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California Air Resources Board Adopts Plan to Cut State GHG Emissions to 1990 Levels by 2020

Study Finds That Without a Price on Carbon, Regular Hybrids Can Lower Lifecycle CO2 Emissions As Effectively as Plug-in Hybrids, and At Lower Cost

No CO2 price scenario. Final penetration of plug-in hybrids and regular hybrids in 2030 is plotted with corresponding changes in cumulative emissions from 2012 to 2030. The dotted line shows the incremental emission changes of plug-in hybrids compared to regular hybrids. Click to enlarge.

A new working paper from Duke University finds that in the absence of a price signal for CO2, regular hybrids can lower lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions as effectively as plug-in hybrids, and at a considerably lower cost.

In the paper, Eric Williams, co-director of Duke’s Climate Change Policy Partnership (CCPP), compares the two hybrid technologies to see which could lead to lower carbon dioxide emissions, operating costs and overall consumer costs. Williams used six plug-in hybrid penetration scenarios, each of which begins in 2012 and ends in 2030 with a final penetration into vehicle stock ranging from 2% to 56%. He also analyzed four additional scenarios, based on penetrations of 2% and 56%, that have CO2 prices of $20 and $40 per ton. He found that:

With CO2 pricing. Final penetration of plug-in hybrids and regular hybrids in 2030 is plotted with corresponding changes in cumulative emissions from 2012 to 2030. The dotted lines show the incremental emission changes of plug-in hybrids compared to regular hybrids. Click to enlarge.
  • Without a CO2 price signal, plug-in hybrids are essentially no better than regular hybrids at reducing lifecycle CO2 emissions;

  • With a significant CO2 price signal, plug-ins reduce moderately more CO2 emissions than regular hybrids;

  • Plug-in hybrids are significantly more expensive than hybrids at current gas prices; plug-ins become cost-effective at $6 a gallon.

The evening and night-time (off peak) charging of plug-in hybrids makes base-load power more attractive to utilities, Williams reasons. Currently, utilities build only enough base-load power to allow their base-load units to run almost continuously. To meet peak demand, utilities build units with low capital cost and high operating cost, knowing that these units will be needed for only short periods of time and can be turned off when demand drops. The largely night-time plug-in hybrid electricity consumption changes the shape of the demand curve so that utilities can build and run more base-load and fewer peaking units.

Taking a 56% plug-in hybrid penetration as an illustrative example, additional plug-in hybrid electricity consumption is directly responsible for 16.5 GW of new coal capacity by 2030. Renewables also increase by around 2 GW by 2030. Over 17 GW of combustion turbines and nearly 5 GW of oil and gas steam plants are avoided or retired as a result of plug-in hybrids. Overall, capacity needs are lower with plug-in hybrids because the base-load capacity that is built in response runs more frequently and alleviates the need for around 4.5 GW of total capacity. Lower penetrations of plug-in hybrids have similar results, though combined cycle builds tend to be less consistent (builds go up and down) at different plug-in hybrid penetrations. Generally speaking, without a CO2 price present, investment in coal and avoidance of combustion turbines (and to some extent oil and gas steam) is proportionate to plug-in hybrid electricity consumption.

—Williams (2008)

In terms of actual generation, not capacity, Williams concludes that generation increases by around 235 TWh with a 56% penetration of plug-in hybrids whether or not a CO2 price is present. This generation increase is needed to meet the electricity demand of plug-in hybrids. Under this scenario, coal generation increases by 190 TWh by 2030, while generation from natural gas and wood biomass increases by 15 and 18 TWh, respectively, and generation from other sources increases only slightly. Different penetrations of plug-in hybrids follow similar patterns.

If a $40-per-ton CO2 price is present, then a 56% plug-in hybrid penetration results in an additional 132 TWh of coal generation, 75 TWh of nuclear, 14 TWh of wood biomass, and only 5 TWh of natural gas generation by 2030. Both coal and natural gas generation are lower with a $40-per-ton CO2 price than without, and nuclear fills the gap.

It’s not a simple equation. Plug-in hybrids save gasoline but consume electricity. In most of the country, electricity generation relies on fossil fuels, which means that plug-ins would lead to an increase in electricity sector fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. At the same time, plug-ins would reduce direct vehicle emissions. Taking this into account, I wanted to see how net emissions change, regionally and nationally, as a result of plug-ins.

—Eric Williams

The answer to that question, he notes, depends largely on whether there is a price signal for CO2 emissions. If federal or regional climate legislation places a limit on the amount of CO2 allowed, it will create a price signal that will drive the electricity sector to become more efficient and less carbon intensive. In this case, Williams says, plug-in hybrids would typically enjoy lower CO2 emissions nationally and in most regions compared to regular hybrids.

