[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]
Analysis finds air-quality justification for CNG vehicle conversion in developing cities, despite negative climate impact
December 03, 2013
|Impact pathway approach for modeling policy interventions in (a) air quality and (b) climate impacts. Credit: ACS, Zia and Tanzila. Click to enlarge.|
An analysis by a team in Bangladesh found large air quality and associated health benefits accruing to the residents of Dhaka (the capital of Bangladesh) as a result of the rapid conversion of the motor vehicle fleet to CNG. Around 2,045 avoided premature deaths in greater Dhaka can be attributed to air quality improvements from the CNG conversion policy in 2010, resulting in a saving of around US$400 million, they found.
However, CNG conversion was apparently detrimental from a climate change perspective, as CH4 emissions increased. (There is some uncertainty over the impact of ultrafine particulates.) As the greenhouse gas impacts (costs or benefits) are much smaller than the health benefits, the conversion of petroleum vehicles to CNG can be justified on the basis of local air pollution benefits alone, they concluded. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Berkeley Lab modeling study finds California will not meet 2050 GHG targets without additional policy measures
November 05, 2013
|Comparison of GHG emissions by study scenario, along with historical and “straight-line” connections between 2020 and 2050 policy targets. 85 MtCO2/yr (red square) is the 2050 target. Greenblatt 2013. Click to enlarge.|
California will attain its 2020 statewide greenhouse gas reduction targets, according to a new modeling study by Jeffery Greenblatt at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
However, while all of the three scenarios developed for the study achieved the 2020 target, none were able to achieve the 2050 GHG target of 85 MtCO2/yr, instead yielding emissions ranging from 188 to 444 MtCO2/yr. Therefore, Greenblatt concluded, additional policies will need to be developed for California to meet this stringent future target.
U-Mich researcher’s first-principles analysis challenges conventional carbon accounting for biofuels; implications for climate policy
September 24, 2013
In a paper that could have a significant impact on climate policies for transportation fuels, Dr. John M. DeCicco of the Energy Institute at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor presents a rigorous first-principles analysis that undermines the common “biofuels recycle carbon” argument.
Published in the journal Climactic Change, the open access paper shows that while the carbon mitigation challenge for liquid fuels has been seen—incorrectly—as a fuel synthesis and substitution problem, it is in reality a net carbon uptake problem. Accordingly, DeCicco concludes, strategies should move away from a downstream focus on replacing fuel products to an upstream focus on achieving additional CO2 uptake through the most cost-effective and least damaging means possible. “All parties with an interest in the issue are advised to rethink their priorities accordingly,” he finishes.
EPA proposes CO2 emission standards for new fossil fuel-fired power plants
September 20, 2013
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed Clean Air Act standards to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants (electric utility generating units, EGUs). For purposes of this rule, fossil fuel-fired EGUs include utility boilers, IGCC units and certain natural gas-fired stationary combustion turbine EGUs that generate electricity for sale and are larger than 25 megawatts (MW). In addition, EPA said it is working with state, tribal, and local governments, industry and labor leaders, non-profits, and others to establish CO2 standards for existing power plants.
The proposed rulemaking establishes separate standards for natural gas and coal plants. The proposed limits for natural gas units are based on the performance of modern natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) units. New large (>850 mmBtu/h) natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, while new small (≤850mmBtu/h) natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour.
UT Austin team and partners report on extensive measurements of methane emissions during natural gas production
September 17, 2013
|Estimated inventories of methane emissions from the natural gas production sector, excluding processing and transmission. The findings of the new study are represented in the yellow bar at right, and are similar overall to EPA’s latest inventory. The relative contributions of different production components differ, however. Source: UT Austin. Click to enlarge.|
A new study from The University of Texas at Austin, published as an open access paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports on extensive measurements of methane emissions—including the first measurements for methane emissions taken directly at the well pad—during completion operations for hydraulically fractured wells (“fracked”).
Broadly, the study found that completion emissions are significantly lower than previously estimated; emissions from pneumatic controllers and equipment leaks are higher than EPA national emission projections; and estimates of total emissions (957 Gg ± 200 Gg) are similar to the most recent EPA national inventory of methane emissions from natural gas production (~1200 Gg). The 957 Gg in emissions for completion flowbacks, pneumatics and equipment leaks, coupled with EPA national inventory estimates for other categories, leads to an estimated 2,300 Gg of methane emissions from natural gas production (0.42% of gross gas production).
