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G8 Backs Hybrids, Diesels, Biofuels, Synthetics and Hydrogen for Transportation

US President George Bush arriving for the first working session in a GEM. Credit: G8russia

Following the first working session of the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, the group of eight leaders adopted a document on energy security that—among the other principles it embraced—emphasized diversification of energy supply and demand and energy sources; energy saving and energy efficiency measures on both national and international levels; and deployment and transfer of clean energy technologies which help to tackle climate change.

The document does not specify quantitative goals or reduction targets for any elements of the outlined 55-point action plan.

Transportation received specific mention and its own section of the plan.

Since 2/3 of world oil is consumed by the transportation sector and its fuel consumption is outpacing general energy consumption we will pay special attention to this sector of energy demand.

Specific actions mentioned in the document include:

  • Sharing best practices to promote energy efficiency in the transportation sector;

  • Developing programs in the respective countries, consistent with national circumstances, to provide incentives for consumers to adopt efficient vehicles, including clean diesels and hybrids;

  • Introducing on a large scale efficient public hybrid and/or clean diesel transportation systems, where appropriate;

  • Promoting diversification of vehicle energy systems based on new technologies, including significant sourcing from biofuels for motor vehicles, as well as greater use of compressed and liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas and synthetic liquid fuels;

  • Promoting wider use of modern technologies, materials and devices on traditional vehicles, leading to lighter, more aerodynamic and more efficient engines and other transport components such as transmission and steering systems, tires, etc.;

  • Increasing research to develop vehicles using gasoline/hydrogen fuel and hydrogen fuel cells to promote the “hydrogen economy”;

  • Facilitating the development of trans-modal and trans-border transportation, where appropriate; and

  • Studying further the Blue Corridor project [a project to establish international corridors in Europe for natural gas vehicles] by the UN Economic Commission for Europe;

  • Continuing to consider the impact of the air transport sector on energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions noting international cooperation on these issues.

The document also highlights the importance of diversifying the energy mix, and developing low-carbon, alternative energy and renewables.

A large-scale use of renewable energy will make a significant contribution to long-term energy supply without adverse impact on climate. The renewable solar, wind, hydro, biomass, and geothermal energy resources are becoming increasingly cost competitive with conventional fuels, and a wide variety of current applications are already cost-effective. Therefore, we reaffirm our commitment to implement measures set out in the Gleneagles Plan of Action.

The document also encourages the activities of the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF) aimed at preparing and implementing demonstration projects on CO2 capture and storage and on the development of zero-emission power plants.

In this context we will facilitate development and introduction of clean coal technologies wherever appropriate.

The assembled leaders declared their support for the transition to the Hydrogen Economy, “including in the framework of the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy (IPHE).”

While recognizing that some of its members are not that enthusiastic about nuclear power, while others are, the G8 document emphasized managing the process of the expansion of nuclear energy.

We recognize that G8 members pursue different ways to achieve energy security and climate protection goals. Those of us who have or are considering plans relating to the use and/or development of safe and secure nuclear energy believe that its development will contribute to global energy security, while simultaneously reducing harmful air pollution and addressing the climate change challenge.

We reaffirm the objective set out in the 2004 G8 Action Plan on Non-Proliferation to allow reliable access of all countries to nuclear energy on a competitive basis, consistent with non-proliferation commitment and standards. Building on that plan, we intend to make additional joint efforts to ensure reliable access to low enriched uranium for power reactor fuel and spent fuel recycling, including, as appropriate, through a multilateral mechanisms provided that the countries adhere to all relevant international non-proliferation commitments and comply with their obligations.

The G8 also stated that it expects hydrocarbons will play a leading role in the energy mix well into the century.

Therefore we will work with the private sector to accelerate utilization of innovative technologies that advance more efficient hydrocarbon production and reduce the environmental impact of its production and use. These include technologies for deep-sea oil and gas production, oil production from bitumen sands, clean coal technologies, including carbon capture and storage, extraction of gas from gas-hydrates and production of synthetic fuel.