However, in a few carbon-intensive regions where electricity generation relies heavily on coal, plug-in hybrids would have lower net emissions than conventional vehicles, but not lower than regular hybrids. With respect to carbon mitigation, policymakers may want to focus on regular hybrids for certain regions rather than plug-in hybrids, even with a CO2 price signal.

—Eric Williams

In the absence of a price signal for CO2 emissions, Williams’ analysis gives the edge to regular hybrids. Nationally, plug-ins and regular hybrids reduce CO2 emissions by about the same amount without a CO2 price signal, he finds, but regular hybrids can do it more cost-effectively.

CCPP is an interdisciplinary research partnership of Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Nicholas School of the Environment and Center on Global Change. CCPP researches carbon-mitigating technology, infrastructure, institutions and systems to inform lawmakers and business leaders as they lay the foundation of a low-carbon economy.



Bradford Wade

Even after using Acrobat Reader's search function to review the study, I'm unable to find any information in the report about whether or not upstream CO2 was factored in. I would question the results if the CO2 for gasoline was based entirely on tailpipe emissions. I've read that adding upstream CO2 can increase the CO2 figure for gasoline somewhere between 25-50% --- from around 20 pounds CO2/gallon to 25 or 30 pounds per gallon --- which probably will only get worse as we rely increasingly on unconventional sources (tar sands, etc.).

John Taylor

This study looks at keeping the coal power plants and choosing between plug-in hybrids vs regular hybrids at CO2 reduction. Clearly neither of these is much of a solution.

The future we should be looking at is wind generation of electricity, and pure electric cars.
Both technologies are already developed, just not mass produced because there is too much money being made on OIL.
Wind is cheaper and more reliable than coal.
Electric cars can be made as cheap as an ICE car but have no pollution and lower operating costs.


"Peak Oil will hit us before global warming will."

Sweet crude may be running out but if we maintain our dependence on gasoline global warming will continue. For example:


@ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7780562.stm
So? It's winter. And yeah I saw where they said it was "rare" but if they had another snowfall just 4 years ago how rare could it be?


New Orleans, December 12, 2008 AP

A rare snowfall blanketed south Louisiana and parts of Mississippi on Thursday, closing schools, government offices and bridges, triggering crashes and leaving thousands without power.

Up to 8 inches of snow was reported in parts of Louisiana. Snow also covered a broad swath of Mississippi, including the Jackson area, and closed schools in more than a dozen districts.

The record snowfall for the city is about 5 inches, recorded Dec. 30, 1963.


The report tells us that the marginal differences of higher or lower emissions from PHEV's as opposed to HEV is a function of how the electricity used is produced wind solar coal nuclear etc, and secondly how the grid integrates vehicle charging off peak, fluctuation, and ie hydro storage.

The report correctly discusses bulk or majority application.
But for those in remote off grid or fossil supply and the possibility of more dispersed generation ( which may be an increasing population especially if enabled.)
Then solar or other renewable to battery application can be seen as very low CO2 production as well as enabling.

So thats all clear, the question then is about implementation and evolution.
The report leaves some big holes for wind and other to fill via phevs bevs and hydro or off load use but tends toward seeing this hole filled by base coal or preferably from the CO2 perspective nuclear.
If the CO2 signal referred to in he report is applied early, then this will signal a larger share of new generation from renewable (wind).
This will require harmonised charging of vehicles via smart grid techniques.

Smart grid as a concept has potential applications equal in importance to vehicle charging if developed.
That indicates sufficient merit to justify ( if not compel ) it's development without reference to transport.

If this relies on one thing, it is the (CO2) price signal.

Nick G

Wind power and PHEV's are synergistic.

Wind's biggest problem is that it produces as much power at night (or more) as it does in the day. PHEV charging will add demand at night, and solve that problem.

Charge buffering (G2V): 210M US vehicles, running 12K miles, at .25KWH/mile, would need an average of 72GW (an addition of about 16% over the US's current level of 450GW). That's 72GW of demand that you can turn off and on extremely quickly. You can put most of it at night - and have roughly 200GW of demand to solve wind's night-time surplus power problem. You can use it to absorb spikes in wind power essentially any time of day.

Vehicle to Grid (V2G): with 210M vehicles and, say, 4KW peak output per vehicle, you have the potential for 840GW of instantaneous peak backup power, and 210GW that could be sustained for 8 hours (with an effective 8KWH battery)!