DOE and Air Force issue RFI on Mil-Spec jet fuel production using coal-to-liquid technologies
September 05, 2013
The US Department of Energy (DOE) in partnership with the US Air Force has issued a request for information (RFI)—DE-FOA-0000981—on research & development aimed at greenhouse gas emissions reductions and cost competitiveness of Mil-Spec jet fuel production using coal-to-liquid (CTL) fuel technologies.
The DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), on behalf of the US Air Force, intends to issue a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) in 2013 that would solicit for the most promising research and development projects on advanced concepts for and/or unit operations within a CTL fuels plant; the areas of interest may be developed based in part on the responses to the RFI. The DOE and US Air Force anticipate the need for projects of no less than $3 million and that would have duration of not more than 3 years.
World Bank to focus on reducing short-lived climate pollutants; transport projects
September 04, 2013
|Aggregation of SLCP project activities into typologies. Click to enlarge.|
A new report prepared by the World Bank at the request of the G8 identifies ways that the World Bank can do more through its projects to reduce the emission of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs): black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and fluorinated gases known as HFCs.
The review, “Integration of Short-Lived Climate Pollutants in World Bank Activities,” highlights ways the Bank’s investments are already reducing SLCPs and shows where potential exists for even greater reduction. It discusses a wide range of SLCP-reducing activities, including:
JBEI researchers engineer bacterium to produce diesel-range biofuel using CO2 as sole carbon source
July 26, 2013
A team of researchers with the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has engineered the bacterium Ralstonia eutropha—a microbe now used to produce biodegradable plastic—for the production of fatty acid-derived, diesel-range methyl ketones. A paper on their work is published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
R. eutropha is a chemolithoautotroph (an organism that obtains its nutrition through the oxidation of non-organic compounds or other chemical processes) that can grow with organic substrates or H2 and CO2 under aerobic conditions. Under conditions of nutrient imbalance, R. eutropha produces “copious” amounts of polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB). Its ability to utilize CO2 as a sole carbon source renders it an interesting new candidate host for the production of renewable liquid transportation fuels, the team noted in their paper.
EIA: world energy consumption to grow 56% 2010-2040, CO2 up 46%; use of liquid fuels in transportation up 38%
July 25, 2013
|World energy consumption by fuel type, 2010-2040. Source: IEO2013. Click to enlarge.|
The US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) International Energy Outlook 2013 (IEO2013) projects that world energy consumption will grow by 56% between 2010 and 2040, from 524 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) to 820 quadrillion Btu. Most of this growth will come from non-OECD (non-Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, where demand is driven by strong population and economic growth; energy intensity improvements moderate this trend
Renewable energy and nuclear power are the world’s fastest-growing energy sources, each increasing 2.5% per year, according to the biennial report. However, fossil fuels continue to supply nearly 80% of world energy use through 2040. Natural gas is the fastest-growing fossil fuel, as global supplies of tight gas, shale gas, and coalbed methane increase. Given current policies and regulations limiting fossil fuel use, worldwide energy-related CO2 emissions rise from about 31 billion metric tons in 2010 to 36 billion metric tons in 2020 and then to 45 billion metric tons in 2040, a 46% increase over the 30-year span.
Researchers propose harvesting CO2 mixing energy to generate electricity
July 23, 2013
Researchers in The Netherlands are proposing a new method for harvesting electricity from CO2 emissions. In a paper in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) newly launched journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, they describe an approach to harvesting the mixing energy from combining the CO2 in combustion gases with air in contact with an aqueous electrolyte.
Mixing the CO2 with air represents a source of energy with a total annual worldwide capacity of 1570 TWh, the researchers calculated—about 400 times the annual output of the Hoover Dam (approx. 4.2 GWh). To harvest the mixing energy from CO2 containing gas emissions, they propose using pairs of porous electrodes, one selective for anions and the other selective to cations.
SAE releases technical white paper on two new low-GWP refrigerants; alternates to R-1234yf
The SAE International MAC (mobile air conditioning) Refrigerant Blend Cooperative Research Program (MRB CRP), comprising a group of leading global vehicle OEMs plus Tier One suppliers, is assessing the operating, technical and safety performance of two low-GWP (global warming potential) blended refrigerants (AC5 and AC6) developed by Mexichem, and based upon R-1234zeE.
The European MAC Directive requires the use of alternative refrigerants with GWP of less than 150 to replace R-134a. The first globally agreed candidate alternative fluid, the hydrofluoro-olefin (HFO) R-1234yf, is now entering production and use after an extensive cooperative research program (CRP-1234) administered by the SAE International and involving global car OEMs and chemical suppliers. (It has also generated some controversy, as Daimler has balked at using it, based on the company’s own testing of flammability. SAE CRP-1234 has re-evaluated the fluid multiple times, and still supports its use.)
