid.

4.84 billion (12’ by 12’) Solar Road Panels would be required to replace the current asphalt road system, parking lots, and driveways in the 48 contiguous states.

Solar Roadways is planning a 21-year life for each panel.

February 28, 2009 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Even If Warming Ceased, Sea Level to Rise At Least About 184 mm From Melting Glaciers and Ice Caps

Even if the global climate did not continue to warm, sea level will still rise at least 184 ± 33 mm (7.2 ± 1.3 inches) due to the current mass wastage of the world’s mountain glaciers and ice caps, according to a new study published 11 February in Geophysical Research Letters.

If the climate continues to warm along current trends, a minimum of 373 ± 21 mm (14.7 ± 0.83 inches) of sea-level rise over the next 100 years is expected from glaciers and ice caps, according to the study by researchers at Regis University and the University of Colorado, Boulder. When compared to recent estimates from all other sources, melt water from glaciers must be considered as a particularly important fraction of the total sea-level rise expected this century.

Glaciers and ice caps can be split into regions where snow is accumulated and regions where snow and ice melt—if more snow accumulates than melts, the glacier will advance and grow larger. One of the most easily measured dimensions of a glacier, the accumulation area is linked to future changes in glacier volume and consequent changes in sea level.

Currently observed accumulation areas are too small, forcing glaciers to lose 27% of their volume to attain equilibrium with current climate. This will result in the 184 ± 33 mm of sea-level rise, according to the authors, who analyzed mass balance data from 86 mountain glaciers and ice caps from around the world.

A sea-level rise of 184 ± 33 mm is substantially larger than previous estimates that attribute 104 ± 25 mm to small glaciers and ice caps over the next 100 years when assuming no acceleration in ice loss. Our estimate places no bounds on time and only indicates the final outcome after all glaciers reach equilibrium. Therefore, it is possible that the additional ~80 mm represents sea-level rise that will occur after the 100 year time scale of previous estimates. However, with an e-folding response time that averages on decadal to century time scales for most glaciers, the bulk of the 184 mm of predicted rise is expected within this century.

The preceding analysis derives the changes in sea level to which we are committed by climate as it existed in 2006. Actual sea-level rise due to melting glaciers and ice caps will likely be much higher. Climate is not fixed and the rate of ice mass loss continues to accelerate.

—Bahr et al. (2009)


  • Bahr, D. B., M. Dyurgerov, and M. F. Meier (2009), Sea-level rise from glaciers and ice caps: A lower bound, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L03501, doi: 10.1029/2008GL036309

February 28, 2009 in Climate Change, Climate Change Adaptation, Emissions | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Miller Industries Adds Eaton Hybrid-Powered Race Recovery Vehicle To Fleet; New Application for Hybrid Trucks

Miller Industries, Inc. used an Eaton hybrid system-equipped 2009 International DuraStar 4300 recovery vehicle during the recent Daytona 500 motorsports race.

The hybrid recovery truck. Click to enlarge.

The debut of the colorful white and green vehicle as part of Miller’s 12-truck fleet at the famed Daytona International Speedway was so successful that Miller announced plans to have it added to the company’s fleet of race recovery vehicles that will be operating throughout 2009. Miller supplies race recovery trucks for a large number of NASCAR events.

Towing and recovery is a new application for trucks equipped with our hybrid power systems and we are looking forward to positive field results. Towing and recovery vehicles of this type are well-suited for Eaton's hybrid electric system. The duty cycle typically associated with these vehicles takes advantage of the fuel saving and emission reduction features of the hybrid system. Add to that the use of the ePTO function of our hybrid systems to power the towing equipment, and you have yourself a very clean and highly efficient vehicle.

—Scott Davis, manager for Eaton’s Hybrid Power business unit in North America

Eaton employs parallel-type diesel-electric hybrid architecture, incorporating an electric motor/generator between the output of an automated clutch and input of the automated transmission. The system recovers energy normally lost during braking and stores the energy in batteries. When electric torque is blended with engine torque, the stored energy is used to improve fuel economy and vehicle performance for a given speed or used to operate the vehicle with electric power only. The system can also be designed to provide energy for use during engine-off worksite operations, as in the case of Miller’s vehicles, further reducing noise, emissions and fuel costs.

February 28, 2009 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Japan Auto Exports Plunge 60.9% in January; 76.5% Drop in Exports to US

Passenger car exports from Japan plunged 60.9% in January to 200,347 units (including 7,560 knock down units), down 311,969 units year-on-year, according to figures from the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Auto shipments to the US plummeted 76.5% to 45,876 units; exports to Europe fell 63.2% to 50,864; Asia-bound exports fell 54.8% to 18,021; and shipments to Latin America dropped 54.4% to 19,941.

Japanese domestic passenger car production fell 41.2% in January to 494,843 units. Production of standard cars (engines with displacement greater than 2.0 liters) fell 58.3% to 214,057 units; small car production dropped 26.5% to 162,039 units; mini car (engines <660 cc) production rose 9.4% to 118,747 units.

Toyota’s domestic production dropped 40.3% to 209,224 units; Honda was down 23% to 77,224 units; Nissan’s was down 59% to 47,477 units.