Except of course that big grids and V2G on a large scale has a security vulnerability of massive proportion. A grid at this scale is wholly unnecessary if home vehicle charging is handled by Residential Power Units - offloading nearly 1/3rd grid demand. And significantly lowering security exposure by distributing electric generating capacity across much smaller, locally matrixed networks.

Henry Gibson

Hydraulic hybrids are not even mentioned. They are probably the lowest cost way to achieve hybrid fuel savings. It would take a mechanical engineer about five minutes to devise a way to convert a hydraulic hybrid into a plug in hydraulic hybrid that could use the cheapest battery technology available, lead acid batteries. These will allow a cost efffective way to use electricity even with the rapidly dwindling oil prices due to the arrival and passing of Peak Speculation that masqueraded as peak consumption. Real Peak Consumption has gone astray because of peak poverty caused by sub-Peak Greed in the financial institutions of the world.

Even if CO2 does not have a price, nuclear reactors are a way of providing electricity for automotive use. It can also be used in ethanol plants to reduce the CO2 production of such units. Ethanol plants do produce fuels for hybrid and regular vehicles, but it is not well known that they are one of the very best places to capture concentrated CO2 from the fermenting process. If pure sugar were the input to such plants, only two thirds of the carbon input to the plant, or less, leaves the plant as ethanol. In fact with corn, the case is much worse because much of the corn leaves the plant without the carbon put into ethanol. The natural gas or coal used to produce heat for the process also releases much CO2.

But the point is electricity could be used to capture CO2 at ethanol plants and other automotive fuel producing plants. The CO2 will be continued to be sold at service stations nationwide in soft drinks.

At present, plug-in-hybrid vehicles will reduce the need for oil imports, and they are most cost effective when there is very limited battery range. No new or cheaper battery technology is needed for cost effective reduction of fuel imports with hybrid electric vehicles the first TZERO and its prototypes demonstrated that about ten years ago.

Whilst lithium batteries will not be cost effective for many years to store energy compared to even the peak five dollar gasoline of 2008, lead batteries can do it where they are not expected to go long distances.

A plug in hybrid electric vehicle with enough electric range for much, not even all, of the average daily use use is an economic compromise. Ordinary electrical outlets can be fitted to every light post in a parking lot of a business and many pillars of a parking structure to patially make up for the lack of range. The cost of providing electricity will be too low to consider and is well paid for if anything at all is bought at a store. The charging engine can be used at high efficiency and low pollution at any time, whether parked or not, to recharge the battery.

Honda co-generation units can be installed at homes for charging power from natural gas as it is more carbon efficient.

Mountain Man


The chaotic nature of weather means that no conclusion about climate can ever be drawn from a single data point, hot or cold. The temperature of one place at one time is just weather, and says nothing about climate, much less climate change, much less global climate change. Climate change is a trend, and GW is an average of the data points that creeps upwards over time.

Take 1998, a record year for high temperatures; that was NOT global warming. That's was El Nino. Global warming is having 1998 AND most of the years following it recorded as higher than any year before it.

Mountain Man

"Except of course that big grids and V2G on a large scale has a security vulnerability of massive proportion. A grid at this scale is wholly unnecessary if...yadda yadda yadda"

Does it have to be either/or? Isn't there more security in having both?

Mountain Man

"Global warming is having 1998 AND most of the years following it recorded as higher than any year before it."

Correction: Global warming is having 1998 AND most of the years following it recorded as higher than 'most of the' years recorded before it.


... is directly responsible for 16.5 GW of new coal capacity by 2030. Renewables also increase by around 2 GW by 2030...

I don't understand. Installed wind capacity in the US rose by 5 GW from 2006 to 2007. How can he predict renewables will only increase by 2 GW in the coming 22 years?

Kit P

“I don't understand.”

This is a hypothetical study looking at how base load (more efficient) power plants could be used more effectively. The benefit would be that inefficient peaking plants would run less.

You could do a different study considering how the mix of wind and inefficient peaking plants would benefit by PHEV.

The electricity for charging batteries has to come from someplace. Base load renewable energy mostly comes from biomass.

Currently under construction in the US is 17,411 MWe of natural gas, 19,731 MWe of coal, 8,456 MWe of wind, 935 MWe of other renewable energy.

So what will the mix be like in 2030 based on the present trend. So how much of the 19,731 MWe of coal is replacement for older plants? I have no idea but it is not very likely to shut down a coal plant when reserve margins are low. None of 8,456 MWe of wind being built now and Anne's '5 GW from 2006' will be making electricity in 2030. Maybe new wind turbines will replace old ones.