CEPS task force report identifies tightening emissions standards as key policy to hit EU 60% reduction in transport GHG; full life-cycle emissions optimal metric
July 01, 2013
The report from a task force assembled by the CEPS (Centre for European Policy Studies), a Brussels-based think tank, on European transport policy has concluded that the EU’s goal of a 60% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction in the transport sector in 2050 compared to 1990 levels is possible, but at a cost.
Achieving the goal will require a comprehensive policy strategy that needs to be both “credible and adequate”, the report found. Credibility requires beginning to implement policies now—i.e. measures such as standards, taxation or infrastructure development—consistent with the long-term objective. Adequacy requires the measures, in their entirety, to have the potential to meet the target while neither undermining the internal market for transport nor its affordability.
Study finds climate impact of long distance trip can vary by factor of 10 depending upon mode, efficiency and occupancy
June 27, 2013
A team from Austria and Norway has found that the climate impact from a long-distance trip (500–1,000 km, or 310–621 miles) can easily vary by a factor of 10 per passenger depending on mode choice, vehicle efficiency, and occupancy. Among the findings of the study, published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, is that a car’s fuel efficiency and occupancy are central to whether the impact from a trip is as high as from air travel or as low as from train travel.
With only one passenger in a car, corresponding to 20−25% occupancy, the climate impact is at the level of an average air trip, whereas a car with three or more passengers, 60% occupancy or more, it is at the low level of average trains or coaches. A notable exception is for the small diesel car; with two passengers ( i.e., 50% occupancy), the specific climate impact is lower than for an average train or bus trip.
Obama climate plan calls for new fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles post-2018; cleaner fuels and investment in advanced fossil energy
June 25, 2013
Among the transportation-related elements of US President Barack Obama’s new climate action plan, which he is outlining today in a speech at Georgetown University, is the development of new fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles post-2018. In 2011, the Obama Administration finalized the first fuel economy standards for Model Year 2014-2018 for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, buses, and vans. (Earlier post.)
The plan as outlined also calls for further work on advanced biofuels, advanced batteries and fuel cell technologies in every transportation mode. In coming months, the plan notes, the Department of Transportation will work with other agencies to further explore strategies for integrating alternative fuel vessels into the US flag fleet.
Siemens presents three-point plan for implementing cost-efficient energy transition in Germany
June 15, 2013
Germany has embarked on a large-scale Energiewende (energy transition)—a policy-driven shift away from nuclear and fossil energy to a renewable energy economy. Following the Fukushima disaster in 2011, the Federal government oversaw the immediate closure of eight nuclear plants, with the rest of the stations to be shut down by 2022. The government also is maintaining its target of cutting GHG emissions by 40% by 2020 (compared with 1990 levels) and by 80% by 2050.
However, the financial cost of the shift is causing concern. In May, the International Energy Agency released a review of German energy policies that commended the country for its commitment to developing a low-carbon energy system over the long term, but emphasized that further policy measures are necessary if the Energiewende is to maintain a balance between sustainability, affordability and competitiveness. “The fact that German electricity prices are among the highest in Europe, despite relatively low wholesale prices, must serve as a warning signal,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven as she presented the report, Energy Policies of IEA Countries – Germany 2013 Review.
Study finds that California clean diesel programs have slashed black carbon, a powerful short-term contributor to global warming
June 14, 2013
|California’s air quality programs have forced a reduction in black carbon despite a significant increase in diesel fuel consumption. Click to enlarge.|
In California, reductions in emissions of black carbon since the late 1980s—mostly from diesel engines as a result of air quality programs—have resulted in a measurable reduction of concentrations of global warming pollutants in the atmosphere, according to a study examining the impact of black carbon on California’s climate.
The study’s results support a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests it is possible relatively quickly to slow the pace of climate change regionally by reducing emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, like black carbon.
CCST report: an integral role for next-gen biofuels in meeting California GHG targets requires advanced biofuels and demand reduction
June 11, 2013
Next-generation biofuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions of transportation to meet California’s target greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal, but deep replacement of fossil fuels through implementation of low-carbon lignocellulosic ethanol and advanced biomass derived hydrocarbons (drop-in biofuels) and reduction in demand is required, according to a new report from the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST).
The study, “California Energy Future: the Potential for Biofuels,” co-authored by Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) scientists Heather Youngs and Chris Somerville, is the seventh and final report in its California’s Energy Future (CEF) project. The CEF project seeks ways the State could meet the mandated reductions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, exploring possible energy strategies for California through in-depth examinations of different technology scenarios.