The declines marked a fourth straight month of year-on-year drops.

February 28, 2009 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mascoma Begins Cellulosic Ethanol Production in New York

Mascoma Corporation has begun producing cellulosic ethanol from non-food biomass at its demonstration facility in Rome, New York. Mascoma’s Consolidated Bioprocessing (CBP) process consists of a mild pretreatment followed by the introduction of cellulose-utilizing and ethanol-fermenting microbes that both hydrolyze and ferment the sugars into ethanol. (Earlier post.)

CBP involves the use of a single microorganism or group of organisms to break down plant matter through a one-step conversion process of biomass into biofuels—a single-step cellulose-to-ethanol method. This lowers costs by limiting additives and enzymes used in other biochemical processes.

Completed in December 2008, the Rome, NY plant is one of the largest facilities converting non-food biomass into cellulosic ethanol in the United States. The facility currently has a production capacity of up to 200,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year. Construction began in early 2008.

The plant was funded in part by grants from the State of New York which were approved in December 2006. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the New York State Power Authority (NYPA) provided the funding on the State’s behalf. Research partners at the facility include State University of New York - College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Cornell University and Clarkson University.

The demonstration facility has the flexibility to run on numerous biomass feedstocks including wood chips, tall grasses, corn stover (residual corn stalks) and sugar cane bagasse. The company has committed to partnering with local businesses for feedstock supply and is currently purchasing wood chips from a local sawmill.

February 28, 2009 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 27, 2009

EPA Study Finds Residential Construction Trends in US Metropolitan Regions Showing Substantial Shift, But Falling Short of Reshaping Sprawl

Central city share of residential construction. Click to enlarge.

A new report from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that the distribution of residential construction has significantly changed over time in many regions. In more than half of the largest metropolitan areas, urban core communities have significantly increased their share of new residential building permits.

For the report, Dr. John Thomas of the EPA examined residential building permits in the 50 largest metropolitan regions to clarify 1) if there has been a shift toward redevelopment; and 2) in which regions the shift has been most significant. Thomas found that the central city has more than doubled its share in 15 regions, and the increases has been particularly dramatic over the past 5 years.

Data from 2007 show the trend continuing in the wake of the real estate market downturn. However, in many regions, a large share of new residential construction still takes place on previously undeveloped land on the urban fringe. In eight metropolitan areas, urban core suburbs have significantly increased their share of regional housing starts.

Redevelopment in urban core communities adds up to more than half of new residential construction in only one region: New York. In 7 regions, urban infill development accounts for between 25-50% of new construction: San Francisco; Miami; San Diego; Dallas; Chicago; Portland, Oregon; and Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Virginia. In 13 regions, infill development significantly increased but accounted for less than 25% of new residential units. In 12 regions, there was very little change in the distribution.

In the housing boom between 2001 and 2005, the number of residential units built each year grew dramatically across all categories and regions. In 2006 and 2007, there was a sharp decline. However, the drop-off has been uneven across the housing market:

  • Single family units have declined most rapidly, while the construction of multifamily units has fallen more modestly.

  • The number of new high-density residential units has not declined from the 200,000 units per year level produced at the height of the real estate boom.

  • Construction of rental units is actually up slightly in 2007, while condos have declined at a rate similar to single-family detached units.

While these trends reveal a substantial shift in residential construction patterns, they also suggest that the change is not yet reshaping the face of urban America as a whole. A large share of new residential construction still takes place on previously undeveloped land at the urban fringe. In some regions there has been little change in the share of new construction taking place in central cities. In other regions, central cities have increased their relative share of building permits, but still account for a small overall share at the regional level. Although urban core neighborhoods have doubled or tripled their share of residential construction since the early 1990s, they still account for less than half of all new residential units in most regions. The “urban infill” share would be larger if redevelopment in growing suburbs was also considered, but it would still not likely represent a majority of new construction in more than a handful of regions.

—Thomas (2009)


February 27, 2009 in Infrastructure, Market Background, Policy | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

GM Europe/OPEL to Submit Plan for Viability

GM Europe and the Opel Supervisory Board have approved a confidential long-term plan for viability that will be submitted to government representatives in the coming days.

The confidential document includes a funding request for €3.3 billion (US$4.2 billion) in government support (German and other governments), €3 billion (US$3.8 billion) in support from GM and $1.2 billion (€0.95 billion) in structural cost reductions as outlined in GM’s latest version of its viability plan submitted to the US Congress.

In that document, GM said that it has engaged its European labor partners to achieve the $1.2 billion in cost reductions, which include several possible closures/spinoffs of manufacturing facilities in high cost locations. In addition, GM is restructuring its sales organization to become more brand focused and better optimize its advertising spend. GM said that a sustainable strategy for its European operations may include partnerships with the German Government and/or other European governments. GM expects to resolve solvency issues for its European operations prior to 31 March 2009.

Through the restructuring and using conservative market assumptions, GM Europe/Opel projects profitability by 2011.

Approval of the document came shortly after GM reported a net loss for 2008, including special items, of US$30.9 billion, and a fourth quarter 2008 net loss of $9.6 billion. The adjusted net loss for 2008 was $16.8 billion, with an adjusted fourth quarter loss of $5.9 billion.