However, the wood biomass being built now should still be around.

Nick G

"Currently under construction in the US is 17,411 MWe of natural gas, 19,731 MWe of coal, 8,456 MWe of wind, 935 MWe of other renewable energy."

That's useful - where did that come from?


"Global warming is having 1998 AND most of the years following it recorded as higher than any year before it."

A single decade on even a fractional geologic scale is not a single data point?



"Global warming is having 1998 AND most of the years following it recorded as higher than 'most of the' years recorded before it."

How is a single decade on even a fractional geologic time scale not a single data point?

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assumes that there are no long-term natural sources of energy imbalances in the Earth’s radiative budget that would cause natural periods of global warming or global cooling. But recent satellite evidence suggests that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) does indeed change the Earth’s energy balance. When that PDO-related forcing is put into a simple climate model, along with the 100-year history of the PDO, a global temperature history results which is very similar to that observed, including 75% of the centennial temperature trend. This suggests that the IPCC’s claim of high confidence in global warming being manmade is misplaced.”

Dr. Roy Spencer is the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Dr. Spencer is the recipient of NASA’s Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and the American Meteorological Society’s Special Award for his satellite-based temperature monitoring work.
December 15, 2008


"A single decade on even a fractional geologic scale is not a single data point?"

If you believe that how is it that you can say stuff like 'the last 10 years have been getting cooler = global warming is over.' ???

Nevermind the fact that 'the last 10 years have NOT been getting cooler OR that you are taking liberties with the term "single data point"

And btw we've got more than a decade of recorded data to show GW;
every year since 1992 has been warmer than 1992
the ten hottest years on record occurred in the last 15 (Record warmth in 2005 is notable, because global temperature did NOT received any boost from El Nino)
every year since 1976 has been warmer than 1976
the 20 hottest years on record occurred in the last 25
every year since 1964 has been warmer than 1956
every year since 1917 has been warmer than 1917

We have a reliable instrumental record going back 150 years which shows the mean temperature raise starting ~1910, a mean temperature decline after WWII for ~15 years and a return to mean temperature raise in the 1970s.

But there is another direct measurement record available that can tell us things about temperature over the last 500 years, and that is borehole measurements. Basically, this involves drilling a deep hole and measuring the temperature of the earth at various depths. This gives us information about century scale temperature trends as warmer or cooler pulses from long term surface changes propagate down through the crust. Using this method we can see that temperatures have not been consistently this high as far back as this method allows us to look. This way of inferring surface temperatures does smooth out yearly fluctuations and even short term trends, so we can not know anything directly about individual years. But given the observable range of inter-annual variations recorded over the last century, it is quite reasonable to rule out single years or even decades being far enough above the baseline to rival today.

Thus, using this record, we can extend our timeframe and reasonably conclude that it is warmer now than any time in at least the last 500 years.

It is possible to make reconstructions of temperature much further back, using what are called proxy data. These include things like tree rings, ocean sediment, coral growth, layers in stalagmites and others. The reconstructions available are all slightly different and provide sometimes more and sometimes less global versus regional coverage over the last one or two thousand years. Note: this covers the period often referred to as the Medieval Warm Period. As noted, all these reconstructions are different, but they all show some similar patterns of temperature change over the last several centuries. Most striking is the fact that each record reveals that the 20th century is the warmest of the entire record, and that warming was most dramatic after 1920.
Thus we can reasonably say it is warmer now than any other time in at least the last one thousand years.

The only other candidate for a higher temperature period going back through the entire Holocene (~10,000bp to now) is called the Holocene Climatic Optimum some 6000 years ago. It is not known exactly what the temperatures were then, the farther back in time we try to look, the greater the uncertainties there are to deal with. Even so, the Holocene Climatic Optimum has long been cautiously thought to be almost as warm or even warmer than now. That conclusion is starting to look less likely as it has been determined that the anomalous warmth of that time was actually confined to the northern hemisphere and occurred only in the summer months.

Thus one can reasonably believe that it is warmer now than at any other time in at least the last 10,000 years.

Before the current interglacial the planet was in the grip of a much colder glacial period with ice sheets well down into the continental US. This period only just ended some 11,000 years ago. The record of glacial-interglacial cycles can be read in Antarctic ice core analysis and it shows these cycles over many 100Kyr periods.

Thus we can say that if our reading of the Holocene is correct, it is warmer now than at any other time in over the last 100,000 years.

Enough for you? Or would you like to call the current interglacial 'a single data point?'


"Thus one can reasonably believe that it is warmer now than at any other time in at least the last 10,000 years."