CMU study finds driving conditions have “substantial” impact on benefits of electrified vehicles; policy implications
June 10, 2013
|NHTS-Averaged Annual GHG Emissions per vehicle type by drive cycle. (Base Case). Source: Karabasoglu and Michalek. Click to enlarge.|
A new analysis by Orkun Karabasoglu and Jeremy Michalek of the Carnegie Mellon Vehicle Electrification Group at Carnegie Mellon University found that driving conditions affect the economic and environmental benefits of electrified vehicles “substantially”.
As a result, they suggested, vehicle window stickers, fuel economy standards, and life cycle studies using average lab-test vehicle efficiency estimates are incomplete. Driver heterogeneity matters, they found, and efforts to encourage adoption of hybrid and plug-in vehicles will have greater impact if targeted to urban drivers vs. highway drivers. Further, electrified vehicles perform better on some drive cycles than others, so non-representative tests can bias consumer perception and regulation of alternative technologies. Their study is published in the journal Energy Policy.
EPA, NSF, NOAA, Southern Company and EPRI contribute >$20M to fund SouthEast Atmosphere Study
June 06, 2013
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Southern Company, and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) are together contributing more than $20 million in research funding to support the SouthEast Atmosphere Study (SAS). EPA is also contributing staff scientists to work as part of this effort.
SAS involves dozens of other domestic and international research institutions, and is one of the largest North American air quality and climate studies in decades. It is a collaboration that brings together resources and facilities from NSF, NOAA, EPA, and EPRI.
New open-source lifecycle analysis tool for oil production using field characteristics
May 25, 2013
|Schematic chart showing included stages within OPGEE. El Houjeiri et al., Supplemental Information. Click to enlarge.|
A team from Stanford University and the California Air Resources Board (ARB) has developed a new open-source lifecycle analysis (LCA) tool for modeling the greenhouse gas emissions of oil and gas production using characteristics of specific fields and associated production pathways. The team describes the Oil Production Greenhouse Gas Emissions Estimator (OPGEE) in a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Existing transportation fuel cycle emissions models are either broad—i.e., lacking process-level detail for any particular fuel pathway—and calculate nonspecific values of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from crude oil production, or are not available for public review and auditing, the authors note.
EIA releases report on CO2 emissions by state; California led in 2010 with transportation-sector emissions
May 14, 2013
|Energy-related CO2 emissions buy state, 2010. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.|
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has released a new report, State-Level Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 2000-2010. The report shows a significant variation of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions across states on both an absolute and a per capita basis. Factors such as size, population density, available fuels, types of businesses, climate, all play a role in both total and per capita emissions, the EIA noted.
Topping the list for absolute emissions in 2010 was Texas (652.6 million tonnes CO2); California (369.8 mt CO2); and Pennsylvania (256.6 mt CO2). In terms of per capita emissions, the top emitter was Wyoming (118.5 tonnes of CO2 per person), followed by North Dakota (80.4 tonnes/person) and Alaska (54.6 tonnes/person). Examining 2010 energy-related CO2 emissions from the transportation sector, the report found California was the top transportation emitter (214.0 million tonnes CO2), followed by Texas (194.9 mt CO2) and Florida (107.0 mt CO2.
Study finds large-scale ramp-up in biofuel crops could result in warming in some tropical regions, cooling in temperate and polar regions
May 08, 2013
Global land-use changes caused by a major ramp-up in biofuel crops—enough to meet about 10% of the world’s energy needs—could make some regions warmer, according to a new integrated modeling study by researchers from MIT and the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole.
Using an integrated assessment model that links an economic model with climate, terrestrial biogeochemistry, and biogeophysics models, the team examined the biogeochemical and biogeophysical effects of possible land use changes from an expanded global second-generation bioenergy program on surface temperatures over the first half of the 21st century.
Euro Parliament Environment Committee approves 147 g CO2/km target for light commercial vehicles by 2020; caps van speed
May 07, 2013
Members of the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee approved a draft law setting out rules for achieving a 147 g CO2/km (235 g/mile) target for new light commercial vehicles by 2020, down from 203 g/km (325 g/mile) today—i.e., a 27.6% reduction. The vote was 53 to 4 with 1 abstention.
The committee also proposed indicative targets for post-2020 CO2 emissions in a range of 105 to 120 g/km (168 to 192 g/mile) from 2025. The committee also voted to limit electronically the top speed of vans to 120 km/h (75 mph).