Rafael Seidl

The only thing the leaders appear to have agreed on is that they all want to get away from OPEC oil as quickly as possible, using any and all means available. Plus ca change, they've been saying this - albeit less explicitly - ever since 1973. Without any specific targets, this is just more hot air.


"Without any specific targets, this is just more hot air."

I concur, but would you submit that the rather bleak realities of petrol futures puts more of an emphasis on actually seeing these goals through than the 1973 situation?

I doubt there'll be any legitimate cohesion, but unlike the rhetoric thirty years ago, there's no reason to believe that OPEC will open their taps with the right kind of grist and return business to usual. Bleak or not, it will force consequent action.



Politicians being politicians. What else is new?


would someone please share their thoughts on:
why is nothing ever said about reducing our nation's speed limits..
please feel free to correct me.
but didn't we save a fortune when the dreaded double nickels (55mph) were inforced...
i'm sure truck drivers hated it but they could be allowed to drive an extra hour a day....



My understanding is that fuel efficiency is not necessarily improved by decreasing the speed limit. It depends on the car. In my Corolla I've gotten 35+ mpg while still driving 70-75 on the freeway. Other cars may peak at slower speeds.


There was a big stink in the US over allowing truckers to drive longer stints as part of rationalizing their schedules to a 24-hour day; I doubt that extended hours as a tradeoff for 55 MPH would fly.

What we really need are application of technologies already in existence or under development which can radically improve efficiency of transport or convert it to non-petroleum energy supplies.  There are too many of them to list here, but we need the political will to use them.


Re: speed limits:

Just enforcing the existing limits would save a lot of gas. I no longer live in California, but traffic there routinely flows at 75-80mph on the freeways, when not too congested. If I drive at the posted limit (typically 65), I'm usually the slowest driver on the road. Since fuel mileage for most cars starts to decline sharply above 60mph or so, just getting drivers down to 70 would be a great start.


Anyone who drives alot knows the fuel killer is stop and go traffic caused by dumbass politicians hosing up the roads.

If a state or city cant provide the roads to truely handle its population it shouldnt be allowed to grow at all.


So they again declare themselves in favor of progress and the good. Me too.

Results come slowly. In dealing with the energy problems of this century politics is indeed 'the art of what's possible.'

And better news than I expected is indeed coming out of ethanol, clean coal, and alternates research.

Roger Pham

Well, they've got it all right this time. However, the concrete step is to mandate a gradual phasing in on FFV (flexible-fuel vehicle) capable of gasoline, AND potentially-renewable, methane and hydrogen (limited-range), kinda like the CARB ZEV mandate. This will give motivation and deadline for the automfg's to get on with the transition toward a renewable energy economy. All the prerequisite technologies for methane and limited-range hydrogen ICE-hybrid cars are already available now. A similar mandate for PHEV would also be great, but must first be dependent on demonstrable battery technology sufficiently cost-effective enough for that effort.


The G-8 represent the international business community, not the people of nations. This business community seeks only a market monopoly for exploitation.

When the production and distribution of goods is extended beyond national borders to the global economy, he who controls transport controls the economy. All lesser economies (national, state, regional and local) lose autonomy and the very means to support the small and justifiable portion of the global economy. When nations become dependent upon international trade for basic commodities, those nations become colonies, subservient to outside influence; nations of clueless consumers taking for granted how their every need is met yet have no choice but pay its unreasonable costs, directing more income into transportation, fuel and energy.

The international business community offers no solutions; only insider deals that mean impoverishment for the masses and luxury for the select few who will also experience the inevitable and probably catastrophic collapse of the global economy.

allen Z

While more roads may ease traffic congestion in the the short run, in the long run, it just promotes more driving, and we are back with slow highway traffic again. One possible way out of this would be to a) increase gas tax to make the tax completely fund highways instead of dipping into other revenue streams, as well as a way to decrease consumption. b) carpooling with high density automated garages.
___Some of the reasons people speed is the fact that they live so far from where they work, and/or have hectic schedules. Perhaps if livable/desirable/ affordable higher denisty housing could be allowed into existing built tup areas closer in, then people may not have to commute so far to and from work. Add in the increased feasibility of mass transit and you just saved money, time and fuel.