GM total revenue in 2008 was $149 billion, down 17.2% compared with $180 billion in 2007. GM’s core automotive business generated revenue of $148 billion in 2008, down from $178 billion in 2007. The revenue decline was predominantly due to the precipitous drop in sales amid record low consumer confidence in the US and sharply lower sales across all of GM’s operating regions due to economic turmoil in the global markets. Global industry sales in 2008 were down 5%, or 3.6 million vehicles, versus 2007 levels, and US industry sales fell by 18%, or nearly 3 million units.

GM’s global automotive operations posted an adjusted loss before tax of $10.4 billion in 2008 (reported loss of $16.3 billion), compared to adjusted income before tax of $553 million in 2007 (reported loss of $1.9 billion). In the fourth quarter 2008, GM’s automotive operations had an adjusted loss before tax of $4.0 billion (reported loss of $6.4 billion), compared to an adjusted loss before tax of $803 million in the year-ago quarter (reported loss of $1.2 billion).

GM 2008 worldwide sales were 8.35 million vehicles, down 11%, or 1.01 million vehicles, driven by the industry-wide contraction in global vehicle sales. In 2008, 5.38 million vehicles, or 64% of GM’s global sales, were outside of the US, up from 59% a year ago.

February 27, 2009 in Market Background, Vehicle Manufacturers | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Renault-Nissan Alliance and Electromotive to Collaborate on Charging Infrastructure

The Renault-Nissan Alliance and UK company Elektromotive, a provider of electric vehicle recharging stations, are collaborating in the Partnership for Zero-Emission-Mobility, with the aim of accelerating the installation of charging networks for plug-in vehicles in cities.

Elektromotive and EDF Energy and have been working in partnership since 2007 to develop an electric vehicle recharging infrastructure; the Renault-Nissan Alliance is also collaborating with EDF on electric vehicle infrastructure. (Earlier post.)

The Alliance and Elektromotive signed a Memorandum of Understanding on studying ways to promote the use of electric vehicles and will share information on EV development and energy supply on a global scale. The Renault-Nissan Alliance and Elektromotive collaboration will also undertake education programs and develop incentive schemes to attract EV purchasers. As well as continuing with further development of its infrastructure system, Elektromotive will purchase or lease EVs built by the Alliance.

Elektromotive, which is based in Brighton, England, started developing charging station technology in 2003 and installed its first Elektrobay charging post in Westminster in the centre of London in 2006. To date, it has installed more than 40 charging bays in London and a further 40 in other major UK cities. The Brighton-based company also exports Elektrobays to Sweden, Holland, Germany and Ireland.

Elektrobays are typically situated next to parking bays, within easy reach of an electric vehicle’s charging point. The Elektrobay’s socket is located under a secure, weather-proof door, accessed using a personalized key fob.

When charging is in progress, the door locks shut to prevent interference. The Elektrobay supports power output of 240 volts AC and 13 amps in the UK, or 230 volts AC and 16 amps in Europe. A new 3-phase recharging station suitable for electric commercial vehicle applications will be available in mid-2009.

In 2008, Elektromotive integrated the latest Power Line Communication (PLC) technology (developed by EDF), into its road-side charging stations. PLC integration allows the Elektrobay to communicate with a recharging vehicle by sending and receiving digital signals via the power cable without the need for additional wires. The resulting ‘conversation’ can exchange data and discuss billing, power requirement identification, transaction security and safety.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance aims to be the global leader in zero-emission mobility and has already started zero-emission initiatives in Israel, Denmark, Portugal, the Principality of Monaco, as well as the US States of Tennessee and Oregon and Sonoma County in northern California and in Japan with the Prefecture of Kanagawa and the City of Yokohama. The Alliance has also partnered with the Swiss electric utility company Energie Ouest Suisse (EOS).

February 27, 2009 in Infrastructure, Plug-ins | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Total Number of Private Cars in China up 28% in 2008

The total number of cars for civilian use in China rose 24.5% in 2008 from 2007 to 24.38 million, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics of China. Private-owned cars numbered 19.47 million, representing a 28.0% increase over 2007.

The total number of motor vehicles for civilian use reached 64.67 million (including 14.92 million tri-wheel motor vehicles and low-speed trucks) by the end of 2008, up 13.5%, of which private-owned vehicles numbered 41.73 million, up 18.1%.

Passenger traffic on all modes of transportation climbed 8.2% year-on-year to 23,372.2 million person-kilometers. Of that, highway passenger traffic increased 9.8% to 12,636.0 million person-kilometers, representing 54% of all passenger traffic. Rail passenger traffic increased 7.8% to 7,778.6 million person-kilometers, civil aviation passenger traffic increased 3.3% to 2,882.8 million person-kilometers, and waterway traffic dropped 3.8% to 74.8 million person-kilometers.

China’s GDP grew 9.0% year-on-year in 2008 to 30.067 trillion yuan (US$4.4 trillion), up by 9.0 percent over the previous year. That growth rate represented a sharp drop from the 2006 to 2007 growth of 13.0%.

February 27, 2009 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

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