EPA says methane emissions from natural gas production have dropped 36% from 2007-2011
April 29, 2013
In its recently released Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990 – 2011 (earlier post), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that methane (CH4) emissions from the field production of natural gas have declined by 36% from 2007 to 2011 (from 83.1 to 53.4 Tg CO2 eq), after having increased by 43% from 1990 through 2006. Reasons the agency sited for this trend include factors such as increased voluntary reductions, as well as the effects of the recent global economic slowdown.
The finding may have an impact on future regulation of fracking for natural gas production, as opponents of the technology have pointed to higher rates of methane leak as being an argument against it.
Euro Parliament committee approves new 95 g/km CO2 target for cars; super credits and a switch to WLTP
April 25, 2013
The environment committee of the European Parliament approved a draft law setting out a new CO2 target for cars of 95g CO2/km (153 g/mile) by 2020, down from 130 gCO2/km (209 g/mile) in 2015. The draft also sets indicative targets for post-2020 CO2 emissions in the range of 68-78 g/km (109-126 g/mile) from 2025.
These emission limits are the average maximum allowed for car makers registered in the EU. Makers producing fewer than 1,000 cars a year should be exempt from the legislation, said the MEPs. Car makers would therefore have to produce, in addition to older, heavier or polluting models, enough cleaner ones to achieve a balance of 95g en 2020, on pain of penalties.
SAE CRP1234-4 analysis of R-1234yf nears completion; finding refrigerant safe and effective in automotive applications
April 23, 2013
The SAE International Cooperative Research Project (CRP1234-4) team, formed last year to perform an updated engineering safety analysis of the low global warming potential (GWP) R-1234yf refrigerant (earlier post), met during the SAE World Congress in Detroit. The team includes European, North American and Asian OEMs including Chrysler/Fiat, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, PSA, Renault and Toyota.
The SAE CRP has carefully evaluated the extensive testing conducted by its members. The fault tree analysis was subsequently updated with regard to actual collision scenarios and is now complete pending final review.
IEA: carbon intensity of global energy supply has barely changed in last 20 years; “window of opportunity in transport”
April 18, 2013
|The ESCII, along with projections for three scenarios. To meet 2DS targets, the index needs to decline by 5.7% by 2020, and 64% by 2050. Source: IEA. Click to enlarge.|
In a fairly bleak assessment of global progress towards low-carbon energy, the International Energy Agency (IEA) concluded that, despite a few bright spots such as the rapid expansion of renewable technologies and the growth of hybrid and EV sales, the progress is far below that required to achieve a 2 °C pathway—i.e., to hold warming to 2 °C as outlined in the IEA Energy Technology Perspectives 2012 (ETP) 2 °C Scenario (2DS). The assessment came in an annual report to the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM).
To illustrate this inertia, the report, Tracking Clean Energy Progress, introduced the Energy Sector Carbon Intensity Index (ESCII), which shows how much carbon dioxide is emitted, on average, to provide a given unit of energy. The global energy supply became 6% cleaner from 1971 to 1990,in response to the oil shocks of the 1970s. Since 1990, however, the ESCII (2010 = 100) has remained essentially static, changing by less than 1%. In 1990 the underlying carbon intensity of supply was 57.1 tCO2/TJ (2.39 tCO2/toe); in 2010 it was 56.7 tCO2/TJ (2.37 tCO2/toe).
EPA annual US GHG inventory shows 1.6% drop in 2011 from previous year; transportation CO2 down 1.1%
April 16, 2013
|Total US greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector in 2011. Click to enlarge.|
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its 18th annual report of overall US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions showing a 1.6% decrease in 2011 from the previous year. Recent trends can be attributed to multiple factors including reduced emissions from electricity generation, improvements in fuel efficiency in vehicles with reductions in miles traveled, and year-to-year changes in the prevailing weather, EPA said.
GHG emissions in 2011 showed a 6.9% drop below 2005 levels. Total emissions of the six main greenhouse gases in 2011 were equivalent to 6,702 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. These gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride.
Hansen paper emphasizes importance of retention and expansion of nuclear power for health and climate reasons
April 04, 2013
|Mean number of deaths prevented annually by nuclear power, 1971-2009. Credit: ACS, Hansen et al. Click to enlarge.|
A new study by James Hansen and Pushker Kharecha from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University Earth Institute has found that global nuclear power has prevented an average of 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths and 64 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent (GtCO2-eq) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would have resulted from fossil fuel burning. The estimated human deaths caused by nuclear power from 1971 to 2009 were far lower than the avoided deaths: 4,900, or about 370 times lower than the result for avoided deaths.