While you are correct in saying that the speed of optimum fuel economy is a function of the design of the car, the fact remains that most cars are designed to peak at around 60 mph. Getting 35 mpg on your Corolla when running it at 70 mph means that you're probably just slightly over the efficiency hump and on the downslope -- Corollas have been getting 38 mpg (hwy) for some years now; 40 mpg with manual shift. These are EPA numbers which -- based on personal experience -- you really can meet or beat on the highway if your driving habits are zombie-steady.

Wind resistance increases as a squared-function of speed -- i.e. as speed goes up a little, resistance goes up a lot. The slower you go, the less resistance you have. However, if you drive too slowly, you are no longer running your engine at its most efficient point. As an autobuilder, you can choose where you're engine's most efficient point is going to occur, but if you set it higher, the peak efficiency of the car is going to be lower than if you tuned an equivalent car to peak at a lower speed -- because in the latter case the engine will give most efficient output and wind resistance will be lower. I'm guessing that automakers have some incentive to keep the peaks in the 60 mph range, as that is closer to the speeds at which the government tests the cars in order to come up with EPA figures and CAFE figures -- and those are areas in which you really have to shine. Thus, lowering speed limits to 55 mph would still probably increase economy for most cars -- though the proliferation of 4 and 5 speed automatic gearboxes, and 5 or 6 speed manual ones means that the effect will likely be much less pronounced than last time 55 was implemeneted, in the 1970s, when there were fewer overdrive gearboxes. Overdrive gears allow engine peak efficiency to extend to higher cruising speeds. And as others have pointed out, strictly enforcing existing 65 mph limits would also have a good effect in that direction.

Rafael and Mel. --

I agree that the form this document takes is very hot-air-ish. However, I disagree with the bleak conclusion that policy never moves in reaction to these statements, or more properly in reaction to the basic concerns and realities that underlie these statements. Things really do change. Some examples:

1. American electricity generation moved away from petroleum since the 1973 oil crunch, to the point where only a few percent of our yearly consumption now comes from oil. There are a couple oil-fired plants left in coastal cities, now held in reserve for peak demand, generally. Admittedly, a lot of the replacement capacity is in coal and natural gas (hardly renewables), but the push at the time was to get away from oil, not necessarily into green power, and we did it.

2. American city bus fleets have been radically overhauled since 2000, with a large number of CNG buses coming online in major cities (Boston, Washington DC), hybrid buses reaching the commercial mainstream (Seattle), and clean diesel setting in across the nation. The Federal government pays a large share of the cost of new city buses, and this development (on of the points stressed in the joint declaration) was in response to air quality concerns.

3. Hybrids and biofuels. The government has implemented policies to promote both using tax incentives (both have been heavily discussed on this site), and public pressure will likely extend the hybrid credit for some time.

4. Intermodal transportation. America has re-invented its rail network, and I think this one is mainly a jab at European rail networks which have lagged behind on trans-border frieght capacity.

In a lot of these cases, we're admittedly advocating policies which we've already had in the pipeline. But I think we have to view these documents not as radical anbd binding new plans for the future, but as general indicators of where developments are headed. In that capacity, they can actually be surprisingly useful.


There were some questions about speed v. economy. I'll try.

The worst thing about higher speed is air drag. It goes up by roughly the square of the speed. But cars can be made so slippery that somewhat higher speeds don't matter much. Even so, you will never buy a 200 mph car without a powerful engine.

Car manufacturers optimize engines and gearing for EPA testing at 55mph. Better gear selection (costs more) can improve mileage at a given speed. Most cars are going to 6 gears. Mercedes has 7 on some models. In the 1950s automatics typically had 2 or 3. By 1990 the standard was 4.

A newer technique, the Continously Variable Transmission (CVT), has, in theory, perfect gearing. Maybe 10 cars market it now and more are coming. But CVTs were/are tough engineering and pose some problems of their own.



I've noticed a drop off in efficiency if I go over 70 for very long. I normally keep it between 65-70 in normal freeway driving, in any case. I'm also fortunate that I have a flextime schedule and work on Sundays so I can avoid most traffic. I have used the cruise control to keep the speed steady, and that seems to help.