Only if you studiously ignore the mountain of data substantiating the Medieval Warm Period (1100-1400 AD.) IPCC, Mann et al 1999, using a variety of tree ring and ice core proxy records, along with the 20th Century instrumentation record, reconstructed temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere over the last one thousand years. They note in their study that "Northern Hemisphere temperatures were "relatively warm ... earlier in the millennium."

Temperatures of the 20th century rose to values similar to those experienced during the 11th and 12th Medieval Warm centuries, while temperatures of both the last decade and year (1998) were "the warmest for the Northern Hemisphere this millennium." But Mann et al note that proxy indicators prior to 1400 are few and thus "a more widespread network of quality millennial proxy climate indicators will be required for more confident inferences."

There are presently some 643 individual scientists from 377 separate research institutions in 40 different countries that support the existence of the MWP - and only a short while before indicators confirm temperatures as warm and warmer than the last decade.

Kit P


Try http://www.nei.org/filefolder/Energy_Markets_Report_-_December_1-5_2008.pdf



"every year since 1976 has been warmer than 1976
the 20 hottest years on record occurred in the last 25
every year since 1964 has been warmer than 1956..."

Sorry but all four agencies that track Earth's temperature (the Hadley Climate Research Unit in Britain, the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, the Christy group at the University of Alabama, and Remote Sensing Systems Inc in California) report that it cooled by about 0.7C in 2007. This is the fastest temperature change in the instrumental record (ever!) and it puts us back where we were in 1930.

Under normal geologic conditions, most of North America and Europe are buried under about 1.5km of ice. This bitterly frigid climate is interrupted occasionally by brief warm interglacials, typically lasting less than 10,000 years.

The interglacial we have enjoyed throughout recorded human history, called the Holocene, began 11,000 years ago, meaning the ice is overdue. We also know that glaciation can occur quickly: the required decline in global temperature is about 12C and it can happen in 20 years.

The cooling in 2007 was even faster than in typical glacial transitions. If it continued for 20 years, the temperature would be 14C cooler in 2027. And we would all be dead from the cold.

Mountain Man

"it cooled by about 0.7C >>>in 2007<<<"

And that's what we call 'a single data point.'
We had a big drop in 1996 but 1998 was a record high year, and a big drop in 1999-2000 but by 2005 was back up. Say it with me; "You have to follow thr TRENDS to see GW."

BTW ai_vin did not ignore the MWP, reread his post.
There is no good evidence that the MWP was a globally warm period comparable to today. Regionally, there may have been places that exhibited notable warmth -- Europe, for example -- but all GLOBAL proxy reconstructions agree it is warmer now, and the temperature is rising faster now, than at any time in the last one or even two thousand years.

Anecdotal evidence of wineries in England and Norse farmers in Greenland do not amount to a global assessment.

On its website, NOAA has a wide selection of proxy studies, accompanied by the data on which they are based. Specifically, they have this to say on the MWP:

>>The idea of a global or hemispheric "Medieval Warm Period" that was warmer than today, however, has turned out to be incorrect.<<

With regard to the "grapes used to grow in England" bit, there is some fairly solid evidence that grapes are in fact growing there now, denialist talking points aside. If that is not enough, RealClimate has a remarkably in-depth review of the history of wine in Great Britain, and how reliable it is as a proxy for global temperatures. (Hint: not very.)

For that matter we have a wine industry here in Canada with some of it needing freezing weather at the end of the growing season to produce 'winter wine.'



Say THIS with me: "a more widespread network of quality millennial proxy climate indicators will be required for more confident inferences."
From the IPCC's Mann et al study, the last of Medieval Warm refusenicks.

So let's forget the English grapes and look at a huge area of Central Eastern China:

Quansheng Ge et al, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research (IGSNRR), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Beijing:

"Then, abruptly, temperature entered a warm epoch from the ad 570s to 1310s with a warming trend of 0.04°C per century; the peak warming was about 0.3–0.6°C higher than present for 30-year periods, but over 0.9°C warmer on a 10-year basis. "

ref. The Holocene, Vol. 13, No. 6, 933-940 (2003)

While these authors recognize the current mean temperature is only "0.5°C higher than for 1951-80," the 10-year-mean peak MWP warmth was approximately 0.4°C higher than today's peak warmth.

Medieval Warm demonstrates empirically that while temperature rise over the last decade is sharp - temperatures DO NOT exceed millennial scale oscillation and therefor man-made warming is an alarmist invention.


They call it 'Ice Wine' Mountain Man.

richard schumacher

*sigh* For discussion of global warming by atmospheric physicists and climatologists see

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