Projecting ahead, on the basis of global projection data that takes into account the effects of the Fukushima accident, Hansen and Kharecha also calculated that nuclear power could additionally prevent an average of 420,000−7.04 million deaths and 80−240 GtCO2-eq emissions due to fossil fuels by mid-century, depending on which fuel it replaces. Large-scale expansion of unconstrained natural gas use would not mitigate the climate problem and would cause far more deaths than expansion of nuclear power, according to their analysis, which is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
US EPA proposing allowing high-octane, higher ethanol content fuels as part of Tier 3 regs; E30 as example
April 03, 2013
As part of the proposed Tier 3 rulemaking on vehicle emissions and gasoline sulfur content released last week (earlier post), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to allow vehicle manufacturers to request approval for an alternative certification fuel—such as a high-octane 30% ethanol by volume (E30) blend—for vehicles they might design or optimize for use on such a fuel.
Higher octane fuels can lead to higher compression ratios which in turn can lead to more efficient gasoline engines and reduced fuel consumption. With turbocharged gasoline engines, there is a double benefit: higher compression ratios and increased boost. (Earlier post.) Having approval for such a high octane certification fuel would, the EPA proposed in the Tier 3 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking:
Study suggests operational optimization can maximize the health and climate benefits of public transit investments in new bus technologies
April 02, 2013
A study by a team from the University of British Columbia and Metro Vancouver suggests that optimized operational control strategies for transit bus fleets ultimately offer transit agencies a way to maximize the benefits of their capital investments in new, cleaner technologies.
In their paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they note that the evolution in bus technologies, particularly with respect to controlling pollutants that impact health—such as PM—combined with capital investments by transit agencies in these technologies, have resulted in the potential for large differences in emission factors within transit bus fleets. Operational optimization strategies such as vehicle assignment and scheduling can exploit this heterogeneous mix and minimize the climate and health impacts as well as operating costs of transit systems with minimal capital expenditure, they suggest.
PCAST suggests 6 key components for climate change strategy to President Obama; adaptation and mitigation
March 23, 2013
The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a letter to President Obama describing six key components the advisory group believes should be central to the Administration’s strategy for addressing climate change. The letter, responding to a request by the President last fall for input, calls for a dual focus on mitigation and adaptation.
President Obama established the current PCAST in 2010 as an advisory group of leading scientists and engineers who directly advise the President and the Executive Office of the President; one of the members serves as the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology (the Science Advisor). PCAST’s charter is to advise the President on matters involving science, technology, and innovation policy, including, but not limited to, policy that affects science, technology, and innovation, as well as scientific and technical information that is needed to inform public policy relating to the economy, energy, environment, public health, national and homeland security, and other topics.
Study finds technology cost of achieving European 2020 LDV CO2 targets more than offset by resultant fuel savings
March 19, 2013
|Provisional 2030 economic impact of achieving the 2020 targets in the two Phase I scenarios—Current Policy Initiatives and Tech 1— compared to baseline. Source: Cambridge Econometrics.Click to enlarge.|
A report published by Cambridge Econometrics and Ricardo-AEA concludes that overall, the cost of technologies required to meet proposed European 2020 CO2 regulations for vehicles (95 g/km for cars and 147 g/km for vans) will be more than offset by the resultant fuel savings. The technical and macro-economic study, commissioned by the European Climate Foundation, focuses on light-duty vehicles.
The project is taking a phased approach. This first report (Phase I) examines only the impact of improving the efficiency of fossil-fueled vehicles, in which efficiency gains are delivered by the improvement of the internal combustion engine vehicle, including lightweighting, engine downsizing and hybridization. The Phase II report, to be presented mid-2013, examines the impact of the gradual penetration of advanced powertrains, such as battery-electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles, and the gradual replacement of fossil fuels with increasing levels of indigenous energy resources, such as electricity and hydrogen.
Volkswagen to use CO2 as refrigerant for future air conditioning systems
March 08, 2013
The Volkswagen Group announced that it is choosing CO2 as the future low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant for its mobile air conditioning (MAC) systems. The announcement follows press reports from the Geneva Motor Show that Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen would pursue CO2 (R744) as the refrigerant for MACs instead of R-1234yf (developed by Honeywell and DuPont). (Earlier post.)
Volkswagen said it would roll out CO2 MAC systems progressively over its entire vehicle fleet. With a GWP (Global Warming Potential) value of 1, R744 is 99.3% below the EU’s now-specified GWP limit of 150 for MAC systems. R134a, the current widespread MAC refrigerant, has a GWP of 1,300, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
State Department issues Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on Keystone XL Pipeline: climate change impacts
March 02, 2013
|Comparison of proposed Keystone XL route to previously proposed project segment. Source: Draft SEIS. Click to enlarge.|
The US Department of State (DOS) has released its Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) in response to TransCanada’s May 2012 application for the Keystone XL pipeline that would run from Canada’s oils sands in Alberta to Nebraska. The document is a detailed draft technical review of potential environmental impacts associated with the segment of the pipeline in the US, including: impacts from construction, impacts from potential spills, impacts related to climate change, and economic impacts.