The peak I've ever gotten with the Corolla was 36mpg. I'm not sure what I have to do to squeeze out the extra 2mpg. My Reflex scooter can get twice that, now that it's completely broken in. The problem is that the surface street commute takes about an hour and all the stoplights has a measureable negative impact on the scooter's mileage. But I'm not quite ready to ride on the freeway yet.

hampden wireless

Only a very aerodyamic car is going to have a chance of having a peak mpg above 55mph. Air resistence is a larger factor then gearing above 55mph. You could design a car so it got better mpg at 65mph then at 55mph but there is no car out there like that.


As our outgoing Secretary of Transportation said, we can not afford any more new highways. The future is toll roads. Since no one wants to pay any taxes, you can look forward to high fuel prices and tolls.

Mark R. W. Jr.

Granted that the G8 summit has just said words, but at least it's better than them sitting on their butts and doing nothing.

And we've transitioned to other sources of fuel in the past. It took many years to get away from coal and integrate oil. We can do it again, only getting away from oil and replacing it with something else.


thanks to everyone
that made comments on lowering the speed limit.
all the posters were very kind to share their knowledge...
i no longer think that lowering the speed limit would solve the problems easily as it did in the 70's...
still it would be nice if some could hold their speed down to the current speed limits...



I what k says is true, that cars are optimized for 55, then it follows that lowering the speed limit( and enforcing it) to 55 would make a difference.

Then again, I don't know where this information comes from. How do we know auto manufacturers optimize for 55. It makes sense, in order to game EPA, but how do we know this?


t: you present a fair enough question.

about 1990 I carpooled with a GM engineer who happened to be working on a database and software to help GM designers keep track of every driveline component world wide. The software was also intended to allow point and click connection of the parts and predict efficiency (power in - power to wheel) for the combination. It was sort of a big parts bin so engineers wouldn't reinvent the, er, er, gearbox.

I have no idea if my recall is exactly right but memory says optimization for 55 important to them. Maybe they never did, maybe they did and changed. One doubts that Porsche gives a hoot about 55mph for the 911.

My attitude about this stuff is perhaps too casual. Usually if you goof an expert will promptly say why. And I don't mind that. And if I am really dying to know, it can be found out online.

The amount saved by lowering everything to 55 had a parallel during WW2. The highway speed limit was lowered to 30. Not to save gasoline but to save tire rubber while the Japanese cavorted in the rubber plantations of Malaya.

There is a cost for driving time and road congestion too. Maybe 55 wouldn't actually help us.


I used to be against coercive plans like this, but I think a tax & rebate scheme would work best now.

I'd like to see a "comprehensive" plan put in place that includes an initial $0.25 per gallon gasoline tax, with the tax increasing $0.25 per year until it hits $3 per gallon.

The tax would fund a rebate scheme for new car purchasers. The rebate would be graduated. "Good" cars would get higher rebates. Most of today's car model would get no rebate at all. The rebate amount would be based on fuel economy, emissions, and the "wells to wheels" environmental impact of the fuel type. So, for example, a car that gets 35 mpg on gasoline might get $2,000 rebate. A car that gets 55 mpg and burns E85 might get $4,000. A plug-in hybrid Prius-type vehicles might get $6,000. An efficient electric vehicle might get $8,000.

The tax and rebate plan would be revenue neutral in the sense that the taxes would be totally given out as rebates.

This would hopefully swiftly move our fleet to a better mix of vehicles.

Joseph Willemssen

Speaking of weaning off of oil while in Russia? Please be serious.


what's wrong with russia? thanks to its economy's collapse, it's prolly one of the only countries set to meet kyoto quotas without doing much, if anything, at all.
re: Original.Jeff, I hope you're kidding about the with the tax increasing $0.25 per year until it hits $3 per gallon. because here in sunny los angeles, i was paying 3.30/gallon of regular (87 octane) gas just last week. and this was actually one of the cheaper prices in the LA metro. lol.


oh and p.s. check out our smirking idiot pres sticking his head out a useless NEV. better watch out, he might fall out or run someone over – oh wait, the top speed is only 5 mph.

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