Aside from the potential construction and spill impacts of the pipeline, the scope of the climate change impacts have become the most contentious and politicized issue surrounding the pipeline. The DOS SEIS accordingly takes a detailed look at life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of petroleum products from Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) oil sands crudes compared with reference crudes and the potential impact the pipeline might have on climate change as well as on the future development of the oils sands resource in Canada.
NASA begins ACCESS flight research to study effects of biojet fuels on engine performance, emissions and contrails
March 01, 2013
NASA researchers have begun a series of flights using the agency’s DC-8 flying laboratory to study the effects of alternate biofuel on engine performance, emissions and aircraft-generated contrails at altitude. The Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise EmiSSions (ACCESS) research involves flying the DC-8 as high as 40,000 feet while an instrumented NASA Falcon HU-25 aircraft trails behind at distances ranging from 300 feet to more than 10 miles.
During the flights, the DC-8’s four CFM56 engines will be powered by conventional JP-8 jet fuel, or a 50-50 blend of JP-8 and an alternative fuel of hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids that comes from camelina plants.
Senators Sanders, Boxer propose legislation to institute GHG price on large stationary sources and remove support for fossil fuel industries
February 15, 2013
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced legislation that would set an escalating fee on greenhouse gas emissions from large stationary sources to fund investments in energy efficiency and sustainable energy technologies and also provide rebates to consumers to offset increases in energy prices. The legislation also proposes numerous actions against financing and support for fossil fuel industries.
The proposal was drafted as two measures, the Climate Protection Act—which sets the carbon price and finance programs for sustainable technologies—and the Sustainable Energy Act—which ends federal support for fossil fuel companies and research and extends tax incentives for renewables. Among the financing provisions of the legislation are:
SAE CRP: growing high level of confidence that R1234yf can be used safely; “disappointment” with departure of Daimler, BMW and Audi
February 11, 2013
The SAE International Cooperative Research Project (CRP1234-4) team, formed last year to review relevant research and testing to finalize the risk assessment of the use of the low global warming potential R1234yf in mobile air conditioning systems (earlier post), met face-to-face during the week of 4 February 2013. SAE reported that as the CRP team continues to review relevant research and testing to finalize the risk assessment, the high level of confidence that R1234yf can be used safely in automotive applications continues to grow.
This review—the fourth such—was launched in October 2012 after Daimler in September announced that findings from its internal investigations raised questions on the safe usage of R-1234yf as a replacement refrigerant in mobile air conditioning (MAC) systems and said that it would not use this chemical in its products. (Earlier post.)
EPA Climate Change Adaptation Plan sees likely increase in tropospheric ozone, with more difficulty in attaining NAAQS in many areas
February 10, 2013
Among the many climate-related vulnerabilities that can impact its mission, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cites a likely increase in tropospheric ozone pollution as potentially making it more difficult to attain National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) in many areas with existing ozone problems. The analysis comes in a draft Climate Change Adaptation Plan that the agency has released for public comment.
In the plan, EPA examines the different ways in which its programs are vulnerable to a changing climate and how it might adapt to continue meeting its mission of protecting human health and the environment. Every program and regional office within the EPA is currently developing an Implementation Plan outlining how each considers the impacts of climate change in its mission, operations, and programs, and carrying out the work called for in the agency-wide plan.
Researchers demonstrate electrochemical synthesis of ammonia from air and water under mild conditions
January 30, 2013
Researchers from the University of Strathclyde and the University of St. Andrews have demonstrated that ammonia can be synthesized directly from air (instead of N2) and H2O (instead of H2) under a mild condition (room temperature, one atmosphere) with supplied electricity which can be obtained from renewable resources such as solar, wind or marine. In addition to providing a less carbon-intensive pathway for ammonia, their process could also reduce the pressure on renewable energy storage, they note.
Their paper appears in Scientific Reports, the open access journal from the Nature Publishing Group.
Study finds urban waste heat affects temperatures across thousands of miles, warming some areas and cooling others
January 28, 2013
The waste heat generated by everyday activities in metropolitan areas—which is distinct from the urban heat island effect—alters the character of the jet stream and other major atmospheric systems, affecting temperatures across thousands of miles, significantly warming some areas and cooling others, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
The extra waste heat generated from buildings, cars, and other sources in major Northern Hemisphere urban areas causes winter warming across large areas of northern North American and northern Asia. Temperatures in some remote areas increase by as much as 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the research by scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego; Florida State University; and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
DeCicco: Transportation GHG reduction policy should focus upstream on fuel supply rather than downstream on choice of fuels in vehicles
January 25, 2013
In a new working paper, Prof. John DeCicco at the University of Michigan argues that to reduce transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions, the proper policy focus should be upstream in sectors that provide the fuel, rather than downstream on the choice of fuels in the automobile.
More specifically, he suggests that other than supporting fundamental R&D, programs to promote alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) “are not currently warranted for climate protection. In addition to managing travel demand and improving vehicle efficiency, the implied climate policy priority is limiting net GHG emissions in fuel supply sectors.” The paper is available from the Social Science Research Network (SSRN).
Black carbon is a much larger cause of climate change than previously assessed; about twice previous estimates, and 2/3 the effect of CO2
January 16, 2013
|Schematic overview of the primary black-carbon emission sources and the processes that control the distribution of black carbon in the atmosphere and determine its role in the climate system. Source: Bond et al. Click to enlarge.|
Black carbon (BC) is the second largest man-made contributor to global warming and its influence on climate has been greatly underestimated, according to the first quantitative and comprehensive analysis of this pollutant’s climate impact.
The direct influence of black carbon, or soot, on warming the climate could be about twice previous estimates, according to an in-depth open-access study by an international team of 31 authors published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. Accounting for all of the ways black carbon can affect climate, it is believed to have a warming effect of about 1.1 Watts per square meter (W/m2), or approximately two-thirds of the effect of the largest man-made contributor to global warming—carbon dioxide.
Tsinghua University provincial-level lifecycle study finds fuel-cycle criteria pollutants of EVs in China could be up to 5x those of natural gas vehicles due to China’s coal-dominant power mix
January 12, 2013
|Consumption-based power mixes and NG transmission distances by Chinese province in 2010. Credit: ACS, Huo et al. Click to enlarge.|
A province-by-province life cycle analysis of natural gas and electric vehicles by a team from Tsinghua University concludes that while, from the perspective of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) and criteria pollutant emissions, natural gas vehicles (CNGVs) are “an option with no obvious merits or demerits”, electric vehicles (EVs) are “an option with significant merits and demerits in this regard” due to China’s heavily coal-based electricity generation (national average of about 77%).
In regions where the share of coal-based electricity is relatively low, EVs can achieve substantial GHG reduction, the team reports in a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology. However, the fuel-cycle PM10, PM2.5, SO2, and NOx emissions of EVs could be up to five times higher than those of ICEVs (internal combustion engine vehicles) and CNGVs. While the increases in PM10 and PM2.5 emissions are less important because of the low contribution of light duty vehicles to national PM10 and PM2.5 emissions, the NOx and SO2 increases are significant enough to notably change total national emissions, they conclude.
SAE project update on R-1234yf refrigerant
December 14, 2012
The SAE International Cooperative Research Project (CRP1234-4) team was recently established to perform an updated engineering review—the fourth such—of usage of the low global warming potential (GWP) R-1234yf refrigerant in vehicles. (Earlier post.) The group has been regularly meeting to review and share test information completed since the close of the original CRP1234-3 in 2009. The previous study concluded that R-1234yf is a safe and acceptable alternative refrigerant for mobile air conditioning systems that can be used to meet new environmental and consumer needs. (Earlier post.)
The new CRP team began by conducting a detailed review of the original Fault Tree Analysis (FTA) and chose to expand the trees to ensure that newly-identified information and testing from each of the OEMs is incorporated. This study has highlighted concerns with relying on one test to be reflective of real world collisions across vehicle applications.
Report from Victoria EV Trial reinforces importance of source of electricity and EV efficiency in reducing greenhouse gas emissions
December 07, 2012
The Victoria (Australia) EV Trial—a major 5-year initiative (earlier post)—has released a comparative lifecycle assessment of the environmental impacts of electric vehicles relative to conventional gasoline vehicles in Victoria from now until 2030.
The lifecycle analysis, “Environmental Impacts of Electric Vehicles in Victoria”, found that the impacts from vehicle operation far outweigh those from vehicle production—true even if allowing for an EV battery replacement over the vehicle life. Vehicle disposal impacts, including those of the EV battery, were found to be negligible due to the expected high rate of material recycling. The dominant influence of vehicle operation during the EV lifecycle thus highlights the importance of the source of electricity, how efficient the energy conversion in the vehicle is, and the way a vehicle is used, the report found.